Dwight Watt Internet Article #58

#58 - The Electoral College 11/16/2000

#58 - The Electoral College

As we are all aware by now, the Electoral College is important in the election of the President and Vice-President of the United States of America. The questions are flying. If we are a democracy, why do have an Electoral College? Why do people's votes not elect our national executive officers? Why is the Electoral College Constitutional, but yet if the states do the same thing, it is unconstitutional?

The United States of America is not a democracy. We are a democratic republic. We are the states united, but still separate states. Each state is more of a democracy. When you say the pledge to the flag it not "for the democracy", but "for the republic". Look at the name of our country. We are not the People's State of America. We are the United States of America. That means that each state is still a separate state. We do have a federal government, but the states have power to choose it. We tried a confederacy (yes after 1776 we were a confederacy for a short time) and that did not work. Although the founders wanted control in the states, and not to fear an American King George III, they realized they did need more of a federal government. However read our Constitution. It grants all powers not specified for the federal government to the states. The states hold elections to elect those who will represent each state in electing the president. All states are important. The Electoral College does give the larger states extra power, but in failure of a majority, all states become equal.

Why do we not elect directly? The Constitution writers considered the state the high power. The states make changes to the Constitution. Each state is a separate legal entity (commonwealths in some cases). There is a direct election of the electors by the voters in each state. Interesting to note, in order to prevent to much power in this group the Constitution prohibits federal office holders from being Electors.

Is the Electoral College Constitutional? Of course. It is written in the Constitution, so it has to be. Why can it, but state and local systems cannot be similar to it? Georgia up until the 1960s had a similar system called the County Unit System where counties worked like states in the Electoral College. It was declared unconstitutional. Now why? In the states, when voters elect people the requirement is one man, one vote. That system made some men's vote bigger. Georgia is the State of Georgia , not the United Counties of Georgia. Now why is it legal in presidential elections? The President and Vice-President are the only two federal positions elected by all the people. However to keep them from gaining to much control, they have to answer to the states, and all are equal. The power is in the people in the states.

Should we kill the Electoral College? Arguments can be made both ways.

Arguments to kill it include everyone's vote should be the same. Also that we have a federal oriented government now. That one state (Florida this year) should not decide the election.

Arguments to keep it include that the state is the supreme authority in the United States of America. Also that this keeps the President and Vice-president from only being concerned with big urban areas, but considers all states. If we did not have the Electoral College recounts would be occurring in every county in the nation, not just a select few in Florida, Oregon, and New Mexico.

Can we change the system? Yes. If we want to change to a more direct election there are two approaches that can be used. The first is to change the Constitutional, and the second is to change the rules in your state on how electors are chosen.

To change the Constitution will not be easy. It will require Congress approving it and the 3/4 of the states approving it. The second will be difficult. Consider Bush won about 60% of the states this year. They have more power this way. Of course you could call a Constitutional Convention, but that is just as hard. Consider the ERA was never approved by the states.

The second is to change the laws in your state to say the electors will be assigned based on the percentage of the vote they got. There are already one or two states that do this.

The Electoral College has survived challenges for 200 years. What the next 4 years offers is anyone's guess.


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