Dwight Watt Internet Article #54

#54 - Democracy ­ American style 11/5/2000

#54 - Democracy ­ American style

Tuesday is our national election to elect the next president of the United States or is it? Many people believe that when they vote Tuesday that they are voting for a candidate for the presidency. They are but indirectly. In our country’s founders wisdom, they chose a complex method to choose the president.

The founders of this country did not really trust the average American and designed safeguards in the processes they created to select the US senators and the president and vice-president. The original process of selecting senators was that the legislatures elected them. They did allow the people to choose the representatives in the House. Obviously they patterned their system after the British system where there is a House of Lords (until recently basically inherited positions), the House of Commons (chosen by the people and a prime minister chosen by parliament. After a short time period the US government decided it trusted the people more and the election of the Senate was given to the people.

The Electoral College was created by the founders as the real way that the president and vice-president are selected. As now, at that time there was a major concern on smaller states about the bigger states running the country and one of the compromises was the number of votes in the Electoral College. Each state receives 2 votes in the Electoral College (same as number of senators) . This gave smaller states a balance to them. To suit the bigger states each state receives one vote for each representative they have in the House and this is determined by population, but each state receives at least one vote here (again leaning toward the smaller states.

Now what will happen Tuesday. If you look at your ballot it should either have listed a bunch of names beside each presidential candidate’s name or say that it is for the electors for that person. If you look at the list you will notice that they are usually high ranking or former officials for that party. At the end of Tuesday we will know which electors were elected. They are pledged to that candidate, chosen by that candidate, but are not required to vote for that candidate. In all states except one it is a winner take all approach. So in Georgia if Bush’s electors have the highest vote count, all 13 will be elected. In one state they will be divided proportionally by the vote count.

Now they will announce that either Bush or Gore or Nader won the popular vote and also that one won the Electoral College in the media that night or early the next morning. That will be accurate as far as the popular vote, but the Electoral College will not have met or voted yet.

In early December the Electoral College will meet and all the electors will cast their ballot and vice-president. They can vote for anyone they want with one restriction. They can not vote for both a vice-president and president from their own state. This means that if Cheney had not changed his registration back to Wyoming (the Constitution does not state how residency is determined, but most agree on registration as method) then the electors from Texas could not have voted for both him and Bush. However the electors from Georgia could have. The electors do not have to vote for the candidates they are pledged to and there is historical precedence for them voting otherwise. In 1976 one elector voted for Reagan (Ford and Carter were running).

Those ballots are then sealed. The President of the Senate will in January open the ballots and count them. If one candidate for president and a candidate for vice president each win at least 50% of the votes, the speaker will announce the winner. If not, politics will really begin to get interesting. If the candidates tie or none has at least 50% then the following occurs. At that point the election becomes wide open between the top three (two for the vice-president race) from the Electoral College ballot. The House will then decide the election (much as in a parliament system) and the voting will take one more unusual turn. Now each state only gets one vote, so which party is in control in the house does not automatically decide the winner. You will then need to look to see which party controls each states delegation and see which controls most states. I suspect if this happens in our era that we will see more pork promised, cabinet positions, etc like we have never seen.

Even though we do have this contorted system I urge you to get out and support the candidate of your choice Tuesday. You do have a voice in the process, but maybe not as direct as you thought. As far as getting rid of the Electoral College I doubt if we will ever see that for the same reason it was created, and that was to attempt to keep power in the smaller states so that every thing was not run by bigger states.

By the way Clinton could not have been Gore's running mate this year as he is ineligible to be elected president, and the twelfth amendment also states that an individual ineligible to be president is also ineligible to be vice-president.


The 12th amendment to the Constitution is my source.

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