Should America Reject the Electoral College and Go to a Popular Vote?
The American way of electing the highest office in our country is hard to explain on a good day to a fellow American, let alone to a non-American. The question that often follows an explanation of the Electoral College is something like: why doesn’t the United States just adopt a popular vote? Through the course of this paper I will talk about first the history of the Electoral College. Secondly, I will discuss the negatives of the Electoral College. Finally I will look at the possible advantages of switching to a popular vote.
Let’s take a half step into the past and learn how we got the Electoral College in the first place. 1787 was the year of the constitutional convention. I won’t walk through history too much here other than to say that the men who gathered were representing both large and small states and not looking to diminish their individual state powers. These men were also a little hit-shy from the fight for independence. Monarchs were bad, so giving too much power to anyone or any one state seemed like a bad idea. The country looked much different then. We had fewer American citizens at the time than currently live in New York City. Elections, well government as a whole, were for the wealthy land owning white men of the country. The framers needed a way of choosing the highest elected official that would make the most sense for their time and place. It was not practical or really possible for a candidate to run a national campaign for a popular vote. It is also said that running for office was not what a gentleman does; rather the office is running for him (Kimberling, 1992). If the framers gave the power directly to congress it would be tipping the scales of balance between the legislative branch and the executive branch. Allowing states to choose a candidate would tend to have too many people voting for their local guy and therefore no majority could be met. It was decided that the president would be elected by the Electoral College. Each state would get two votes (one for each senator) automatically and then additional votes for each congressman the state has, you will note the lack of foresight on how large the country would eventually become. The Electoral College was a compromise. Compromises are not perfect; they rarely make both sides totally happy. This compromise didn’t leave little states completely out of the running and didn’t give large states too much power; at least that was the idea at the time.
The states were left to figure out the process of selecting or electing Electors. While there are a variety of ways Electors are selected in general the power is given to the two parties to nominate or select within the ranks of the party. It is at this point I would like to point out that party affiliation wasn’t ripe in the minds of the framers. There is no way that they could have foreseen this process evolving the way that it has. Some would argue that because of experiences in England, our framers thought that political party affiliation was wrong and corruptive (Kimberling, 1992). In the state of Utah each party chooses Electors. This gives a fair bit of power to our local Republican party; they choose those who are most loyal to the party. To have the position of being an elector is prestigious for both the individual and the party. There aren’t specific federal guidelines for choosing electors. Unlike other important positions there aren’t age restrictions, for instance a 19 year old in Indiana served as an Elector (Bassetti, 2012). There are no professional requirements other than the individual cannot be employed by the federal government. I have to take a test to get a driver’s license, which is more than what electors have to do in most states. The Electoral College has remained untouched since the passing of the 12th Amendment in 1804. Article 2 section 1 initially addressed the Electoral College by saying:...
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