Municipal workers extract Luzerne County ballots from their envelopes, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The United States could have avoided the “crippling political paralysis” it is experiencing if it had a central elections administrator like in other democracies, says an American professor who teaches in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mary Altaffer

Municipal workers extract Luzerne County ballots from their envelopes, Wednesday, Nov. 4, 2020, in Wilkes-Barre, Pa. The United States could have avoided the “crippling political paralysis” it is experiencing if it had a central elections administrator like in other democracies, says an American professor who teaches in Canada. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Mary Altaffer

U.S. could learn from elections in other countries including Canada: expert

Time to reconsider the use of the electoral college

The United States could have avoided the “crippling political paralysis” it is experiencing if it had a central elections administrator like in other democracies, says an American professor who teaches in Canada.

Prof. Jason Opal of the history and classical studies department at McGill University in Montreal said he worries his country’s “hyper-partisan hatred” will worsen even as millions of mail-in ballots are being counted.

Elections Canada is an example of a national agency that should have provided lessons for his country at least 20 years ago when the winner of the presidential race was undeclared for nearly three weeks, he said in an interview on Wednesday.

President Donald Trump and Democratic nominee Joe Biden have both suggested they would emerge as the victors, with Trump saying he would turn to the Supreme Court before ballots were counted in several battleground states including Pennsylvania and Michigan.

Opal said it’s time for the United States to reconsider its use of the electoral college, which since 1787 has put the election of presidents in the hands of 538 electors chosen by state legislatures. Victory is based on getting at least 270 electoral college votes.

“One party perceives itself as benefiting from the electoral college or the absence of a standardized institution,” said Opal, who moved to Canada 11 years ago and cast his ballot by mail a month ago in his last home state of Maine.

He said the “U.S. is by far the outlier in Western democracies” in not having an organization like Elections Canada.

“It’s kind of ironic because the U.S. is the first at this with really long democratic traditions, well preceding that of Canada. But they have not been updated, they are really showing their age. They’re sclerotic and they can’t handle this kind of hyper-partisan hatred.”

Regardless of who wins the White House, Opal said many Americans are anxious about a system that may cast doubts on the legitimacy of the results based on states counting millions of mail-in ballots before, on, or after election day.

“That’s why this is just a mess. There is no national democratic standard for how votes are counted and when they are counted,” he said. “It’s just hard not to imagine continued political paralysis in my home country. It really is a bad situation.”

Elections Canada was established a century ago as an independent non-partisan body to administer federal elections as part of a parliamentary system that is similar to the United Kingdom, Australia and New Zealand.

Dianna English, spokeswoman for Democrats Abroad Canada, said even within the 50 states, local decision-making at the county level means U.S. elections become highly politicized.

“There are certainly things that states can do better. We would certainly love it if the state legislatures in many of these states like Michigan allowed the votes to be counted sooner,” she said from Toronto, where she moved from New York about 18 months ago.

“Right now, I’m feeling a desire for leadership within our country to protect the process for all American voters, particularly for those of us who vote from outside the United States and need to send our ballots in by mail or fax or email for our voice to be heard.”

She sent her ballot to New York by courier because of concerns about timely delivery by the U.S. Postal Service.

Mark Feigenbaum, chairman of Republicans Abroad Canada, said the election system is based on important historical precedence and he doesn’t see any chance of the two major parties agreeing to change it.

At the very least, there should be a standard for accepting mail-in ballots, he said.

“I think there should be a federal law that dictates that ballots are counted based on when they’re postmarked versus when they are received,” said Feigenbaum, who faxed his ballot to California from Thornhill, Ont. on election day.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 4, 2020.

election

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

A nurse gets a swab ready at a temporary COVID-19 test clinic in Montreal, on Friday, May 15, 2020. Health Canada has reversed course on home test kits for COVID-19, saying it will now review applications for such devices. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Alberta declines Ontario’s request to send health-care workers

Alberta is “not in a position” to send health-care workers out of… Continue reading

The Red Deer Rebels allowed four straight goals from the Medicine Hat Tigers Friday night on the road. (Photo by Rob Wallator/ Red Deer Rebels)
Tigers hand Red Deer Rebels 10th straight loss

Tigers 4 Rebels 2 Through 17 games in the shortened WHL season,… Continue reading

Meghan Huizing has been selected by Red Deer Catholic Regional Schools as a finalist for the Alberta School Boards Association (ASBA) 2021 Edwin Parr Award. (Photo courtesy of Red Deer Regional Catholic Schools)
Red Deer Catholic names finalist for Edwin Parr Award

Meghan Huizing from St. Gregory the Great Catholic School in Blackfalds has… Continue reading

GrammaLink-Africa members are participating in the Stride to Turn the Tide campaign until June 30. (Contributed photo)
Red Deer group walking to raise money for African grandmothers

A group of central Albertans will be walking every day until the… Continue reading

Red Deer Public Schools will not pilot the new draft curriculum at its elementary schools. (File photo contributed by Red Deer Public Schools)
UPDATED: Red Deer Public Schools says no to piloting new curriculum

Alberta Teachers’ Association support school boards

Montreal Canadiens' Tyler Toffoli celebrates his goal past Calgary Flames goaltender Jacob Markstrom during second-period NHL hockey action in Montreal on Friday, April 16, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Paul Chiasson
Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Toffoli scores twice, Canadiens put some distance on Flames with 2-1 win

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Canadian prop Jake Ilnicki savouring life in Seattle, looks forward to facing Arrows

Corey Conners, of Canada, hits out of a bunker on the seventh hole during the final round of the Masters golf tournament in Augusta, Ga., Sunday, April 11, 2021. Conners notched six birdies on his back nine to take the lead after his second round of the RBC Heritage on Friday. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Matt Slocum
Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Canadian Corey Conners surges into lead at PGA Tour’s RBC Heritage

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Patrick Marleau poised to break Gordie Howe’s games record

Leylah Annie Fernandez of Canada serves to Marie Bouzkova of the Czech Republic in round 1 of the Rogers Cup women's tennis tournament in Toronto, Monday August 5, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Mark Blinch
Rebecca Marino propels Canada into 2-0 lead over Serbia at Billie Jean King Cup

Rebecca Marino propels Canada into 2-0 lead over Serbia at Billie Jean King Cup

Dalton Kellett pulls out of the pits during a practice session for the Indianapolis 500 auto race at Indianapolis Motor Speedway, in Indianapolis, Thursday, Aug. 13, 2020. Dalton Kellett is pleased his second career season in IndyCar will be different than his first, which started on an elaborate iRacing rig in his home office in Indianapolis because of COVID-19 restrictions. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP-Darron Cummings
Canada’s Dalton Kellett set for a more stable season as an IndyCar driver

Canada’s Dalton Kellett set for a more stable season as an IndyCar driver

Canada head coach Bev Priestman reacts during the women's international friendly soccer match between England and Canada at Bet365 stadium in Stoke on Trent, England, Tuesday, April 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP/Rui Vieira
Canadian women get peek at their possible road at Olympic soccer tournament

Canadian women get peek at their possible road at Olympic soccer tournament

Head coach John Tait talks to his team as Canada takes on Japan in women's sevens rugby action at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on Saturday, Aug. 6, 2016. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Sean Kilpatrick
Rugby Canada says probe into complaint from members of women’s 7s team is complete

Rugby Canada says probe into complaint from members of women’s 7s team is complete

Most Read