The Significance And Legitimacy Of American Voting Essay, Research Paper
In the 1996 United States presidential election, only 49 percent of the voting age population cast a ballot (Federal Election Committee). Only 56 percent of whites voted, followed by 50 percent of African American, and only 27 percent of Hispanics (Federal Election Committee). With such low voter turnout, one must wonder about the cause of this epidemic. Voting is a right that Americans once took great pride in. The right to vote allows Americans not only say in who runs the government, but also affects their freedom and future. Or does it? The United States uses an institution called the Electoral College, not the vote of the people, to choose the president. In this system, each state Electoral College receives a certain numbers of votes. All of these votes go to the candidate who receives the majority in that particular state (Federal Election Committee). Whichever candidate receives the most electoral votes nationally wins (Federal Election Committee). So, it is not truly the people who decide who will lead them. In the United States, a supposed democracy, the Electoral College renders individual voting meaningless.
One reason that the Electoral College has contributed to the apathy of American voters is that it does not allow citizens a real say in presidential elections. According to the Constitution, the people are the source of government power, yet they are not permitted to choose their leader. In presidential elections, individual votes are not even counted (Citizens for True Democracy). The only voice that voters have is through the election of delegates to the electoral colleges (Federal Election Commission). The electoral colleges also cause the individual vote to become pointless by using a ?winner-takes-all? system in many states (Citizens for True Democracy). In these systems, all of a state?s electoral votes go to the candidate who gathered a majority vote. In many elections, candidates who didn?t receive the highest percentage of the popular vote were still elected president because they received enough votes from the Electoral College. For example, in the presidential election of 1824, John Quincy Adams was elected president with 108,740 popular votes, even though Andrew Jackson received 153,544 votes (Bailey, Kennedy, and Cohen A28). Such a system does not accurately reflect the wishes of the citizens in this ?democratic? nation.
Another flaw in the Electoral College system is the unequal distribution of electoral votes among states. The current system gives each state a number of electors equal to its number of United States senators (2), plus one for each of its United States Representatives (Federal Election Commission). This favors small states, which receive at least three electoral votes. In 1996, California, for example, received 54 electoral votes for its total population of 29,760,021 people, which is one vote per every .0000018 person (National Archives and Records Administration). Alaska, however, with its total population of 550,043, in that same year received three electoral votes, one per every .0000054 person (National Archives and Records Administration). Therefore, the vote of someone from a large state is worth less than the vote of a person from a smaller state (Citizens for True Democracy).
Lastly, the Electoral College negatively affects voting legitimacy by favoring the two main political parties, while ignoring third party candidates. The ?winner-takes-all? system of the Electoral College greatly harms third parties. In the 1992 presidential race, third party candidate Ross Perot won approximately twelve percent of the popular vote, yet did not a receive a single electoral vote (Citizens for True Democracy). The Electoral College affects third party candidates indirectly as well. Because of repeated failures, few people vote for a third party candidate because they know that person does not have a good chance of winning the election (Citizens for True Democracy).
Because of the Electoral College, voting in America has practically no legitimacy. The Electoral College harms the country by allowing unequal representation in some states, and by ignoring third party candidates. It keeps Americans citizens from having a true voice in choosing who will govern them. Only by abolishing the Electoral College can America truly be the democratic nation that it believes itself to be.
The Affects of the Electoral College on the Significance and Legitimacy of American Voting
Bailey, Thomas A., David M. Kennedy, and Lizabeth Cohen. The American Pageant. New York:
Houghton Mifflin Company, 1998.
Citizens for True Democracy. ?Electoral College Problems.? http://www.truedemocracy.org
Federal Election Commission. ?About Elections and Election Administration.? http://www.fec.gov/