Many Americans take pride in the fact that the United States has a democratic form of rule. They believe they directly elect their officials to represent them. This is no true in all cases. The Presidency is not a directly elected office. Many Americans do not realize they do not vote for the President. The Electoral College actually elects the President. The Electoral College is a flawed institution that needs to be reformed. The Framers of the Constitution devised the electoral system based on the fact they had little faith voters would be making the best decision. It was a check on the power of the voters. The Framers saw themselves above most citizens. The average citizen was not well educated, and therefore may make an unwise decision. This is no longer the case.
Before any debate it was assumed the best system of electing the president was to have congress do it. However, if congress was to elect the president, then the president might feel an obligation to help congress get certain laws passed by not vetoing. This would put a dent in the checks and balances system. Even with this problem the system was voted for and approved on four different occasions (McGauhey 80).
Basically the Electoral College system works like this today. Every ten years the census figures adjusts how many representatives each state has. This number plus two, representing the two senators, equals how many electors each state has. Also Washington DC has 3 electors. Then each state has the right to decide how to select these electors. Forty-eight states use the general ticket system, two, Maine and Nebraska, use the district system. The general ticket system is supposed to operate as follows. There is a direct vote election held in each state and the winner of the vote is suppose to get all of that states electoral votes. In 24 states the electors are required to vote as pledged. In Maine and Nebraska there is an election held in each congressional district. The winner of every district gets one electoral vote, and the candidate with the most electoral votes gets the remaining two electoral votes. Then all of the votes are counted, and if a candidate gets more than half the votes, he becomes s the new president. If there is no majority then the election gets thrown into the House of Representatives. There each state is given one vote and they vote on the top three candidates. If a candidate gets a majority vote, then he becomes president. If not they continue voting until a majority is reached and the speaker of the house become a temporary president until a majority is reached (Hoar 30).
The 1968 election race was extremely close. Richard Nixon barley received a majority of the electoral votes to win the presidency. Had Nixon failed to get a majority a number of bizarre scenarios might have emerged. The candidates in the race were Richard Nixon, Hubert Humphrey and George Wallace respectively. Had Nixon failed to win a majority Wallace would have been in a position to control who the next President would be (Bailey & Shafritz p. 65). Though he could not have won himself Wallace could have used his votes as swing votes to give Nixon a majority, or give Humphrey enough to prevent Nixon from getting a majority (Bailey & Shafritz p. 65). In the latter instance the issue would have, as in 1800, been sent to the House for rectification. In either instance Wallace would have had a great deal to gain, and the temptation to wheel and deal (at the compromise of democracy) would have been great indeed. It is possible Wallace could have used his influence with Southern House members to get Humphrey elected. In the process he would have likely garnered great political clout for himself. Wallace could have bargained with Nixon for an administration position in Nixon’s cabinet in return for Wallace’s electoral votes. The possible scenarios are endless, and for the most part irrelevant. What is relevant is that the processes of the Electoral College again paved a path for democratic compromise, just as it did in 1800’s.
As I see it there are still two problems to the current Electoral College system. First a president can be elected to office even if it is not what the people want. Another problem is that the system for electing a president if no electoral majority is reached. I believe we should totally abolish the Electoral College. It no longer needs to serve the same purpose that it did when it was founded. It was intended to be a check on the power of the voter. If we live in a democracy, why do we need a check on the voter? It does not make sense. The media helps us to learn more about the elections and candidates. People are more informed.
In the Electoral College system, a few votes in a state where the election was a landslide did not matter much. The electoral votes went to the winner no matter how large the margin of victory. For example, if a candidate won the state of California by 300 votes he won all electoral votes. He only won by 300 votes, yet he gained a huge advantage by winning a very large state. There is no clear majority won in California, not under the Electoral College system, it seems like it was a landslide. If we make it a direct popular election, the race is much tighter. The winner of California is only ahead by 300 votes, an amount that can be made up easily.
The direct election system assures that the winner of the election will be the candidate who receives the most votes. It is very possible in the electoral system to win a majority of electoral votes, but not win the popular vote. It happened three times in the 1800’s.
The larger and smaller states will no longer have an advantage over the other states. With the Electoral College system the larger states, such as California and Florida, have a distinct advantage over the rest of the states. They carry many more electoral votes. Candidates tend to campaign more in these states because they realize how important they are to them. Smaller states that have very few people. The number of voters represented per electoral vote is much lower. In one state it may be 750,000 people per electoral vote. In another may be 450,000 people per electoral vote. Less people, yet they have the same amount of power. This is not fair to the states with midsize populations. The direct election system would eliminate this advantage.
The Electoral College system of electing the president is outdated. It misrepresents the population. Larger and smaller states have a distinct advantage. The voters do not have the final say in whom will lead their country. It goes against the whole idea of a democracy.