Explain to me US elections

I’m a Canadian. I find the US elections baffling in many ways.

Why do Americans want to elect every single position in government? Electing the president, senators and house representatives all seem reasonable, as well as electing the corresponding offices at the state level. But the US also elect judges, sheriffs, tax collectors. and lots of other offices too. Why is there a need to elect these positions? Judicial independence from prevailing social whims and adherence to law would be something that is essential in a judge, and that doesn’t seem likely with an elected one. Roy Moore is a rather famous example. Tax collectons seems to be a rather administrative function. Why is there a need to elect one? I understand that what offices are elected vary from state to state, but all states seem to have lots of elected offices. In contrast to this, I elect a member of parliament federally, a member of provincial parliament provincially, a mayor, two town councillors and a school trustee.

This leads to the question of how any voter can sort all of this out? It seems that electons at the federal, state and municipal levels all happen at the same time. In addition to the various offices, there are also propositons placed on the ballots. This makes for a large complicated ballot. How much time can voters devote to figuring out what candidates to vote for in each office and what propositions to support? I suppose that is why people just vote a straight ticket of Republican or Democrat. This seems far from ideal. I’m used to federal, provincial, and municipal elections being run at different times. The most complicated ballot I need to deal with is the municipal election with a mayor, two councillors and a school trustee.

It also seems to me that the US is always on an election footing. House representatives have two year terms. The run up to the US primaries along with the main election seems to take two years ( or more?). Perhaps some of this perception is driven by the voracious online news cycles. It’s easy to toss up some talking heads yakking about politics. I’m used to much shorter election campaigns. Six weeks and its all done. Does the US really need to go through this, especially the primary process for the major offices?

Different states have different slates of positions that are elected. For judges, some states elect them and some appoint them.

Electing judges, while not particularly controversial, is problematic. John Oliver shined a light on this a while ago, but again, this is not something that is really on the radar here.

But honestly I think the answer to your meta question is, succinctly: freedom. It’s super easy for Americans to get comfortable with adding a new position to the ballot because overall Americans believe that people should vote on stuff.

California is a testament to this: the system to get initiatives on the ballot is extremely open and the legislature has basically abdicated their responsibility in favor of putting more and more stuff on the ballot.

Thousands of Americans died face down in the mud in Europe and Asia so that I have the freedom to decide who is Regent of the University of Colorado!

The theory is that making them electable prevents corruption and keeps them working for the community.

It rarely plays out that way past a certain point though. It generally works in small counties, but falls apart in bigger ones and like 80% of the time these people just run unopposed anyway, so you end up wasting time voting for some random unopposed thing you don’t care about anyway.

I’m against voting for Judges. Voting out judges isn’t great either, but it’s slightly better.
I’m good with voting for Sheriff. Not so much voting for random Ag people who aren’t opposed, though.

Can’t most stuff be explained by The rules were set a long time ago before anyone had any idea if it was good, then Americans went all religious with it and now you can’t change because Freedom?

Similar to the whole “I wanna be able to shoot other people” thing?

And I get it, it’s been working mostly fine, why fix what isn’t broken?

I ask the same question every time I have to fill out a ballot. Along with why am I voting for judges and treasurers when I don’t have the time to spend looking all them up, I often wonder why I’m voting for things like giving more money to the fire department every 2 years. I don’t know our tax situation. I don’t know what approving more money for the fire department will do to our budget and how much more I will get taxed or what other program will get cut to make this happen. There are people I’ve already elected that have all this knowledge that should be making this decision, not me.

Here in California every voter gets a thick booklet that goes into all of those details for every initiative being voted on. It also includes a statement for and against the measure, as well as rebuttals for both, and a list of what organizations and people are endorsing those submissions.

No idea how many people actually read it though.

In Washington we got a booklet thing too. I usually read through it, then go online and do as much research as I can. I try to do this for all the ballot measures, when it comes to people running for office though I generally start losing interest in looking everything up and just vote along party lines which isn’t ideal.

Some states, like Florida, don’t have a process for putting initiatives on the ballot, but do have a process for putting amendments to the state constitution on the ballot. The result? Things that would ordinarily be ballot initiatives in other states go on the Florida ballot as constitutional amendments. So this year we voted on — among other things — initiatives to change the state constitution to set a new minimum wage, extend certain tax benefits on home ownership and extend other existing tax benefits targeted at spouses of deceased veterans. The capper was the amendment proposal which requires that any constitutional amendment be passed by the voters twice before taking effect — I kept asking myself does it apply to this one?

I guess that is a legacy of how the US became a nation. But the election of judges don’t seem to work well, but I suppose Americans are just used to voting and don’t want to change even if they don’t actually follow through with exercising their vote. I came across this article on judges in Clark county Nevada. There have ben ballot initiatives to switch to appointments but that has not passed. On the other hand, many positions are unopposed and voters often skip voting on judges.

Is that really part of the general election ballot? Is the University a government institution?

Are you opposed to voting for AG? In Canada, the AG position federally is held by the Minister Justice appointed by the Prime Minister (or more technically, appointed by the Governor General acting on behalf of Her Majesty on the advice of the Prime Minister). With the SNC-Lavelin affair, splitting off the AG role in Canada and even separately electing it might not be a bad idea. You really want your AG to be free of interference from the government. Is there a reason the US elects their state AG but appoints the federal one?

This is what I find puzzling about the whole ballot initiative thing in the US. I agree with you 100% on this. And it seems to me ballot initiatives can screw things up horribly because each one is voted on individually, but budgets, policies, etc. can have an effect on one another and need to be dealt with as a whole.

Putting that stuff in a state constitution just seems straight up wrong.

The problem with electing at the state level is the same as the problem with electing judges: the election becomes a partisan contest, and that means that partisan considerations dominate and you get partisan candidates, often without real qualifications for an AG job. The AG job is often basically the vice-governor position, seen as a stepping-stone to the governor’s mansion, though this varies by states — some states have AGs, while some states have Secretaries of State, and some states have Lieutenant Governors.

There are no elected federal officials except the President and Vice-President (who is barely an official). The constitution imagines that the President leads the executive branch and all executive leadership positions are filled by her/him, with the caveat that the Senate must approve those appointments.

Absolutely. The problem is not that people want in the constitution, but that there isn’t any other way to give people a chance to vote on it when the legislature refuses to act. The people want to increase the minimum wage, but the right-leaning legislature and governor do not, so the people force the issue with a ballot initiative; and in FL the only kind of ballot initiative permitted under the constitution is an amendment to the constitution. The answer would seem to be an amendment to the constitution to permit ballot initiatives that don’t amend the constitution, and I don’t really know why that hasn’t yet happened.

The US Elections :

This is the process whereby the entire nation has to take an official day off work to go out and put their vote on various pieces of paper.
The person with the most amount of votes is not necessarily the winner.
The result doesn’t really seem to matter as the current winner may decide to stay on anyway.

I believe that Shiva was referring to Agriculture Commissioner and similar positions, based on his capitalization. Which are, yes, positions we vote for. Here in NC, an awesome liberal lesbian farm-owner from a long line of farmers was on the ticket, but obviously she lost to the straight white Xtian dude.

Who ever knows what to do about the various County Commissioners and Corporation Commissioners and so on, especially the races where they try to pretend the positions are non-partisan.

For those abroad, the combination of local and state and federal governments is simply mind boggling here. We have city governments with mayors and city councils, all elected, with appointed police chiefs and city managers and city finance people and prosecutors who may be appointed or may be elected depending on location; then we have county governments with elected county boards and (perhaps) county managers, elected sheriffs who run their own police departments with roles and jurisdictions that overlap and compete with those of the city; then we have elected state legislatures and a state executive and other elected state executive positions; and we may have quasi-governmental bodies like state or county water boards, state or county corporation commissions, etc. States also have police forces, again with jurisdictions that overlap and compete with those of counties and cities. We have town magistrates, county judges and state judges, who may be elected or appointed or both; and each operate in their own court system. Taxes are managed at the town/city level, at the county level, at the state level and at the federal level.

Use local leftist organizations to figure out the self-identified Democrats, or, failing that, vote for the woman or POC candidate works well enough for me (by which I mean my picks virtually always lose, which I think, given how shitty NC is, makes them, by default, good people).