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Electoral College Reform

Essay by   •  September 27, 2010  •  Essay  •  1,955 Words (8 Pages)  •  2,027 Views

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Since the fiasco that was the Presidential Election in the year 2000, many Americans have been calling for a reform of the Electoral College. Most of these people were Gore supporters; disillusioned by the fact that Bush won the office of the President while, in fact, he lost the popular vote. The American people did not elect George W. Bush; the Electoral College did.

Last year's circumstance was the first of its kind in over a century. There have been many close elections, but none have resulted in the popular candidate losing to his opponent. The Electoral College cast the final vote in that election. The people who went out to the polls in November, many of whom believing that they were indeed voting for president, did not.

The Electoral College was established in a compromise between a direct election system, supported by James Wilson, and a system whereby the President would be chosen by congress, supported by Edgridge Gerry, in Article II, Section I of the United States Constitution (Houser, 2). It is a group of 'electors' who are nominated or appointed by each party within each state however they choose, who have pledged their loyalty to one candidate. In fact, it is the electors for whom we vote on Election Day. The Electoral College is comprised of 538 members representing the number of the total number of members of the House of Representatives and Senate and three electors representing the District of Columbia. A presidential candidate must have a majority of electoral votes in order to become president.

In December of a presidential election year, the electors meet in their state capitals to cast their vote for President. In theory, this vote is intended to increase the majority of the already popular candidate. Despite recent events, this is usually the case.

Although, it is remotely possible in a very close election that there will not be one candidate receiving 270 electoral votes, in which case the House of Representatives chooses the President. In this scenario, each state has merely one vote each to decide the presidency out of the top three contenders for the office. The Senate chooses the vice-president out of the top two contenders.

Many people feel that this system is outdated, unfair and/or biased; that it should be replaced with the popular voting system. Unfortunately it is not as simple as stating what "has to be done". Since the Electoral College is found in the constitution, it is most difficult to alter, reform or remove it from existence. "Any congressional record probes that many American representatives like to avoid change" (Houser, 1) thus presenting the first problem. A constitutional amendment would be required in order to make any changes regarding the Electoral College. In order to ratify an amendment, it is essential that it be proposed either by the Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. The latter of the two methods has never occurred resulting in an amendment.

In order to make a reform possible, it is necessary to decide what problems we are attempting to reform. "Obviously, we need to reform the habit of using cheap and unreliable voting equipment such as Votomatic card punches, but that is not a constitutional issue" (Kienitz, via Internet).

The "winner-take-all" system that embodies the Electoral College is generally the most offensive to voters. With this idea, examining any given state as its own entity, there could be an extremely close election, but the winner in that state will take all of the electoral votes for that state (in 48 states out of 50). This is especially relevant in larger states where the difference between winning and losing is has the most impact when the vote goes into the Electoral College.

This idea leads to a large loss of political efficacy. It's no wonder that many voters have such apathy when they realize the fact that their vote does not always count, especially if they are on the losing side.

The Electoral College gives bias towards both the very large and very small states. Very large states receive overwhelming amounts of attention throughout a campaign, as candidates really want to get their hands on that large block of votes on Election Day. Thus, candidates ignore the less populous states in the months prior to the election. They would rather seek out supporters in Texas over supporters in Rhode Island, because a victory in Texas will give them more chance of winning in the Electoral College.

The particularly small states receive bias on the sheer fact that it is impossible to have less than three electors, meaning that in Alaska, one person's vote is worth many more times one person's vote in California, giving Alaska much more voting power in the Electoral College than its actual population warrants. In fact, in 1976, Alaska's three electoral votes were representative of 123,545 voters, meaning that the state of Alaska's ratio for electoral votes to actual votes was 1 to 41,182. In that same year in California, forty-five electors represented 7,867,043 actual votes, hence California's electoral votes to actual votes ratio was 1 to 174,823. Therefore, one electoral vote in California represented more people's popular votes than did all three electoral votes for the state of Alaska. (Houser, 3)

The most popularly sought after reform of the Electoral College is to elect presidents solely based on the popular vote, which occurs on Election Day in November. It would be best to declare the candidate as winner based on a majority of the vote. Should no candidate have a majority of the vote, there should be a run-off between the two most popular candidates.

This system would easily uphold the idea of "one person, one vote" and would make way to eliminate the chance of the House of Representatives being held responsible for choosing the president. It would also make way for third party candidates to have greater impact on the system. It has been many years since a third party candidate has received a single electoral vote. This would not make third party candidates more likely to win elections, however they would be given a much greater opportunity for viability.

Most importantly, a direct popular election would give way for Americans to truly have their voices heard on Election Day. A truly democratic government should require that each individual citizen of that particular government shall have his or her own vote cast in favor of the candidate he or she chooses.

"Voting is one of our most important individual rights, just like freedom of speech and the other individual rights spelled out in the Bill

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