When given this assignment I had no clue what topic I might choose. I waited and waited until the recent elections blew up in my face. This past election was a learning experience for me because I just turned 18. This was the first year I could ever vote and a weird election like this occurred. I noticed how many people were actually very disturbed with how Gore won the popular vote but will most likely lose the election only because he couldn’t win enough electoral votes in one state.
The Electoral College was designed in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention. A variety of ideas were originally brought to attention. Two significant and highly regarded options were a) Congress selects the President and b) the popular vote. Both ideas were disregarded. Having Congress elect the President would give the legislature complete control over him (6: 159-162). The idea of the people and only the people voting for the President was eliminated because the founding fathers of the U.S. Government felt that normal people would not be able to vote for the best President in an intelligent manner. Despite the fact that many of the original convention members thought that the popular vote would be the best option, there were still too many that opposed the idea (Glennon 7). George Mason, a former political officer in the 1800’s, states that a it would be “as unnatural to refer the choice of a proper character for chief Magistrate to the people, as it would, to refer a trial of colours to a blind man” (qtd. In Glennon 7).
I became very interested about the whole system of the college and thought that I could present an argument about how it’s really outdated and could use a big change. And so the Electoral College is created. It is made up of electors from all of the states in the nation. The electors from each state are what we the people actually vote for in the November elections (“Electoral College”). Each state can have no less than 3 electors. This is because they get an elector for every chair they fill in both the Senate and the House of Representatives. Because all states have two Senate members and at least one House member, we see why. All together, including all of our nation’s states we have an Electoral College consisting of 538 members. In order for a candidate to actually become the President he must obtain at least 270 electoral votes, giving him the majority plus one (Glennon 19). Because we use the Electoral College, it has come to occur on numerous occasions that a candidate with a higher percentage of the popular vote is defeated by his political opponent by the electoral tally (Glennon 19), thus defeating the purpose of a Democracy. A Democracy exists if we the people have “the right to self- governance.” “American ‘democracy’ has existed for over 200 years, and citizens are ready, as they have been for decades, if not centuries, to finally control their own country” (“Electoral College Problems”). Therefore the use of the Electoral College is completely useless and should be abandoned to the idea of the popular vote. If not completely thrown out, then altered by an amendment.
Under the form of the present college, it is noticeable that almost all of the third party candidates are not even glanced at. Most people don’t even know their names or what party they come from. Many people still find no problem with the ways of the college. Enthusiasts of the College point out that it has no budget what so ever, and really has no way to “defend itself.” Many also argue that if the government were as efficient we would be much better off. If the Electoral College were not established, candidates these days would most likely skip over the states that don’t have a significant number of electoral votes. For example, the District of Columbia, which has the minimum of three votes. Andrew Spano, a Westchester County executive states that “The system forces you to campaign all over the U.S. as you try to accumulate electoral votes… It fits with the diversity of our country”(Yancey). The Federal System is supposed to have the power. The people are not the Federal system, the states are the Federal system.
Anti-electoral citizens believe that they should have control of who becomes the president. They point out that under the present Electoral College mindset, every person in the United States that votes, is basically wasting their time. In an article found on the World Wide Web, it states that, in the Presidential election, “individual votes are not even tallied” (“Electoral College Problems”). In respect to the “third” party candidates, the Electoral College gives them absolutely no chance of winning. This comes forth because even if a voter likes one of the “third” party candidates the best, he or she will not vote for them because they think it will be a wasted vote. This is quite true because if they do vote for the candidate he will more often than not even receive one electoral vote. For example, in 1992, Ross Perot, a member of the Reform Party received this very misfortune. Despite the fact that he won 12% of the popular vote, he failed to obtain a single electoral vote (“Electoral College Problems”). This demonstrates the very “stumbling block” that the Electoral College has become. It is best summed up with another quote found on the Citizens for True Democracy web site. “The Electoral College is not worth saving” (“Electoral College Problems”).
The disadvantages of the Electoral system are obvious. On top of the above listed problems found with the system there comes another. As stated before, many people won’t even vote for their favorite candidate sometimes if he/ she may be in a “third” party. Many times, these parties fail to materialize in states that, more often than not, are controlled by one specific party. Whether a state has three votes or thirty-three votes, its electoral voters are only supposed to vote for the candidate they have been pledged to (6: 159 -162). This means, in the 2000 election for example, that if an electoral voter from Florida wants Gore to win he has to vote for Bush anyway. He has made a promise that he will vote for Bush and only Bush. Despite this promise, many of the voters still may vote for the person they feel will fit the position best. It doesn’t happen too often (“Electoral College”). But if it does you cannot tell who has done it because votes are cast on unnamed ballots (Longely 103).
In many of our nations past elections, the Electoral College has demonstrated its capacity to give the win to the real loser. For example, in 1888 Grover Cleveland was the winner of the popular vote by just about 100,000 votes. His opponent Benjamin Harrison won the election because of his win in the electoral votes. This also happened in 1876 when Rutherford B. Hayes stole the election from Samuel J. Tilden (6: 159 -162).
These examples demonstrate why the Electoral College should be either eliminated or at least controlled. Because of these failures of the Electoral College, numerous options have been thought through to prevent further complications. Since the Electoral College is in the Constitution, it would take an amendment to create any change what so ever. If we could change to a direct popular vote, many third parties may emerge into the running (“Electoral College”). Ideas that have been introduced have been trying to work since when it was first created. If the Electoral College were to be completely demolished the concept of direct election would be the best way to go. Under this form, all citizens who are eligible would vote for the candidate they feel best fits the position. If we have sixty million people that can vote in the United States a candidate would need thirty million plus one to win (Glennon 19). Under this option, the candidate that the majority of the people want as president will actually become the President. The other will not somehow weasel his way out of it. In two states, the Electoral College has already had its total power limited. Maine and Nebraska have their own little plan. The idea of popular vote is used in these two states. In Maine there are four electoral votes. Three belong to the major statewide popular vote winner and the other goes to the candidate who wins the 2nd congressional district. In both areas, whoever wins the popular vote gets some of the electoral votes (Curry).
We have been speaking about changing it for years and finally it’s such a big issue. It was very interesting how this happened just as I was old enough to vote. I know that if I were still not old enough I wouldn’t care as much. I would be very caught up in the whole situation but would not mind. Now that I have voted I feel that I am still excluded along with everyone else in the nation that casts their vote. It reminds me of how insignificant I am in the process. Because of this I agree with those who want a change. In my opinion I feel that having the Electoral College is bad, but not what is holding us down the most. The winner-takes-all function is a major problem. If we can somehow get that to fall apart our elections will work much better. The “Electoral College” under its present form has got to go. If a candidate wins the popular vote he should ultimately be declared the people’s favorite and therefore should not have to deal with being voted out by a silly electoral vote. If we can somehow compromise the situation I think that our nation will benefit the greatest. Let’s say for example that if a candidate wins 65% of the votes in a given state, he will also receive 65% of the electoral votes. This way, having no winner-takes-all system, the candidate who wins the popular vote will win the electoral vote also. So we won’t have to deal with all of the past problems that we as a nation have had.
“Electoral College Problems.” Citizens for True Democracy 1998-2000
Curry, Tom. “Making Sense of the Electoral College: How the indirect, intricate system works.”
Citizens for True Democracy 23 October 2000
Glennon, Michael J. When No Majority Rules: The Electoral College Presidential
Succession. Washington, D.C.: Congressional Quarterly Inc., 1992.
Longely, Lawrence D., and Neal R. Peirce. The Electoral College Primer.
New Haven: Yale University, 1996.
“Electoral College.” Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia. 2000. 10 Nov. 2000
Yancey, Roy. “States’ Gore Electors Question Electoral College system.”
Times Union 10 Nov. 2000: A9