The Electoral College: How Effective Is It? Essay, Research Paper
The Electoral College: How Effective Is It?
Our founding fathers wanted to devise a plan to elect the executive branch of the government without it being affected by partisan politics. In the beginning, they instituted and stated in Article 2, Section 1, of the Constitution, the method of selecting electors is delegated to the separate state legislatures, and the voting procedure to be followed by the electors is carefully defined (Encarta, History). Originally in the Constitution, the electors were to vote for the two most qualified persons without specification of presidential or vice-presidential candidates. The candidate with the most votes would be the president and the candidate with the least votes would be the vice-president. After the election of 1800 there was a tie with the votes and the decision went to the House of Representatives. After a long struggle, they chose the president and vice-president, but not without adding the 12th Amendment. In 1804, Congress enacted and the States ratified the 12th Amendment, which allows for separate electoral votes for the president and vice-president. The 23rd Amendment was also adopted in 1961 allowing the District of Columbia 3 electoral votes, leaving the original electoral college procedure stated in the Constitution substantially the one in use today (Encarta, History).
The Electoral College consists of 538 electors, one for each of the 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 Senators, and 3 for the District of Columbia. Each state’s allotment of electors is equal to the number of House members and Senators(2) each state has (NARA, par. 1). To win the election, 270 of the 538 votes, the majority, are needed. As stated in the Constitution, the electors cannot be a member of the Senate, House of Representative or a person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States (NARA, par. 6). The electors are appointed by statewide popular election, and the electors have a pledged vote to a certain candidate. It is possible to win the popular vote and not the electoral vote due to the winner-take-all system. The popular vote, the peoples vote, for each state, except Nebraska and Maine, is totaled up and the plurality winner gets the electoral votes for that state. Since the apportionment of electoral votes is left up to the states, Nebraska and Maine exercise this freedom by allowing the number of electoral votes to be proportional to the popular vote. Nebraska and Maine’s electoral procedure makes a lot more sense to me, rather than the all or nothing system most states use today.
In seeing the way the Electoral College works, I have a tough time supporting it. When the vote of the people is not directly the cause of a President’s election to office, I am confused with the democracy we live in. It is seen in the most recent election how an election is not based on what the majority of the people want, but yet on what the majority of the states’ electors want. The electors’ vote may be based on the popular vote, but obviously seeing the large margin in the 2000 election between the electoral vote and the popular vote, they are not so closely related. I believe the Electoral College should be abolished due to the fact that in democracy, where government is constructed under the consent of the governed, people, not electors of political parties should be the ones electing the President and Vice-President. There are many reasons why I believe the Electoral College is not an effective way for the American people to choose their president and vice-president and also some possible solutions to this problem.
First, as I stated above, the direct correlation to each person’s vote and the vote that elects the presidential candidates is in fact very small. Each person’s vote goes toward a statewide total, which then appoints its electors based on the plurality, disregarding Maine and Nebraska. Electors of which have pledged their vote to a particular candidate. So in fact, we basically vote to elect others, who are chosen by political parties, to vote for us. I believe that if the majority of the people want a certain candidate, then that candidate should be the elected official. The electoral procedure seems to me very bureaucratic, with the power of the people’s vote growing very weak in the final outcome.
There are proposed solutions to this problem, such as implementing a Division of Electoral Votes, where each state divides it electoral votes to represent the proportional popular vote for each district (Div. of Electors, par.1). This allows more equal representation of both the popular vote and third party candidates. Many worry how this will affect the two-party system, but I believe in equal opportunity decision, allowing the people to elect their own president, not just a “party”. Another possible solution to this problem is Instant Runoff Voting, where voters rank the candidates from #1 as priority pick and so on. If no candidate receives the majority of the #1 votes, the candidate with the least #1 votes is eliminated and the second choice votes are then transferred to the other candidates, recounted and other candidates are eliminated in the same fashion until one winner emerges (IRV, par. 2). This reform does not appeal to me, but it does claim beneficial factors such as ensuring a majority vote for the winner and also allowing more candidates-without spoiling the election. These proposals for restructuring the electoral procedure are headed in the right direction, but I believe in something much bigger and stronger.
The fact that the people’s vote is not considered the most important aspect of the election disturbs me. I think the whole Electoral College should be scrapped, with the election of our presidential candidates resting on the will of the people. As stated in Campaign 2000, abolishing the Electoral College might urge more candidates to campaign in all states, rather than certain states, since they receive a portion of their total vote from each state. Also Campaign 2000 states that supporters of the Electoral College want to keep it because it forces candidates to pay attention to small states as they strategize how to gain electoral votes. In hearing this I still believe that they should be fighting for the people’s vote, and not focusing on the electoral vote, when there is less and less correspondence between them. I think that the people that are voting believe they are casting their vote for their presidential picks, not the electors’ picks, and those, including myself, are entitled to that decision and freedom.
All in all, I believe that our current electoral system is very non-democratic and does no justice to the American people. We, the people, should be deciding who would hold the office of the executive branch, since he/she will be leading us into the next four years politically. I understand how hard and expensive it would be to completely scrap the existing system, but with time, patience and hard work it can happen-slowly and surely. I also understand that unless there are other common cases like the current election, nothing will probably be done to change the electoral system we currently use today. Hopefully, we’ll soon encounter such an election, which has much conflict with our electoral system, where the government is forced to amend the Constitution to reflect the will of the people involving the election of our President and Vice-President.