The Deerfield community represents 37 different countries, and international students have various opinions about the presidential elections in the United States and their degrees of efficiency.
The 2016 U.S. electoral process started on February 1 with the Iowa caucuses and will continue until November 8, when the general election will be held to ultimately decide the President and Vice President for the next four years.
In the U.S., the presidential election consists of primary elections, where registered Republicans vote for a Republican presidential candidate, and registered Democrats vote for a Democratic presidential candidate. Some independents or members of smaller parties may also join the race.
Once the general election candidates are finalized, citizens do not directly elect the President or Vice President. Instead, voters from each state directly elect intermediaries called “electors,” who represent their state in the U.S. Electoral College. Each state has a different number of electoral votes based on their population. These electors almost always pledge to vote for a specific presidential and vice-presidential candidate, but they ultimately decide who the next president will be.
In Jamaica, the next election will take place at the end of this year. Sydney Williams ’17, from Jamaica, said, “U.S. elections are a long process, but I think it’s worth it… In the U.S., it’s almost two years of polls,…primaries, and then the big Election Day, whereas Jamaica only has a general election.”
Jamaica, which gained independence from the United Kingdom in 1962, is a Democratic Constitutional Monarchy. Parliament makes up the legislative branch and is composed of a House of Representatives and a Senate. The Prime Minister and his or her Cabinet make up the executive branch. Queen Elizabeth II of the United Kingdom is the Head of State, and she appoints a Governor-General, who has a largely ceremonial role, as her representative in Jamaica.
Two parties, the Jamaican Labor Party (JLP) and the People’s National Party (PNP), dominate the Jamaican government. Williams stated that the U.S. system is safer “because in Jamaica during rallies, there is violence” and there are “frequently deaths.” Sometimes you can’t even wear green or orange, because green is for JLP and orange is for PNP.”
However, Williams also noted that the U.S. election brings its own fears. She said, “It scares me that Donald Trump, who reflects frightening ideas for minorities about what America should be, is getting votes. It reflects what people have been thinking for generations.”
Robert Muni ’16 also expressed uneasiness about some of the ideas that have been raised so far in this year’s U.S. electoral campaign, especially Republican positions on immigration. He said, “You can’t discriminate against people just because you’re in power…part of democracy [is] that everyone has his or her own rights. Immigrants are still human beings.”
Muni’s home country, Kenya, is composed of 47 counties, each with semi-autonomous governments. The national government is made up of a legislative branch, with a Senate and a Parliament, an executive branch, with the President and his or her Cabinet, and a judiciary branch. Kenya is due to elect its new president in 2017.
Muni shared that corruption is prevalent in Kenya, which he attributed to its relative youth as an independent nation. Kenya gained independence from Britain in 1963, and its most recent Constitution was approved in 2010. Muni added, “It took us a long time to recover from the effects of colonization.”
Yet, Muni believes the U.S. political system has its own challenges. “I feel like you can bend the law so much in the U.S., and take advantage of loopholes,” Muni said, “Which brings up the question of transparency. Do we [in the U.S.] trust our own government?”
Hannah Kim ’19, from South Korea, believes that another problem with the U.S. elections is that “the U.S. [electoral] system limits everyone’s choice.” She explained that “so many candidates are eliminated during primaries,” which she feels “limits the ability of people to choose the candidate who they actually agree with.” She added, “I feel like this is less democratic.”
Korea has a multiparty system, which provides the opportunity for presidential candidates outside the two dominant parties to run. Kim explained, “In Korea, there is only a general election, so you have the option to vote for any of the candidates that initially run.”
Korea’s government has a legislative branch composed of a National Assembly, an executive branch led by the President, and a judicial branch. It will elect its next president in 2017.
Kim pointed out a flaw in the South Korean system, explaining that a winning candidate may not receive a majority of the vote, so it is possible that a candidate may win, even when a majority of the country does not want that candidate in power.
Costa Rica also has a multiparty system. In Costa Rica, a President and his cabinet wield executive power, and a legislative assembly holds legislative power. Currently, nine political parties are represented in the legislative assembly. Isabel Gilmore ’18, from Costa Rica, stated, “I think it’s weird how a country as big as the U.S .can divide into two sides, when everyone has so many different views. There are some things I agree with from both [U.S. parties].”
Gilmore added, “In Costa Rica, people are more open about who they support, because you can support different parties and still have similar views.”
She also explained that the Costa Rican government has very different focuses than the U.S. government. “We’re such a small country, so our money goes towards things like education and tourism, instead of things like the military.”
However, Gilmore noted one problem with the Costa Rican government is that there is a lack of separation between church and state. She stated, “In Costa Rica, there is a lot of religion involved in politics, and I don’t think the two should be mixed.”