01 June 2011


     Many people believe that when they go to the polls every fourth year to vote, they are voting for the president and vice-president of the United States of America. Nothing could be further from the truth. Your vote is really only a suggestion to some people (people you more than likely have never heard of) as to who they should choose as the president. A suggestion they are NOT bound to follow. Our founding fathers thought that the general population [THAT'S YOU AND ME, FOLKS] were too stupid to choose the right person for the job of president.
      According to James Hamilton: “It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favourable to deliberation...1 The electoral college was born.
      So exactly what is the electoral college? According to dictionary.reference.com the electoral college is:
noun ( often initial capital letters )
a body of electors chosen by the voters in each state to elect the President and vice President of the U.S
      Now call me cynical but I think that's a little strange. I have voted in every presidential election since Nixon beat McGovern back in '72 and not once do I remember seeing any name on the ballot running for the office of elector. I put my check-mark next to one of the guys running for president.
      Answers.com gets it a little closer. They say:
The electoral college is a body prescribed by the US constitution, composed of delegates who pledge to vote for the Presidential candidate who won the election in whichever electoral district that particular delegate comes from, and whose vote officially elects the President.
      The national election is held in November. Then:
...in the middle of December, the president and vice president of the United States are really elected by the votes of only 538 citizens...2” Unless you're part of your state's government you probably have never met these 538 good citizens or even heard their names.
     Who are these 538 people? How are they chosen? What are their qualifications? Are they bound by law to follow the will of the people? Let's look at these questions one at a time.

Who are the electors?
      “Article II, section 1, clause 2 provides that no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector“. The 14th Amendment also provides that anyone who “has engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States or given aid and comfort to its enemies are disqualified from serving as electors.3
      The way I read that (correct me if I'm wrong) the electors not only are not voted into office, they're actually FORBIDDEN from being voted for by the people. As long as they're not a convicted traitor and are not an elected official, they can be chosen. Although I didn't see it specifically mentioned, I'm going to presume that there is an age qualification in there somewhere. Probably at least 18.

How are the electors chosen?
      That depends on the state, but normally the state legislatures choose them4. This, of course can lead to favouritism, cronyism and quid pro quo. Do you trust all of your state representatives to always act in your best interest? I know that mine don't.

What are their qualifications?
      See “Who are the electorsabove. That's it people. No education standard. Nothing about good faith, moral character or intellect. According to the constitution they could be a slobbering idiot or a bank robber or rapist awaiting trial.

Are the electors bound to vote in line with the popular vote?
      This is the most complicated question of all. The short answer is: YES- in 26 states and the District of Columbia and NO in the other 24 states5.
      It gets more complicated because, in most of the states where they are bound, it is only by pledge and not by law. In other words, they promised to follow the popular vote when chosen, but there is nothing holding them to that promise. The fact is that no elector has ever been prosecuted for failing to vote as pledged.

     To me, one of the most disturbing facts about the electoral college is the Winner-Take-All laws in all but 2 states. In other words, if one candidate receives 49.9% of the votes and the other gets 50.1% in a winner-takes-all state, then 49.9% of the voters in that state get NO electoral votes for their chosen candidate6. In 1992, Ross Perot received almost 20% of the popular vote but received not a single electoral college vote7.
     In November of 2,000, Business Week said "Unabashedly elitist, the Electoral College was created by the founding fathers in 1787 as a counterbalance against too much democracy and to protect states from encroaching federal power8." 
     Why is this so important? So undemocratic? So bad for the country? 
     Glad you asked. Although it hasn't happened too frequently, in several instances the winner of the White House actually lost the national election9. The last time it happened was the 2,000 contest between Al Gore and George Bush. 

      So, can anything be done about this travesty called the Electoral College? There are a lot of people trying to cure this boil that sits festering in our republic.
     One group; the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement among U.S. states that would effectively replace the current electoral college system of presidential elections with a direct, nationwide vote of the people. Another; RealDemocracy.com is working to return ALL control of government to the people. A lot of people think the time for change has come. Please contact them if you agree and would like to learn how you can help10.

     There may have been a time when the electoral college was necessary but that has long since past. In this day and age there is absolutely no reason why the people who THINK they're electing their president shouldn't actually BE electing the leader of the free world.

At least that's my opinion. Let's hear yours.

      Here's another tidbit you might find interesting. It is completely possible to have a president and vice president who were not elected by the people or the electors. Don't think that can happen? Gerald R. Ford was never elected to the position of either President or Vice President of the USA. He was nominated to the post of Vice President after the resignation of Richard Nixon's vice president, Spiro Agnew of Maryland and later became President after the infamous Watergate scandal which saw the downfall of Nixon. Nelson Aldrich Rockefeller was Ford's vice president and HE WASN'T ELECTED EITHER11.


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