Thursday, January 03, 2008

The US election starts today

The US Presidential election starts today, with the Iowa caucuses. Unlike other primaries, which involve a ballot box and a traditional election between a party's candidates, Democrats in Iowa use a somewhat archaic process of people meeting in schools, churches, and public libraries, and choosing their preferred candidate by shuffling to different corners of the room. There's some aspect of preferential voting, as nonviable candidates are eliminated, leaving their supporters free to shuffle to a different group, but the process wouldn't look out of place in the eighteenth century (which is symbolic of the entire US electoral process really).

Currently the three top Democrat candidates - Clinton, Obama, and Edwards - are in a three-way tie for victory. But whichever of them wins is likely to have a far greater chance of going on to gain their party's nomination. Which is rather odd, when you think about it. Turnout tends to be less than 10%, so less than 10% of eligible voters in a state which includes about 1% of the population of the US get to have an enormous influence on who gets to even contest the US presidency, purely as an artefact of timing. Some might even call that... undemocratic.