Friday, November 11, 2016

Is It Time to Trash the Electoral College?

Once again in America, we have a presidential election outcome that places the winner of the election in office even though they failed to win the popular vote. It's not the first time but many in America are protesting in the streets for it to be the last.

Why does the United Sates use the Electoral College and not the popular vote to decide the presidency? What is the Electoral College?

Yes, people are very upset that Donald Trump won the election based on the electoral college. Democrats still have the stinging memory of Bush v Gore in 2000. Gore conceded a day after an exhaustive manual recount in the state of Florida was halted by the United States Supreme Court. 

The decision by the court resulted in Bush getting the state's 25 electoral votes which put Bush over the 270-electoral vote threshold to win the White House. Now, let's be clear the current Clinton v Trump election does not have the same issues as Gore v Bush but it does share one thing the winner of the popular vote lost. The Supreme Court did not decide the outcome.

There weren't any hanging chads to ponder over but the outcome put this year's election results in the highly unusual category. This year's election results marks only the fifth time a president received the keys to the White House without winning the popular vote. [See Source]

Donald Trump won this election fair and square based on the Electoral College system a much maligned and complex system for choosing the presidency. Many are protesting in the streets right now because of this system and many ask why isn't a simple vote count of the popular vote used?

There is a misconception that when Americans go to the polls to vote for a presidential candidate they are voting for that person in the present Clinton or Trump. In fact, this is wrong. They [American Voter] are casting their vote for a group of electors who then vote for the president.

Another misnomer about presidential voting is that the president is elected once the public vote totals are tabulated. This may come as a shock to some but ever since they stopped Civics classes in High School people are quite illiterate when it comes to politics in this country. This tabulation is called the popular vote.

Because of these misinterpretations, people fail to understand or realize that we do not technically vote for the president, but rather for which Electoral College representative will get to vote for president. The president isn't officially elected until January. Soon after the election, the current Vice-President Joe Biden will call for open voting during a joint session of Congress. During this session, the electoral votes will be counted and submitted.

Who Are These Electors and How Are They Chosen?

There are two federal laws on the books that appertain to who can be an elector. The first comes straight from the Constitution of The United States. Article II states: 

"Each state shall appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector."
The second is a provision buried deep in the 14th amendment that was a direct result of the Civil War which states:

"No person shall be a Senator or Representative in Congress, or elector of President and Vice-President, or hold any office, civil or military, under the United States, or under any state, who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, or as an officer of the United States, or as a member of any state legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any state, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability.
Other than these two restrictions anyone can be an elector. The political parties have much to say about who becomes an elector. Also, each state legislature determines its own method of selection. To simplify, each state nominates an elector who has a history of being loyal to their respective parties.

Here is where it [Electoral College] gets confusing and in many people's view undemocratic. The number of electors is equal to the number of electoral votes each state is allotted. In turn, this number is generally equal to the number of senators [two per state] and the number of representatives [based on population]. On election day, whichever political party’s candidate receives the most popular votes that party's chosen electors get to vote for the president in that respective state. One of the most confusing and labyrinthine aspects of the Electoral College is there are no federal laws or Constitutional provisions that require electors to cast their vote based on the state's popular vote results. However, most states have put in place laws that require electors to do so.

Has the Electoral College become an Antiquated System?

Initially, the Electoral College was established because without it candidates would focus their time on the big population centers, therefore, they would have the attention of the voters in these population areas and the vast rural areas of the country would be ignored. Essentially, what this meant was national elections would be nothing more than elections between big cities. So, the founders established the Electoral College and later the primary system as a stopgap. But, what did that lead to? It leads to big states being ignored and basically just flipped the whole process around. What this has led to is, in fact, small rural states having a disproportionate power and attention paid to them.

Based on this writer's research and in my view the Electoral College system must go. We have reached a time in our nation where the popular vote should determine the winner of any election not just the presidency. It's not only the simplest way it's the most democratic. The main reason it's unlikely to change no matter the level of protest it would take a constitutional amendment to change the rules and to do so would require three-fourths of the states to ratify it. This ratification is unlikely because more than a quarter of the states would be against it because they are small states and benefit from the Electoral College system.

One of this writer's all-time favorite political shows to this day is C-SPAN’S Washington Journal here is a very good debate for and against the Electoral College.

As we know today the very scenarios these gentlemen were talking about in 2009 came to past this 2016 election cycle. 

Some closing bullet points that we pose are a current modern day problem with the Electoral College.

  • It creates the possibility for the loser of the popular vote to win the electoral vote. 
  • It distorts the presidential campaign, by incentivizing the parties to write off the more than 40 states (plus the District of Columbia) that they know they either can’t win or can’t lose. 
  • The Electoral College system further distorts the presidential campaign by causing the candidates to grant extra weight to the parochial needs of the swing states.
  • It distorts governance.
  • The Electoral College system further distorts the one-person, one-vote principle of democracy.
  • The Electoral College creates the possibility of a 269-269 tie vote, and in almost every recent election there has been a relatively credible scenario for such an outcome.
  • Although our system, as evolved, makes it very hard for third parties to win elections and almost impossible for a third party to win the presidency.
  • In case of a tie, or if no candidate receives a majority of all electoral votes cast for president, the choice of president is thrown in the House of Representatives but  the election is conducted on a one-state one-vote basis.
  • For a deeper analyst of our bullet points, you can review our source here.

No comments:

Post a Comment