Federal Election Reform

The framer’s intent of setting up the American government will never be known for sure, but it is gathered that they preferred a republic to a democracy. In the constitutional convention the drafters had to decide how much power they would entrust with the people of the United States, and how much should be controlled by representatives. They chose to have Congress make the laws, and congress would be selected directly by the people. But another branch of government, the executive branch, needed a sole president and the framers had to decide how to choose this president.

They chose from three main systems: elect the president by congress, the people, or electors. Many debates were made over this topic in the constitutional convention and eventually the Electoral College system was chosen. The Electoral College system has been in place for over 200 years and Americans are still not sure how it works or if it is the best system. Many Americans feel they go to the polls every year and vote for the president, and in the long run they are in control of the fate of our executive branch.

With the 2000 election it was clear that many people have little understanding for how a president is chosen; the 2000 election came close to having no majority of electors due to the incredibly close vote count throughout the U. S. , the contested votes, and an ancient method of tabulating votes is various sectors. The Electoral College is just barely surviving and is under more and more attacking all the time. The Electoral College was not the preferred method by the Founding Fathers.

They actually preferred popular vote, but many smaller states believed their political voice would be squashed, so they compromised by accepting the method of the Electoral College. Winston Churchill later said, “the electoral college system is probably the worst possible method of choosing a president-except for all the others (Glennon 3). ” The general ticket system, or the winner-take-all system, is the method by which each state chooses its own electors (Glennon 13).

However, the framers originally intended electors to be chosen by the people and then vote for what they thought was best. This winner take all system had turned the electors into “mere mandarin toys that nod when set in motion,” according to Professor Lucius Wilmerding (Glennon 13). There are two states that still use the district system, but the remaining 48 states use the general ticket system (“Electoral” 256). When all votes are counted on December 18th of the election year, if a candidate gets more than half the votes, he/she becomes 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/she becomes president. If not they continue voting until a majority is reached and the speaker of the house becomes a temporary president until a majority is reached (Glennon 45). As I see it there are three 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 electors are not punished for being unfaithful to what they have pledged. And finally the system for electing a president if no electoral majority is reached. Under the assumption that all states used the general ticket system, all electors were faithful, there are only two candidates, and if a candidate lost a state the candidate received no votes, then a president could be elected with only 22% of the national popular vote. If there were three candidates, it would require only a 15% popular vote.

This is because the thirty-nine smaller states in the US have a much proportionally larger vote than the larger states. And if a president received 49% of the vote in a state, he could walk away with nothing to show for it in terms of electoral votes. The United States democracy has matured to the point where the people of the US are ready to elect their officials. Under the general ticket system it is possible for a good strategist to ignore 78% of the nation in trying to get his president elected (“Majority” 521).

Also note that only 49% of the nation actually votes, meaning the outcome of an election theoretically could represent only 12% of the nation (Reichley 107). Since the people of a state vote for a president, and not an elector, it should be required for the elector to vote for whom they pledged to represent. If the Electoral College was to deadlock, and no president had a majority, then the election would pass to the House of Representatives. This would outlaw all logic of the Electoral College, giving one vote per state.

Most people believe that the only way to change the voting system is to pass an amendment to the constitution. There are 39 generally smaller states in the US. These states hold a majority in the senate, and also hold a majority in the ratifying of the constitution. The Electoral College gives the proportional advantage to the smaller states. Thus it would be near impossible to pass an amendment to take away power from the smaller states and give that power to a direct popular election.

But this is not the only way to change the Electoral College system. The constitution clearly states that the choice of electors is to be made by the states. And court cases have named it constitutional for the states to require electors to vote one way or another according to their pledge (Glennon 137). Thus an easier, but just as effective, method of change is called “Allocating the Electoral Vote. ” In this method the states hold a poplar election and the electoral votes are allocated by percentage.

Thus if a state had ten electoral votes, and candidate A received 70% of the popular vote, and candidate B received 18% of the vote, and candidate C received 12% of the vote, then candidate A would receive seven electoral votes, B would get two electoral votes, and C would get one vote. In a worse case scenario, a president could be elected with a minimum of 42% of the popular vote. While this is not as accurate as a real direct vote, it is much more accurate than the current general ticket system. The reason this system does not require a constitutional amendment is because it can be imposed on an individual state basis.

In order for this system to work properly, it must also be part of state legislation to require the electors to vote on what they have pledged to vote. I also believe that a majority of electors should not be required, just a system of whoever has the most votes wins. If there were a tie, my expensive model would be to have a re-election with only the two candidates that tied. It is also possible to just redistribute the votes using only the two main candidates and then recount the votes. I do not think it is the House’s job to solve voting disputes.

I think the best strategy to getting a change in a 200-year-old system is to start small, test out a new system on a smaller basis, and if people like it, it will spread and eventually take over the national policy. At that time it would become an amendment. But no matter how change comes about, there is only one way to get that change. It is to get involved. Every American that believes that the presidential election system is wrong, needs to speak up and get it changed. I personally would start at the state level, but no matter where someone starts, they will get one-step closer. Get involved; get heard; get change.


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