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2020 already? What the U.S. can learn from election cycles in these 6 countries

2020 already? What the U.S. can learn from election cycles in these 6 countries
[Photo: Flickr user Lorie Shaull]

It feels like the 2016 U.S. presidential election was just yesterday.

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Despite the fact that some people may still not be entirely used to the words “President Donald Trump,” the 2020 presidential campaign is already under way. Democrats Elizabeth Warren, Kirsten Gillibrand, Cory Booker, Kamala Harris, and more have already kicked off campaigns or exploratory committees, and more contenders are expected to join the race soon.

That means voters will have to contend with months and months of campaigning, months of political ads, tweet wars, debates, campaign breakfasts, rallies, and glad-handing whistlestops on the campaign trail. In 2016, in the middle of the election, nearly 60% of Americans reported they were exhausted by the glut of election coverage. The 2020 election cycle is shaping up to be the same way–and yet it doesn’t have to be this way.

In other countries, the entire election process is much, much shorter. For instance:

  • In France, the presidential campaign is generally only two weeks long.
  • In Argentina, candidates are only allowed to advertise 60 days before the election, and the official campaign can’t get under way for 25 days after that.
  • The longest election campaign in Canadian history lasted for just 11 weeks, and Canadians were already fed up.
  • The longest campaign in Australian history lasted 94 days.
  • In 2015, Danish Prime Minister Helle Thorning-Schmidt announced  that national elections would be held three weeks later.
  • In Mexico, a 2007 law limits the length of campaigns, kicking off with a 60-day “pre-campaign” season, in which candidates vie for the nomination, and then a 90-day campaign that stops three days before the actual election. If 150 days sounds like a lot, keep in mind that Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) kicked off his failed campaign for the U.S. presidency 596 days before Election Day.

It’s not just about the calendar. Other countries strictly limit election spending, and if campaigns don’t have ridiculous amounts of funds pouring in, they have to have shorter campaigns. Part of Mexico’s 2007 reforms were aimed at reining in political campaign spending by giving all candidates free access to the airwaves. Spending limits are pretty common around the world. In the U.K., each party cannot spend more than $29.5 million in the year before the election.

Similarly, many democracies around the world place strict regulations or outright bans on how political parties can advertise on television. In Germany, for example, each political party tends to make just 90-second ads for limited run on two public television networks, according to Politico.

U.S. presidential candidates also probably wouldn’t have to work so hard to fire up voters and get them to the polls if, like in Australia, voting were compulsory (citizens are fined a small sum if they don’t vote), or if elections were held on Sundays, like in Brazil. That has resulted in a significantly higher voter turnout rate than the in United States. Just some food for thought.

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