Will your vote count tomorrow? While this topic can and has been debated for a long time, present big name pollsters, for the most part, only talk with those answering landlines in a day when cell phones rule. How accurate are these polls? Absentee ballot returns are already debunking pollster predictions.

The bigger question is, however, what if one presidential candidate wins the popular vote but loses in the Electoral College? New York City’s chaotic week following Hurricane Sandy’s appearance could be a dry run for what frayed tempers can produce should one party win the popular vote and the other, the electoral.

The following article details how the Electoral College operates, what this could mean for tomorrow’s election and the writer’s position as to why it may need to change. Like most complicated issues, it’s anything but clear cut. What are your thoughts?

Electoral College – By Joseph Parish

The Electoral College is composed of “electors” which have been appointed by each of the various states. It is these electors who actually select the President and Vice President. There are a total of 538 electors appointed in each election as specified by the Constitution. We must understand that in the case of the Electoral College we are not voting directly for our leaders but rather it is an indirect election. The downfall of this system is that the electors may vote for anyone they so desire and are not obligated to any specific candidate.

Initially the proposal for electing our leaders was based upon a procedure known as the “Virginia Plan” which called for the president to be elected by the Legislature similar to how the British selects their Prime Minister. Recommendations were made later that the elections be accomplished by a group of citizens apportioned amongst the states. This effectively eliminated any direct voting by the people for their leaders since the founding fathers considered the common man as incapable of making intelligent political decisions.

Naturally those delegates from the smaller states were greatly in favor of this system since it gave them equal clout with the larger states. The proposal was readily agreed upon and placed into operation.

The method by which the Electoral College functions is initially each state is allocated a specific number of Electors which equate to the number of its Representatives in both house of congress. Prior to the elections each party will submit to their State’s election officials a roster of individuals who have made a commitment for the party’s candidate. The electors are voted on by the people and supposedly the party which wins the most popular votes wins all of the Electors for that State.

The electoral votes are transmitted from the State to the President of the Senate at which time they are opened and read before both houses of Congress. The candidate who gains the most electoral votes is usually declared the president.

I am a firm believer that our present method using the Electoral College is archaic and outdated and should be eliminated. I am in complete favor of allowing a direct election by the people for the president. I defend this position first off on the premises that it is an undemocratic method which provides those swing states a disproportionate influence when selecting our President and Vice President. In the past the closest that we have actually come to abolishing the Electoral College occurred in 1968 when the presidential election concluded with President Nixon acquiring 301 of the electoral votes as opposed to his opponent Hubert Humphrey and his mere 191. The problem encountered was that Nixon had received only 511,944 additional popular which was only 1 percent of the national total.

Representative Emanuel Celler introduced the House Joint Resolution 681 which proposed an amendment abolishing the Electoral College. The proposal was approved in April of 1969 by the House Judiciary Committee. To make a long story short the bill was set aside as a result of a filibuster in 1971 and never reconsidered.

Additional arguments which I propose to support elimination of the Electoral College include not just the disproportional voting power provided to some states but also the indirect election process along with the winner-takes-all method being used. With this indirect election process we have essentially made our national popular vote irrelevant. Our current system supports the premise that the winner of the presidential popular vote could actually lose in the Electoral College votes as displayed in the 1876, 1888 and 2000 elections.

As an example it is entirely possible for a candidate to win an election by merely winning eleven states. If a candidate were to win the following states:

  • California 55 votes
  • Texas 38 votes
  • New York 29 votes
  • Florida 29 votes
  • Illinois 20 votes
  • Pennsylvania 20 votes
  • Ohio 18 votes
  • Michigan 16 votes
  • Georgia 16 votes
  • North Carolina 15 votes
  • New Jersey 14 votes

This would equal 270 votes which is enough to win the presidential election.

One disadvantage which is usually overlooked is the shortcomings related to the nation’s third-party candidates. With our winner-take-all method of allocating the various states’ electors it tends to decrease the importance and possible selection of the minor political parties.

In conclusion, I contend that by the use of the Electoral College we have disrupted our normal understanding of how our democratic system should be functioning. America was founded upon the election of their representatives “by the people” and with our present system this will of the people has been suppressed.

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