As you are standing at the polls on that important Tuesday in November, every four years, most Americanr’s believe they are voting for the next presidential candidate but they are voting for your slate of electors for your state. The electors who are appointed, are the ones who cast their ballots for the next presidential candidate. This process is called the Electoral College.
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The electoral college dates back to the founders who drew up the Constitution in 1787, the Founding Fathers seen this process as a compromise. Over the years, the process has not changed much. Many Americar’s feel that this process is unfair and changes are needed. Currently, there is a debate on whether the Electoral College is fair and if reform needs to happen.
As Thomas Jefferson stated A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine. Going back in time, the Founding Fathers were not willing to allow ordinary citizens to vote for their president directly. They were afraid that the people would not be able to make a well-informed choice. They feared that the people would vote for the candidate from their own state, only. They decided that a selected group of people should select the president. The parties nominated candidates for president and vice president and then picked electors to vote for them. The person who received the most votes would become president and the second-place person would become vice president. This system lasted until the 1800s. That year it was decided that the system needed changing as there was a tie between two candidates. The Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution (ratified in 1804) clarified the Electoral College procedure. It stated that each elector would vote for one person for president and one vote for vice president. Before deciding on the Electoral College, the founders considered other solutions. They thought maybe Congress elects the president or just the State Legislature, or just to have a direct vote. The Founders believed this would solve the political issues and the best option would be creating the Electoral College, they stated it would balance the high-populated and low populated states and give compromise.
Selecting the electors is a two-step process. Each Political party, Democratic and Republican, nominate electors at their state convention or congressional district. The electors are usually state elected officials, party leaders or people with a strong affiliation with the presidential candidates (National Archives and Records Administration Website, n.d.). In some states, they are picked by party leadership, leading to a more controlled process. State law determines how the electors are picked from each state. These potential electors are picked before the November General Election and the electors are not officially picked until election day (General Election). Under Article II of the Constitution, each state is allocated a number of electoral votes equal to its number of seats in Congress plus two for its Senators. The number of electoral votes each state is given is based on the United States census that is updated every ten years. These numbers determine the number of seats each state has in the United States House of representative. Each elector nominated gets to cast two votes, one for President and one for Vice President.
The United States has a total of 538 electoral votes, one for every member of Congress and the Senate as well as 3 for Washington DC. The District of Columbia operates as a state for voting purposes (Geer, Schiller, Segal, & Herrera, 2016). For a president candidate to become president they need to win a majority of 270 of the electoral votes (Geer, Schiller, Segal, & Herrera, 2016). California has the most electoral votes, they have 55. Then we have Texas with 38 and Florida and New York with 29, these are the larger states that each candidate hopes to win (National Archives and Records Administration Website, n.d.). The candidates tend to campaign in these states because of the high electoral votes. Some states have much lower votes and the candidates do not usually campaign in these states. When the voters go to the polls and make their vote for the electors, this is called the popular vote. Itr’s important to remember that our President is not chosen by the nation-wide popular vote, the total Electoral College vote determines the winner.
In the Presidential Election in 2000, Albert Gore Jr. and George W. Bush the popular vote winner was Albert Gore Jr. and George W. Bush had the majority of electoral votes (National Archives and Records Administration Website, n.d.). Also, in the 2016 election, Donald J. Trump received fewer popular votes than Hilary Clinton, but received a majority of electoral votes (National Archives and Records Administration Website, n.d.). In 48 of the 50 states, the candidate who receives the most popular votes wins all that states electoral votes. This is called the winner-takes-all rule. Only two states do not follow the winner-takes-all rule. In Maine and Nebraska, the electoral votes are split among the candidates. In these two stater’s the winner receives two electoral votes and the winner of each congressional district receives one electoral. This system permits the electors to be awarded to more than one candidate.
The November General Election is the first important step in naming our next President. As I stated earlier this is done on the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November. The people go to the polls and cast their vote for their electors. After this day, the Governor of each State prepares seven original Certificates of Ascertainment listing the persons appointed as electors. Each certificate includes the names of the electors by the voters and the number of votes received. Each certificate must be signed by the Governor and carry the seal of the state. The winning electors meet in their state capitals on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December. This is the day they cast their vote for the president and vice president. The electors record their votes on six Certificates of Vote, which are paired with the six-remaining original Certificates of Ascertainment. They send the sealed results to Washington. On January 6th, the results are read in the presence of the entire Congress. The winner of that Presidential election becomes official. On January 20th, the president-elect takes the oath of office as the President of the United States of America (National Archives and Records Administration Website, n.d.).
There are many arguments and or debates on if the Electoral College should be changed or stayed the same. Many people state itr’s an unfair process, small states get more power and its complicated and Americar’s do not want to vote because of that. Americanr’s, think it is wrong for the winning party in a state be awarded all the electoral votes for that state. The winner may win a certain state by just a few popular votes. As stated earlier, the 2000 and 2016 election, the nation-wide popular vote is not necessary the winner of the election. When this happens, it can make voters feel their voice does not matter or count. People see this as unfair and think a new way of electing our president should be in place. Another complaint is how the parties do their campaigns and only focus on the larger states and ignore the smaller states. A few positive things about having the Electoral College, it directs more power to the states. The states are participating in the selection of our president by electing the electors and the Republican Verse Democrats structure creates more stability.
The National Popular Vote (NPV) is trying to make changes to the Electoral College, they are trying to do the opposite of what the founders wanted. They want to make the presidential election only based on popular vote in-conjunction with the electoral college. They do not want to amend the Constitution but they ask the states to sign a contract to give their presidential electors to the winner of the national popular vote instead of the stater’s popular vote. The National Popular Vote bill currently has passed in a total of 36 state legislative chambers in 23 states and 12 states have enacted it into law (National Popular Vote Website, n.d., para. 2). This bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election (National Popular Vote Website, n.d., para. 9). If this fully passes, they are taking away each stater’s individual sovereignty. We are the United States of America and each state is sovereign, one union.
Another suggestion on reforming the Electoral College is direct election with instant runoff voting (IRV). Instant runoff voting (IRV) could be used for Presidential elections with or without the Electoral College. With a direct vote, voters would rank their preferences rather than marking only one candidate. Then, when the votes are counted, if no single candidate has a majority, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated. The ballots are then counted again, this time tallying the second-choice votes from those ballots indicating the eliminated candidate as the first choice. The process is repeated until a candidate receives a majority. The issues with this type of voting, some voters would be disenfranchised in the final selection. This would be due to the fact of exhausted votes by the process of elimination of the lowest scoring candidate based on preference of the voters (Fair Vote Website, n.d.).
As a citizen in the United States everyone has a right, duty and responsibility to make their voice heard. The Electoral College protects the people from the people and understanding how the Electoral College began and why the Founding Fathers decided this was the best option for our country gives a new appreciation for the process. The American creed is laid out in the Declaration of Independence, which outlines the basic tents of democracy, the self-evident truths upon which democracy in the United States is based and which have been continuously professed since the founding (Maisel, 2016, p. 26).
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