Electoral College Term Paper

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Electoral College

When the constitution of United States was framed there were discussions on various methods of selecting the President and the method of a direct popular vote was rejected. The reasons for rejection were the poor state of communications and the large distances in between the states. This was felt to make the voters really be familiar with the candidates from their own states and this might lead to the victory of a large number of candidates from different states, and thus there may not be any candidate dominating the total election. Another possibility was of the larger states dominating the presidential election.

Instead the Roman method of selecting a College of Electors was chosen. This gave every states representation in the college through a number of people proportionate to its seats in the Congress, or two Senators and a quantum of representatives based on the population. (The American Electoral College) The number of electors based on U.S. representatives changes every ten years as per the population determined according to the U.S. Census. The procedure for choosing the electors starts with the political parties or independent candidates in the different states submitting to the chief election official of the state a list of representatives who have taken a pledge to support the concerned candidate for president. These representatives are equal in number to the electoral vote of the state. The selection of these candidates takes place through the state party conventions or by the leaders of the parties in the state. For independent candidates, they have to be nominated by the concerned candidate. As per law, a distinction has to be maintained between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government, and this stops members of Congress or federal government employees from becoming Electors. (How the Electoral College Works)

The procedure for election usually involves caucuses and primaries and the final selection takes place during summer preceding the election. Other parties and independents have to follow state laws in this regard. Once the selection of the candidates is completed then these candidates are submitted to the chief election officer in the state so that these names can be put in the election ballot papers. The elections take place on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November in the years that are divisible by four. The people in the state then have to cast their votes for the Electors who represent their choice for president and vice-president. The present practice is to however only say "Electors for" for the candidate rather than listing out the individual electors. Only one group of party candidates win the biggest quantity of popular vote and that group become the Electors for that particular state. (How the Electoral College Works) It is thus a situation of winner take all. Thus if two-thirds of the people of a state vote for a Democrat and the other third would vote for a Republican, and further assuming the state has 6 electoral votes, then it could be said that all 6 of the votes of that particular state would go to the Democratic candidate. (Electoral College Problems)

Only in Maine and Nebraska, two Electors are chosen by popular vote cast statewide, and the rest are chosen through popular vote in each district of the Congress. These Electors, who are chosen then, meet in the concerned state capitals on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December to cast their votes for the choice of the president and vice president. The only restriction is that the Electors have to cast one of their votes for a candidate from outside their home state. This does not generally become a problem as the parties do not choose candidates for president and vice president from the same state. These electoral votes are then sent in a sealed cover from the states to the president of the Senate. He opens these covers and reads them out to a joint meeting of both houses of the Congress. The candidate who has an absolute majority or more than half of the total number of votes is then declared to be the next president of the country. (How the Electoral College Works)

The procedures are quite complicated and one of the amendments requires that the winning candidate receive "a majority of the whole number of Electors appointed." (Overview of Electoral College Procedure and the Role of Congress) This number is felt in general to be the same as being of a majority of the number of electoral votes. There was a difference in 1873 when the Vice President declared that President Grant had received "a majority of the whole number of electoral votes," though according to the Vice President the total number of electoral votes had not been counted. (Overview of Electoral College Procedure and the Role of Congress) In this particular case, it had been decided that the votes from Arkansas and Louisiana be not counted, at the same time, these electoral votes were considered included in the total number of electoral votes for that was required by President Grant to have obtained his majority. (Overview of Electoral College Procedure and the Role of Congress)

At the same time, President Grant had won the required majority of the electoral votes that were counted. This leads to situations where the electoral votes from a state is not counted, as they are not available, yet during the joint session it has to be considered what would have been the impact if they were counted as they are part of the "whole number of Electors appointed." (Overview of Electoral College Procedure and the Role of Congress) This situation is not hypothetical as during 1865, "only two of the three Nevada electors had cast their electoral votes, and only these two were counted and included in the total number of electoral votes." (Overview of Electoral College Procedure and the Role of Congress) Thus the law is followed quite rigidly and a lot of discretion is left to the committees conducting the election.

The first concept of the Electoral College was as a part of the U.S. Constitution, and the main intention behind this system was to solve the disputes between the states due to power dependent on geographical and regional differences. To the average American citizen, the concept was clearly distrustful and paternalistic, as they had no direct voice in the election of the American president. A similar situation was present in earlier days regarding the election of the Senate, but now this has been removed. The biggest problem that it causes is that it stops the American citizens from having a full voice in the choice of the President. This is due to the winner take all system, and all individual votes lose any relevance. The electoral votes of the states are counted, but the individual votes for the president of the citizens are not even considered. The system of the Electoral College gives every state at least one representative and two Senators, the citizens from the smaller states have a bigger worth in the election of the president than the citizens from the larger states. (Electoral College Problems)

Since the first election for the president, there have been at least a dozen cases where the elected president did not get a majority of the votes, and in some of the cases, the winner as per the system had been defeated by another candidate in the matter of popular votes. The reason for the Electoral College was the distrust of the originators of the American constitution for the political awareness of the American citizen. During the Constitutional Conventions in 1787 some comments were recorded which clearly indicate this. The comment from delegate Gerry on July 25, 1787 says "A popular election in this case is radically vicious. The ignorance of the people would put it in the power of some one set of men dispersed through the Union, and acting in concert, to delude them into any appointment." (Why Keep the Electoral College?) Delegate Mason had said on July 17 "The extent of the country renders it impossible, that the people can have the requisite capacity to judge of the respective pretensions of the candidates." (Why Keep the Electoral College?) There were also comments that the people were not informed correctly and would be led wrongly by a few men. Thus they were afraid of a tyranny of the majority and accordingly removed power from the hands of the majority and left it in the hands of the Electoral College. They had also felt that this system would place a lot of emphasis on the concept of federalism and thus correctly apportion the power between the states and the national government. (Why Keep the Electoral College?)

Whenever the presidential election came up, there have been certain proponents of a greater centralized, socialist national government suggesting the ending of the Electoral College. This year there has been more enthusiasm on the subject due to the great period…[continue]

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