Topic Tuesday #16 2012/11/06 - "Getting Accepted to the Electoral College"Here in the United States, we utilize the Electoral College to elect the President. It's kind of a funny system, and after this, you may really hate it. It made sense to the founding fathers when it emerged from the 1787 Constitutional Convention. It was a hybrid of the Virginia Plan, the Connecticut Compromise and the Three-Fifths Compromise. It was chosen, in equal measures for it's "fairness" to smaller, less population dense states and due to legal slavery which was prevalent at the time but political suicide to rebuke at the time. Essentially a popular vote would just have been overly biased towards the most populated states. James Madison and James Wilson both argued for the popular vote. The original plan was to have the representatives of the Congress to elect a president. this was deemed too "intrigue" provoking, feeling that then a small group of men would have too much collusion and influence. The design of the Electoral College was based upon several assumptions and anticipations of the Framers of the Constitution:
- Each state would employ the district system of allocating electors.
- Each presidential elector would exercise independent judgment when voting.
- Candidates would not pair together on the same ticket with assumed placements toward each office of President and Vice President.
- Voter: You and Me - proud citizens of the republic.
- Candidate: The person that wants to run the country for the next 4 years.
- Elector: The people that have been chosen by the Candidate's Party to do the actual vote in December. Electors are generally chosen by the candidate’s political party. These Electors can be anybody but Senators or Congressmen. They are usually very politically active and well connected. What the Electors are supposed to do, is cast their votes based off the Popular Vote, which is what "We the People" do with that ballot. They are, in most cases, not strictly obligated to do so, but have 99% of the time.
- Elector Slate: The full list of the chosen Electors for a given Candidate.
- Popular Vote: The actual voter ballot tabulation that is greater than all others.
- Electoral Vote: How many points your state has to give the Candidate. Each state gets one Elector per member of House & Senate that the state is allotted, or a minimum of 3, in the case of Washington D.C.. There are presently 538 Electors. To win this horse race, you have to hit 270+.
Here's what happens:
- You cast a vote for, say the Purple Teams Candidate.
- The vote you cast for the Purple Candidate is assigned to Purple's Elector for your district (or some nomenclature to that effect)
- The popular vote is tabulated and the Elector for the leading candidate of the Popular Vote in the District is awarded the District wholesale. Majority rules, winner take all.
- At the State level, the districts are tabulated, majority rules again, and the State's number of Electoral Votes goes to the Candidate. Maine and Nebraska each have a variation of “proportional representation".
- The above continues until all the ballots are counted. Once someone has 270 Electoral votes, it's all over.
- We all assume that whoever won. We are almost always right, and it is the popular vote - by proxy through proportional representation.
- Paperwork - After the presidential election, your governor prepares a “Certificate of Ascertainment” listing all of the candidates who ran for President in your state along with the names of their respective electors. The Certificate of Ascertainment also declares the winning presidential candidate in your state and shows which electors will represent your state at the meeting of the electors in December of the election year. The electors meet in their respective states, where they cast their votes for President and Vice President on separate ballots. Your state’s electors’ votes are recorded on a “Certificate of Vote,” which is prepared at the meeting by the electors. Your state’s Certificates of Votes are sent to the Congress and the National Archives as part of the official records of the presidential election.
- Each state’s electoral votes are counted in a joint session of Congress on the 6th of January in the year following the meeting of the electors. Members of the House and Senate meet in the House chamber to conduct the official tally of electoral votes. The Vice President, as President of the Senate, presides over the count and announces the results of the vote. The President of the Senate then declares which persons, if any, have been elected President and Vice President of the United States.
- The President-Elect takes the oath of office and is sworn in as President of the United States on January 20th in the year following the Presidential election.
So as you can perhaps tell, this is a convoluted process that simultaneously make it easier to calculate with the use of the Proportional Representation model, and ludicrous as it subjugates the power of your own vote to to someone else, who we then trust will vote according to the vox populi (voice of the people).
So what do you think? Should the electoral college be mothballed and go with a true popular vote?
For more information on the Electoral College and it's methods, visit http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/about.html