Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Primary elections explained

Here’s something for my non-American friends (and probably a few American ones, too…): In this video, my favourite YouTube explainer, C.G.P. Grey, explains how the US presidential selection process works, including the differences between caucuses and primaries, and so much more.

Long-time readers may recall that in the run up to the New Zealand elections last November, I posted several of C.G.P. Grey’s videos explaining the various election systems we were presented with as part of our referendum on MMP. They were all very helpful.

But he does so much more than explain voting systems: Recent videos have talked about the end of the world, death to pennies, the real history of Santa Claus, and so much more. I love his videos. You can check them all out on his YouTube Channel.


Geoff said...

Holy Moly... that seems way more complicated than it should be. Do you prefer the US or NZ voting systems?

Arthur Schenck said...

Yes, it IS complicated!

The US and NZ aren't directly comparable, since their systems of government are different, however, I think that New Zealand's MMP system (with all its faults) is a vastly superior way to elect legislators than the way the US elects Members of the US Congress (whether a parliamentary or US-style system is inherently "better" is another matter entirely, which is why I stressed the election).

The theoretical strength of the US system is that the party candidates are vetted across the country, whereas in New Zealand their equivalent—party leaders—are vetted only by their caucus in Parliament. In practice, however, US candidates pander to their parties' bases, which are usually more extreme than the general electorate, and the general public has no real say in the process, only voters who identify with a party (in most states), so in practice, it's still party faithful picking a candidate, just like in New Zealand.

The leader of the New Zealand Labour Party was recently chosen after a series of public meetings with party supporters, a bit like a US caucus. But the actual choice still came down to the Labour MPs in Parliament. Contrast that with the Greens, who consult party members on their leadership, which is a bit like the US primary system.

But, as I said, when it comes to actual voting in the general election, I do prefer NZ's electoral system. And now I realise that I can do a blog post expanding on this—thanks!