ELECTORAL COLLEGE-TO BE OR NOT TO BE?
April 19, 2012
The Electoral College is a process that began as part of the original design, of the U.S. Constitution and was established by the founding fathers as a compromise between the election of the president by Congress and election by popular vote. As we all know, Americans were given a serious reminder in 2000 that the president is not elected by nationwide popular vote, but by a majority of the electoral votes. It’s an example of indirect election as opposed to direct election by U.S. citizens, (i.e. the members of the U.S. House of Representatives.) Should the Electoral College be reformed or done away with altogether, has been a hotly debated subject since one of the first ever public polls, on the subject matter, was given in 1944? According to a Gallop Poll taken on November 11-12, 2000, sixty-one percent of Americans supported a constitutional amendment to allow the national popular vote winner to assume the presidency, (http://www.galluppoll.com). Critics of the Electoral College argue, among many things, that it is at its very core undemocratic because only 538 people are responsible for the election of our president and vice president while proponents argue that it protects the rights of smaller states. It is my desire, through this discussion, to highlight the arguments for and against the Electoral College, bringing about dialogue on this controversial subject. The President and Vice President of the United States are chosen by a majority of electors from the states and the District of Columbia known as the Electoral College. The Constitution states that electors for the President and Vice President have to be allotted, among the states, according to the state’s total number of delegates within the House and Senate. The Electoral College is now comprised of 538 members whose sole purpose is none other than that afforded to them by the Constitution and therefore when Americans go to the polls to vote, they are really voting for a group of electors who are authorized according to the Constitution. Electors are chosen every even-numbered year divided by the number four and don’t serve a fixed number of years in office. Questions surrounding the process in which the President was to be elected was discussed at great length at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The ideas that the delegates tossed back and forth ranged between selection by Congress, election directly by the people, by the Governors of several states, by electors chosen by the State legislatures and election by a special group of members of Congress selected by chance. As a result of the Convention, where the Electoral College was established in Article II, Section I, some of the goals that our founding fathers hoped for, were realized. The Electoral College permitted public participation because states were given authority as to how electors would be selected. It’s interesting to note, however, that the Constitution doesn’t voice any specifics on methods for selecting electors. That process is left entirely up to the individual states. The Constitution Convention wanted to make sure that the individual electors would be free agents, without bias, voting for the candidate they felt was most qualified for the office of President. Practically speaking though, electors are not supposed to use their own judgment, but to vote according to the popular choice amongst the voters of their respective state. A small number of electors have voted against the direction of the voters in previous years, as can be seen most recently in 1988 with a Dukakis elector from West Virginia. This practice known as “faithless elector” is one of the many cons for the Electoral College to be discussed in the ensuing paragraphs. A faithless elector is a member of the Electoral College who doesn’t vote for his or her pledged candidate. In the...
Cited: 1. http://www.nationalpopularvote.com
2. Wheeler, Sarah M. International Social Science Review; 2007, Vol. 82 Issue ¾, p176-179
4. Edwards III, George C. Why the Electoral College is Bad For America, 2004, Yale University Press, New Haven and London
5. Cantor, Joseph E., Coleman, Kevin J., Neale, Thomas H. Presidential Elections in the United States: A Primer, 2001, Novinka Books, Huntington, N.Y.
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