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Electoral College

THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE- ITS TIME TO MOVE ON
The next President of the United States, the successor to William Jefferson Clinton and man who will lead America as the first President of the new millennium is George W. Bush, the Republican governor of Texas, the son of a former President. Or its Democratic Vice President Al Gore, President Clintons right hand man for the past eight years.
One of these gentlemen is the next leader of the free world.
Who that gentleman is will in all likelihood be determined by the Supreme Court. Which is probably not what our nations Founding Fathers had in mind when they designed the Presidential election process.
The 2000 Presidential Election has been nothing short of a fiasco on many levels. Historical in the sense that this has never happened in the United States before, but a fiasco, nonetheless. The popular vote shows Gore as winning the election, however, the popular vote does not determine the next tenant of 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue. Thats the job of the Electoral College. The winner of Floridas electoral votes, and apparently of the election was Bush. Bush had won Floridas 25 electoral votes. However, reports of voting irregularities, problems with the butterfly ballot and voters allegedly being turned away from the polls, raised concerns as to who the actual winner of the crucial Florida electoral votes was. The popular vote was so close that it required a recount, effectively taking the electoral votes, the election and the Presidency away from Bush.
The 2000 Presidential Election has done nothing if not raise serious questions about our election process. Lack of standardization in the voting process, methods of vote tabulation and the medias role in determining the outcome of an election have all come under scrutiny. The question raised most often, however, seems to be about the Electoral College, and its validity as part of the election process in the 21st Century.
Originally, in our nations infancy, the plan was to have Congress elect the President. Despite the fact that the President of the United States might feel indebted to Congress, coupled with the fact that the intricate system of checks and balances placed in the Constitution would be weakened by such a process, this system was the process of choice and received approval on four different occasions (Pierce 39).
There were those who did not agree with this method of choosing a President, and while many felt that the American Democracy was sufficiently mature enough to handle a direct vote, they also felt that the government was still shaky at best.
One of the biggest proponents of the direct vote was future President James Madison, who, despite his concerns over unfairness to the underpopulated southern states, felt that since one of the Presidents jobs was to guard the people from the legislature, he should be elected by the people he is guarding. (Pierce 41). It was generally believed, however, that the people were essentially misinformed and easily confused and misled. Despite being voted down on two separate occasions, the direct vote system did demonstrate the hazards of the legislature selecting the president. (Pierce 41)
Eventually, what developed was the Electoral College.

The idea behind the Electoral College was to have electors that could not be a member of Congress, vote for the President. The final plan, after two were voted down, was to have the electors selected by each state’s legislatures. It was agreed that each states electors would be the total of the states representatives and senators.( Electoral 256). The process for electing the President of the United States had been determined.(Pierce 44).
The states used three methods for choosing electors. The first was the legislative system, in which state legislatures chose the electors, the district system whereby electors were chosen by Congressional district and the general ticket, where the winner was determined by a popular vote throughout the state, the winner of which took all the electoral votes. (Glennon 13). 48 states presently use the general election system, with two states (Maine and Nebraska) still using the district system. The system utilizes the census results to determine the number of representatives each state is allowed. This total, plus the states two senators, equals the number of electors each state has. Washington, D.C., although not a state, has three electors. Basically, what is supposed to happen is that a direct vote in each state determines the winner, who the receives all of that states electoral votes.
The question is- is it a system thats still valid 200 years after its conception?
The electoral college was originally established because the designers felt that the general population was easily misinformed and misled, as well as a concern over the more populated states dominating the less populated ones. While those concerns may have been true at the time of the colleges inception, they are no longer valid today. The majority of states are smaller states, limiting the power of the larger states to force their will on the rest of the nation. With the plethora of news and information sources available today, the general population is no longer easily misinformed. Technological advances in communications have brought what was once a separated population closer together. The telephone, Internet, numerous television and radio news programs, newspapers and news magazines keep the public very well informed. The population is no longer as isolated as it was back when the college was developed. The people are better educated, better informed and perhaps not as willing to accept what they are told as readily as they were 200 years ago. Watergate and the more recent Clinton scandal have made the American citizen a bit more jaded and suspicious of politicians. A better informed public makes the need for an electoral college questionable, at best.
According to a New York Times article by Akhil Reed Amar, a direct election of the President would give state governments an incentive to encourage voter participation, the reasoning being that the more voters a state has, the more important its role in the election process. Amar maintains that this would force candidates to pay closer attention to the states with the highest turnouts. The way the system is presently, candidates focus their attention on those states carrying the most electoral votes, all but ignoring the other states. David Stout, New York Times columnist, argues that the Electoral College, in fact, benefits the smaller states, giving them a certain amout of power in relation to their population. Stout maintains that if the Electoral College were to be eliminated, candidates could conceivably choose to ignore the smaller states, and those areas of larger states with small populations in favor of those with greater populations. This is, however, the way things appear to be done now. Candidates may make token appearences in smaller or sparsly populated states, but they concentrate on the places with the most to offer by way of electoral votes. The rational might change, but the action would be the same. Candidates would concentrate their campaign efforts on the places where they have the most to gain. Period. They always have and they always will.
While it would require a Constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College, perhaps it is time to do just that. The Founding Fathers of the United States created our Constitution to be a flexible document, with the idea that it should be able to adapt to meet changing circumstances and times. They created the college to protect a still shaky government and nation. The United States and its people have proven that they are no longer in need of such protection.
Its time to give the election of the President of the United States back to the people.

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Works Cited
Electoral College. Congressional Digest Oct 1992: 226,256.

Glennon, Michael J. When No Majority Rules. Washington: Congressional Quarterly mc, 1992.

Peirce, Neal R. The Peoples President. New York: Simon and Schuster, 1968.

The Electoral College, Unfair from Day One- Akhil Reed Amar, New York Times, November 9, 2000
How to make the President talk to the Local Pol, Charles Fried, New Yoork Times, November 11, 2000
How the Winner of the Popular Vote Could Lose the Election After All, David Stout, New York Times,
November 3, 2000

Electoral College

The framer’s intent of setting up the American Government will never be
know for sure, but it is gathered that they preferred a republic over a
democracy. In the constitutional convention the drafters had to decide how much
power they would entrust with the people of the United States, and how much
should be controlled by representatives. They chose to have Congress Make the
laws, and congress would be selected directly by the people. But another branch
of government, the executive branch, needed a sole president and the framers
had to decide how to choose this president. They chose from three main
systems: elect the president by congress, the people, or electors. The electoral
college system has been in place for over 200 years and Americans are still not
sure how it works or if it is the best system. Many Americans feel they go to
the polls every year and vote for the president, and in the long run they are in
control of the fate of our executive branch.

This third system was to have electors that could not be a member of
congress vote for the president. The elector system was voted down twice, once
as the electors to be chosen by state legislatures, and the other time as the
electors to be chosen by direct vote. Finally it was passed under the system of
letting state legislature decide how to choose the electors. Another compromise
had to be made about how many electors each state would have. This was
agreed upon by the electors equaling the total of the states representatives and
senators.

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States went three main routes in choosing electors: the legislative system,
where state legislatures choose the electors; a district system, where electors are
selected by the people of each congressional district; and the general ticket, or a
winner-take-all system, where a popular vote was held in the entire state, and
the winner took all electoral votes. Many have tried to reform by making a more
uniform system state by state, but the constitution is very clear that it is each
state’s own decision of how to choose electors.

The legislative system eventually failed because of too much bargaining,
promises, and payoffs. The district system eventually lost popularity because it
encourages third parties. This left the general ticket system as the dominating
system. However, the framers originally intended electors to be chosen by the
people and then vote for what they thought was best. There are two states that
still use the district system, but the remaining 48 states use the general ticket
system.

Most all states no longer show the electors’ names on the ballot. The voter
votes for either the president or the party that they wish to hold office. This
causes a problem of the unfaithful elector. Electors are expected to ratify the
people’s choice by voting for candidates winning the popular election. Electors
that do not vote for what they are expected to vote for are considered faithless
or unfaithful electors. This has not traditionally been a problem in the history of
the electoral college but it could possibly be a problem. Less than 1% of
electors have ever misrepresented their community. 26 states do not require an
elector to vote for what they have pledged to vote for by state law. Although
these states are still considered under the general ticket system.

Basically the electoral college system works like this today. Every ten
years the census figures adjusts how many representatives each state has. This
number plus two, representing the two senators, equals how many electors each
state has. Also, DC has 3 electors. Then each state has the right to decide how
to select these electors. Forty eight states use the general ticket system, two,
Maine and Nebraska, use the district system. The general ticket system is
suppose to operate as follows. There is a direct vote election held in each state
and the winner of the vote is suppose to get all of that states electoral votes. In
Maine and Nebraska there is an election held in each congressional district. The
winner of every district gets one electoral vote, and the candidate with the most
electoral votes gets the remaining two electoral votes. Then all of the votes are
counted, and if a candidate gets more than half the votes, he/she becomes the
new president. If there is no majority then the election gets thrown into the
House of Representatives. There each state is given one vote and they vote on
the top three candidates. if a candidate gets a majority vote, the he/she becomes
president.
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