Russian official says U.S. has “one of world’s worst” election systems

Russian election official known as "The Magician" makes bold claim

By Nicholas Nehamas

Vladimir Churov, head of Russia’s Central Election Commission. He is also known as “The Magician” for allegedly helping to rig last year’s parliamentary elections. (Reuters)

Russia’s top election official claims the U.S. has one of the worst election systems in the world. Yes, you read that right.

“Presidential elections in the United States are one of the worst in terms of organization,” said Vladimir Churov in comments carried by RIA Novosti, a state-backed Russian news agency.

“U.S. presidential elections are indirect; they vote for electors, and it has happened that those electors then voted against the voters’ will,” he continued. “Several U.S. presidents have been elected by a minority of the [popular] vote.”

Russia’s political opposition calls Churov “The Magician” for allegedly rigging last year’s parliamentary elections in favor of President Vladimir Putin’s United Russia party.

But his criticisms aren’t completely off base. The U.S. president is technically elected by the Electoral College, made up of delegates representing each state and the District of Columbia. Because our system is winner-take-all, where the candidate who wins the state gets all its delegates, presidential candidates can win the popular vote but not win the most delegates. In fact, it’s happened four times—most recently in 2000 with George W. Bush.

Also, in American history there have been 156 so-called “faithless electors,” electoral college delegates who do not vote for the candidate who won the state. The most recent was in 2000, when a Democratic elector from Washington DC abstained from voting for Al Gore in protest at the district’s lack of Congressional representation.

Meanwhile, this year several states have adopted stricter voter ID laws meant to quell fraud. Critics say the new restrictions will prevent Latinos and the poor from participating in November’s elections. On Thursday, a Pennsylvania judge ruled his state’s voter ID law was constitutional. The decision will likely be appealed to the state’s Supreme Court.

Some American observers have also raised questions over the accuracy of electronic voting machines.

In Russia, the opposition is taking a different approach to electronic voting. Led by the popular blogger Alexei Navalny, anti-Putin parties are organizing an online primary. The only hitch: Putin supporters might register en masse and rig the results.

Not to worry. Here at Latitude News, we’ve designed a foolproof voting system of our own. Do you think Churov’s criticism have some merit? Take our poll below.