Essay, Research Paper: Electoral College System 


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The electoral college system is one which 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
sometime. 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, 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, who meet to 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 system was established in
ArticleII, 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 extremely ironic that the 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
his election was decided by the House of Representatives 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 razor thin or even
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 additional objection
to the electoral college. In 1820 a New Hampshire elector voted for John Quincy
Adams instead of James Monroe; in 1956 an Alabama elector voted for a circuit
judge instead of Adlai E. Stevenson; in 1960 an Oklahoma elector pledged to
Richard Nixon voted instead for Harry F. Byrd; in 1968 a North Carolina elector
defected from Nixon to George C. Wallace; and in 1988 a West Virginia elector
voted for Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr. instead of Michael S. Dukakis. Because of this I
will shown that the following, although improbable example is possble 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
State, could still lose the election based on the whimsical attitudes of
electors. Although this example is not prone to actually occur, it showns 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 isn’t a popular vote used. It is sensible, democratic and
straight-forward. 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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