By Chelsea Albers, JMI Intern and Florida State University Junior in International Affairs & Languages
Campaigns in the U.S. are long, nasty, extravagant, and expensive. By election time, everyone is eager to cast their votes, and I would argue that many, if not most, Americans either decide on their candidate months before election day or procrastinate even thinking about it until the last minute.This leads me to ask if a full year is really needed for candidates to be presented to the public and for decisions to be made? In England, it typically only takes between six and eight weeks.In Britain, an election must occur at least every five years; however, the Prime Minister can request a Royal Proclamation for the dissolving of Parliament and new elections whenever he/she deems fit. Because general elections could be called at any time, candidates have strict time contraints for their campaigns.There are key dissimilarities between Britain and America that explain our more costly campaigns. Firstly, the U.S. is much larger than England and therefore, candidates have more ground to cover before elections. Secondly, there are key political differences in the election process, such as the lack of primaries in Great Britain (political parties choose which candidates will run.) Thirdly, there are financial limitations on what can be spent by parties during British campaigns.In the 2005 British general election campaign, a total of about £40.11 million ($54.32 million) was spent collectivly by the three major parties. This is pocket change compared to the total $5.3 billion ($2.4 billion spent on the presidental race alone) spent in the 2008 U.S. elections.Britain’s process proves that billions of dollars (much of which is spent on personal attacks against opponents) are not required for politicians to make known their opinions and qualifications for office.Rather than allowing for months of dirt digging on every misconstrued, irrelevent statement and glamorizing campaigns through personal scandals, why not shorten the time period and pressure our candidates to honestly explain what they have done and will do for our country. Consequently, if campaign time is shorter, less money would be neccesary; which opens the door to more Americans who want to run.Holding candidates to time restrictions, similar to those in England, could help make elections shorter, cheaper, and more genuine.