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November 27, 2012

Lessons on Democracy from the Philippines

Shaneil is a 9th grader at Odyssey High School in Washington.

On Election Day American voters checked a box with the name “Barack Obama”, “Mitt Romney” or a third part candidate, but they were not casting a ballot directly for one of these candidates. Instead, voters chose “electors” in the Electoral College, who then selected the president and vice president.

Shaneil noticed some differences between the U.S.’s Electoral College system and how her native country of the Philippines selects its presidents. While happy about President Obama’s reelection, she questions the electoral system that put him in power.

A new beginning for the United States starts once again as president Obama wins re-election as our nation’s president for another four years. But, in choosing our president, are our voices heard? For over two centuries, we’ve been using the same process for electing the nation’s leader: the Electoral College.

The Electoral College awards a certain number of votes, or points, to a state based on the popular vote in that state. It is used to protect the smaller states from being overpowered by the larger states. However, is it really protecting anyone? In addition, is it a fair system? In my opinion, it is not a fair system for electing the president because it does not give us our own voice to vote for whom we want to be president and who we want to govern this country.

I was born in the Philippines, which is also a democratic country with three branches of government. However, it has  a different system for electing its president. Under the American voting system, the president is voted into power through the Electoral College, while in the Philippines, the president is determined through popular votes. Easy and fast as it may seem, the U.S presidential election doesn’t really show the true choice or preference of each and every individual voter.

In the Philippines, the vice president is also chosen through a separate popular vote, which means that the president and vice president may be from different parties. The citizens in the Philippines have a voice and a say in who we want to lead and make our country better.

Secondly, the U.S has a two-party system, while the Philippines has a multi-party system. In a two-party system it is easier for voters to choose because they only have two choices, but people can get used to voting for a certain party without thinking about the issues.

The Philippines’ multiparty system can be quite chaotic because there’s a lot to choose from and the agenda the government wants to achieve is very divided. In addition, a multiparty system that chooses a president through popular votes takes a longer time to come up with a result. Another factor is that there is sometimes cheating in the form of vote buying. Even with the chaos of a popular vote in a multiparty system, the voices of each individual voter in the Philippines are still being heard and counted.

Looking back at this election, I am quite satisfied by the outcome, but as a democratic nation, I hope that someday American voters will have more say when it comes to choosing their leader – not just by state electoral college votes, but by the popular vote of the people.

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