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Last June's European Parliament ("EP") election was widely considered a failure. Turnout was low across Europe, and, as has been the case in every EP election since they were introduced in 1979, voters responded exclusively to domestic cues in deciding how to fill the European Union's only directly elected body. Campaigns were waged entirely on domestic issues outside of the purview of the EP, and the popularity of domestic prime ministers, who were not on the ballot, was the most important factor in determining the results. The EP is supposed to provide a popular check on the other legislative bodies in the European Union ("EU"), which are either appointed or directly controlled by member state governments, and thereby reduce the EU's "democratic deficit." Instead, the failure of EP elections to generate popular feedback on EU policy allows the deficit to fester and undermines the separation of powers inside the EU. This paper argues that the problems of EP elections are much like the problems in a variety of American state and local elections.
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