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A Tale of Two Democracies: What It Is Like to Vote in the United States Compared to France?

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The movement started in 1985. The town of Mons-en-Baroeul, near Lille was the first municipality to establish an associated (shadow) city council of foreign residents. European integration led to a directive in 1994 to allow all European citizens to be able to vote in local and pan-European elections. And that is the case today. So, a German living in Lisbon and a Greek working in London have the automatic right to vote in all local elections where they reside. Naturally, they can continue to vote in all the federal elections in the country of their nationality.

 

Even though the majority of French are for allowing non-EU foreigners to vote in local elections, the debate between left and right continues to rage. In December, 2011, the French Senate passed a much heated resolution in support of this cause. In the meantime, 10 cities, including big ones like Paris, Toulouse and Lille have set up shadow city councils composed of non-EU foreign residents, so they can have a voice in their local affairs.

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While this is pipe dream stuff in America, the trend in France is to allow non-EU foreigners to vote in local elections.

 

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Election Financing

 

An election is coming. Universal peace is declared and the foxes have a sincere interest in prolonging the lives of the poultry . T.S. Eliot

 

In the United States in 2008, $5,300,000,000 total was spent on all the election campaigns. Of this $2,400,000,000 was spent for president for 132,618,580 votes. This comes out to about $18/vote. This year, it is estimated that about $6,000,000,000 will be spent on all the election campaigns, of which about half, $3,000,000,000 will pay for the battle between Obama and Romney. Assuming there will be 240 million eligible voters and a 56% turnout, 2012's 134,400,000 votes will cost $22 each.

 

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In this year's presidential race, various French newspapers reported that taxpayer spending by all the candidates and their parties amounted to a cost of only --1 per vote, or about 20 times less than it costs per vote in the US. That is probably on the low side and does not include money gotten from citizen contributors. But still, as you will see below, the limits are such that the total cost per vote is probably somewhere in the --2-3 range. But still, how can they do that?

 

In France, elections are a two-round process. In the 1st round, maximum campaign spending for each candidate is --16,851,000 and in the 2nd round, --22,509,000 can be spent by each of the two finalists. Most of this has to be raised privately, but a good chunk is paid for by the taxpayers.

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Jeff is the author of 44 Days Backpacking in China: The Middle Kingdom in the 21st Century, with the United States, Europe and the Fate of the World in Its Looking Glass (2013), Reflections in Sinoland -- Musings and Anecdotes from the Belly of (more...)
 

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