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Politics 2 Essay, Research Paper

The Electoral College

The Electoral College system is one that is criticized often. In most of the countries in the world their leader is chosen by popular vote. This was true even in communist countries, although many times only one candidate runs. This system of popular vote is not used in the United States, the country that is supposed to be the most democratic. The Electoral College is the constitutional system for the election of the president and vice president of the United States. It is the collective name for a group of electors nominated by political parties within the states and popularly elected to meet and vote for those two offices. Each party within a state selects a slate of electors numerically equal to the state’s congressional delegation. The electors normally pledge to vote for the nominees of their party, but they are not constitutionally required to do so. When the American people vote for president and vice president, they are actually voting for slates of electors pledged to their candidates. Because the electors usually are chosen at large, the electoral vote of each state is cast as a unit, and the victorious presidential and vice presidential nominees in each state win the state’s entire electoral vote. The candidates receiving a majority of the total electoral vote in the United States are elected. The Electoral College systems was established in Article II, section I, of the U. S. Constitution and has been modified mainly by the 12th Amendment. Numerous plans have been proposed for eliminating or altering the Electoral College, including direct election of the president and vice president by popular vote. It is extremely ironic that what is supposed to be the most democratic government in the world does not choose a president according to what the majority of the people want. The Electoral College system generally gives all of a state’s electoral votes to the winner in that state no matter how slim the margin. Thus it has happened that candidates have been elected even though they received fewer popular votes than their opponents. Both Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, and Benjamin Harrison, in 1888, were elected in this manner. In the case of Hayes, a special electoral commission was called in 1877 to decide the contested returns. John Quincy Adams also received fewer popular votes than his opponent, Andrew Jackson, in the election of 1824, but the House of Representatives decided his election because Jackson failed to win a majority of Electoral College votes. On several occasions the popular vote pluralities of the Electoral College victors have been questionable. One instance was the election of John F. Kennedy over Richard M. Nixon in 1960. The feature of the Electoral College most prone to attack is the requirement that the election go into the House of Representatives to determine the president and into the senate to determine the vice-president if the Electoral College fails to reach a majority. There might be a paralyzing delay in determining the victors, and the president-elect and vice president-elect could be members of opposing political parties. The House was called upon to elect a president in the cases of Jefferson and John Quincy Adams, and the Senate chose Richard M. Johnson as vice president after the election of 1836. The possibility of this happening again remains very much alive. Should a third-party candidate carry enough states to prevent an electoral vote majority for any candidate, the House, voting by state delegation might be prevented from reaching an absolute majority. Pledged electors generally have been regarded as legally free to cast their votes as they choose, and there have been cases of defection from pledged positions. No such deviation has had a clear effect on an election result, but the possibility raises an objection to the Electoral College. Although improbable example is possible to happen if every single voter in the country unanimously chose candidate A for president, the electors pledged to him still may rally against him and vote for the other candidate. Thus, having 250 million votes of the people of the United States could still lose the election based on the attitudes of electors. Although this example is not prone to actually occur, it shows the undemocratic way that we choose the most important public official in our country. With some changes this system can be modified in to an acceptable one but why is a popular vote not used? It is sensible, democratic and straightforward. It is uncontroversial and allows the people of the United States to choose the person they want to lead them as president.


Encarta 98 World Book Encyclopedia 1999

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