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Home » Articles » Identifying the Differences Between the Nigerian and American Electoral System – Precious Adewunmi

Identifying the Differences Between the Nigerian and American Electoral System – Precious Adewunmi

Electoral system

Identifying the Differences Between the Nigerian and American Electoral System


Democracy as a concept has been adopted by several countries all over the world, it equally has pillars that makes it operational. Democracy helps to inform the decisions reached through electoral systems.

A democratic system is fully established when free and fair elections take place. For the exact purpose of ensuring that the pillars of democracy are rightly deployed, the different countries are at liberty to define how they want it to run. There is so much freedom for nations across the globe to determine what their democracy should represent with respect to their choice of electoral system.

A lack of express statement of rules guiding electoral systems could equally defeat the purpose of using it as a means to ensure orderliness in the system of government. Each country has a way in which their elections are done, yet, there are apparent similarities spanning across some countries. Notwithstanding the similitude of characteristics, there are different processes for each country.

This essay focuses on the choice of electoral systems, examining the Nigerian and American systems, with identification of some differences between the systems of both countries.

Electoral System Defined; Meaning and Importance

Before we delve into the crux of this essay, it is important to give clarity to the keyword; electoral system. What are electoral systems? Based off the current world view, electoral systems are treated as “one of the most influential of all political institutions. It is also of pivotal importance to a wider scope of issues relating to governance.”[1]

The choice of electoral system in any country has a huge impact on its political system at large, impact along the lines of conflict management or a broader democratic framework. This actively demonstrates that electoral systems have utmost significance on the continued political status of the concerned country.

This shows how crucial the influence of electoral system is in the formation of political parties. The choice of system also has an effect on the campaign methods used by candidates or the different party behaviours.[2]

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The Presidential Electoral System in Perspective; What Does It Entail?

A major factor that informs the choice of electoral system is hugely dependent on the system of government being practised. Reason being that, the electoral processes must align with the core objectives being explored by the style of governance.

That is, a presidential system of election cannot be used in a country that is dictatorial or monarchical. In this essay, the presidential system is the highlight as that is what is in operation in both countries being used as a case study (Nigeria and United States of America).

Both countries practice a presidential system of government, regardless of this standpoint, the processes employed during their respective elections differ in delivery. A comparative analysis outlining the differences between both shall be carried out succinctly.

The entire process is marked with aspiring candidates for the various posts engaging the electorates via strategic campaigns. They communicate their plans, try to win people over  and lots more, all to the end of serving for a term of four years if they attain victory at the polls.[3] Both countries have experienced an evolution in their respective political realities and while some have been commendable, some others still need to be worked upon and upgraded.

The Two Sides of the Divide; How Do Both Countries Differ?

Truly, the United States of America and Nigeria both conduct elections every four years. However, they still differ in respect to certain processes. Some of which will be discussed below;

1. Central Electoral Commission

The electoral commission is saddled with the responsibility of ensuring the election being conducted is carried out freely and fairly.

In Nigeria, a central electoral commission exists as the Independent National Electoral Commission. The body conducts elections across all levels of government; from the federal to state to local government. Electoral officers under the Independent National Electoral Commission are charged with overseeing the process of electioneering.

The election is done on the same day across all 36 states and the commission has the responsibility of supervising the election’s integrity (supervisory delegation for campaign financing) while also conducting elections. The head of this commission is the Chairman appointed by the President.[4]

The United States of America on the other hand does not have a central electoral commission that controls all elections, instead, there is a federal electoral commission. The major duty of this commission is to ensure that integrity is demonstrated during the election process. Electoral officers are expected to act transparently and also administer the finance for campaigning federally.

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It should be noted that; all of these duties do not equate that the commission conducts the presidential, state or local government elections. Instead, each state has the responsibility of conducting its election. The 50 states in America have a heavily decentralised commission, hence, the stratification to each state.[5]

2. Electoral College

An election process has a stage of election where electorates choose their choice candidates to represent their interests.

In America, the electoral college is used to elect the president. It doesn’t matter if the other candidate won the popular votes stage, the president is chosen based on the decision of the electoral college. To emerge as a winner from the electoral college, the candidate needs 270 votes of the 538 electors in the electoral college.

Electors are chosen by each state in accordance with the provisions of the federal constitution.[6] This status makes the American presidential election two phased where there is first a general voting process followed by the electors formally meeting to elect the president.

The Nigerian president is elected directly by the electorates (accredited voters). The winner emerges by majority number of valid votes and the geographical spread. After the entire process has been completed, the winner is announced by the Independent National Electoral Commission chairman.

3. Early Voting and Electronic Voting

Early voting runs weeks before the general election day while electronic voting allows electorates to cast their votes using a computer or other digital related devices.

The American system employs the use of electronic voting to determine the validity of votes cast to a very great extent. This helps to rule out the problem of multiplicity of votes or wrong documentation of figures. The idea of early voting in America also encourages mass voter participation. That is, the electorates get to vote earlier for the particular reason of circumstances such as congestion of polling stations or time difference from state to state.[7]

The Nigerian system does not explore any of these options. Voting is done on the exact date fixed for the election and by a manual process of casting ballot papers into boxes.

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4. Political Party System

Party systems define the number of political parties that are recognised to promote aspirants for any election period. Some of the systems in existence are; one party system, two party system, multi party system, etc. For the purpose of this discourse, multi party system is in operation.

Nigeria currently operates a multi party system and there are ninety-one political parties listed by the Independent National Electoral Commission. All of these parties vote a candidate to be their flag bearer and the electorates in turn vote their choices from the wide range of aspirants provided to them.[8]

In America, there are two major political parties The Republican Party and The Democratic Party. These are the most powerful while other parties classified as third parties also exist (Reform, Libertarian, Green Parties, etc.) They can also promote candidates for an election, however, the trend in the American political space has made it seem as though only two parties exist and can contend for the presidential seat.[9] Majorly, candidates from the two major parties are put up to battle at the polls and after the two phased stage, a winner emerges.

The Borderline; What Can Be Deduced?

To sum up everything that has been stated so far, much credence should be given to how unique each country’s process is despite their similarities because they stand out with their differences.

In the affirmative, both operate the same system but employ different techniques. Regardless, there is a common end goal which is achieved despite the varying methods. Having identified some of these notable differences that exist between both countries, it would be wrong to measure the results using only one system.

The comparative metric has to flow from the individual countries because these differences are what makes each country distinguished while practising their chosen electoral system.










About Author

People-friendly human, full of potential, always seeking out opportunities to unleash great ideas. This summarises the core of who Precious Adeife ADEWUNMI represents. When she is not pursuing law related interests in Taxation, ADR, IP and Maritime, her passion for volunteering in various organisations comes to the forefront. She joined LawGlobal Hub in March, 2024.

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