The months of October and November were crucial for the two largest American nations, Brazil and the United States, with both Countries managing major elections. The elections provide an unique moment for citizenship to evaluate the performance of elected representatives and their public policies.
Western democracies may vary in the organisation of their collective and individual institutions and values. Therefore, nothing more natural than the rules of elections to follow each national history, social structure and religious pillars.
There are different formats of elections and vote accounting. Although they should reflect the option chosen by the majority of citizens, the shape of the electoral system and its rules may influence the outcome of elections and the interaction between voters and elected officials themselves. The regionalisation of norms itself empowers local communities, and allows local communities to innovate how the elections are perceived and the role of society in it.
Exactly one month after the first round of elections in Brazil, there were Regional elections in the United States of America. The 50 US states went to the polls to choose candidates for State Governors, Members of the Legislative, as well as bureaucrats who look to the isonomy of processes considered too important to be exempt from the democratic process. Municipalities and counties also vote for smaller bureaucratic positions that directly affect everyday life, such as sheriffs, judges, and school principals.
Organised civil society may petition the state legislature to include referendums on controversial issues that will be voted by the population in the same ballot where new representatives will be elected. The election moves the local society, as much by the candidacies, as by the guidelines defended by portions of the citizens.
American federalism grants its states freedoms in different ways, which also include electoral legislation and its timetable. Each state, as a semi-autonomous entity, has the prerogative of determining how to count votes and voting rules, from determining which citizens are eligible to vote, to overseeing the electoral process itself.
The US state bureaucracy has an elected office called the secretary of state, whose job it is to ensure that elections are transparent and fair. The secretary of state must ensure the effectiveness of public policy representation, allocating resources and managing its challenges. Unlike its federal counterpart, it deals not with foreign policy, but only with public policy of representation and elections.
The absence of a national body allows for a decentralised system with different rules that sometimes contradict each other when comparing different states. In the American system, election rules are deliberated by the state legislature and sanctioned by the state governor, while the office of the secretary of state ensures compliance with the rules.
Election rules are set at the local level, where even the state has difficulty imposing new rules on its different regionalities, called counties. In the state of Colorado, for example, the Secretary of State has instituted a new technology for checking vote counts, which significantly increases its efficiency.
The decentralisation of the electoral system guarantees states freedom to innovate and experiment, as in mobilising voters to go to the polls, as well as new processes and technologies that ensure the smoothness of voting. The experimentation of new rules at the state and local level, through consecutive tests and with the broad participation of society, relativizes the damage of failures and corroborates a culture of change and continuous search for the state of the art of public representation policy.
This is a system that promotes the democratic maturity of local communities as they decide on their representatives and the rules of the electoral process.
* Political scientist. He was invited by the US State Department to share the Brazilian challenges in the elections and to follow the electoral process in that country.