by Lincoln Sayger
In the wake of last November's hotly contested election, many have called for action regarding the Electoral College. They want the system removed in favor of direct presidential election. These opponents of the Electoral College, America's unique system of selecting a president and vice-president, claim that it is "unnecessary, archaic, and even dangerous to the will of the majority," according to Robin Toner in an article published by the New York Times Upfront. Certainly, the current procedure used in our presidential elections is in need of change, but are these critics correct in their assertions? I would like first to discuss why the Electoral College is a necessary part of our electoral process, and then to explain an electoral system which would serve our country better than the system we now use.
The first charge is that the Electoral College is unnecessary. This is clearly in error. Business Week ran an article in their November 27, 2000, edition cataloguing (and using as the title) "The Pitfalls of One Person, One Vote." They point out that under a direct election system, areas of the country with high density populations would be courted by candidates, while voters in the "Nowhere Zone" would be ignored. Business Week goes on to quote Steve Frank, president of the National Federation of Republican Assemblies, who said candidates "wouldn't need to worry about putting nuclear waste in Nevada." Another danger cited was increased power to special interest groups, Democrats, and splinter parties, but the largest danger cited was the probability of endless recounts. Instead of counting Florida's votes over and over, recounts would occur in every close polling district across the country. Clearly, some system is needed to make the margins of victory more decisive, so the Electoral College is NOT unnecessary.
The second charge is that the system is archaic, and this charge is actually correct. When the Electoral College was designed, there were no political parties, and the system was a sound one. In the ensuing years, however, the political scene has changed so much that problems the Founders never imagined have arisen, making a change in the system necessary.
The final charge I mentioned above is that the system is dangerous to the will of the majority. This charge is also correct, but a greater question is 'Should the will of the majority be protected?' According to The American Enterprise, "America has never practiced, or wanted, anything close to pure democracy." Indeed, the Founding Fathers feared democracy, considering it to be the rule of the mob, subject to the fallacies of herd mentality. The Constitution itself never says that America is to be a democracy. In fact, it states that every State will be guaranteed a republican form of government. A republican form of government has nothing to do with the GOP, by the way. A republic is a government composed of wise representatives. The Electoral College was designed to prevent democracy with its threat of a majority trampling the rest of the populace. Over the years, unfortunately, our system of national elections has become more and more democratic, and our government has become more and more corrupt.
One of the major problems with a direct election is the fact that most Americans are unable or unwilling to make wise choices in the voting booth. Here are some of the ways Americans voted in the last election:
"Heads: George, tales: Al."
"He kissed her. I'm voting for him!"
"I don't like Gore. Who wants a tree for President?"
"They're all bums. I'm not voting at all."
"I'm writing in Mickey Mouse."
"I can't decide. I'll punch both holes and let the machine decide."
I believe that the Electoral College, which has undergone some foolish changes over the years, should be restructured in a manner consistent with the original intent of the Founders while remedying the problems the original system was unable to handle.
Under this new system, instead of choosing candidates by party and then trying to get those candidates elected, the voters would choose electors based not on their party affiliations but on their wisdom, and then the electors would choose the candidate best suited and most willing to represent the entire country. Here's how it would work:
In each electoral district, the local voters would choose one man or woman to be an elector. Voters would be instructed to choose based on the wisdom of the elector, and since the electors and voters would be from the same area, the voters would be more likely to be informed: that is, they would be more likely to know what kind of a person the elector really is, and since they would know that they were electing someone to make a choice rather than someone who would actually fill a position, they would be less likely to be swayed by unimportant information. At this time or another time, the two electors representing each State would also be elected by the voters of the State. The results of these elections would be placed in a secure location until the time for the electors to meet. Meanwhile, the State legislatures would seek, in a manner they would decide, qualified persons from the State, people who recognize that the function of the American government is to serve America as a whole rather than one particular State. Each State legislator would have one vote, and the candidate who recieved the most votes would represent that State before the Electoral College. Each State having chosen one candidate and the appropriate number of electors, the candidates and the electors would gather in a selected location where they could meet in seclusion. Each candidate would appear before the electors and give his or her views on the direction the country should go and the candidate's plan for strengthening the country and protecting the rights of the populace, as well as to answer any questions an elector may ask. If the current President and Vice-president are both among the candidates, one or both of them could submit a written statement to the electors in place of their speech.
When all candidates had been interviewed, the electors would vote for the candidate each felt best able to lead the country. The top ten candidates from this vote would be voted on again. The candidate with the greatest number of electoral votes would then become the President and the second candidate would become the Vice-president. In case of a tie between two or three candidates, the federal Congress would vote to break the tie.
In the short run, not much would change. The person who was elected president this past election would probably be the person elected by this system, except without a big fuss over a close election. In the long run, however, the outcomes could become vastly different.
Imagine this scenario:
After the quadrennial summer petition drive to get electors onto the ballot, after the summer radio and television ad campaign, in which the local supervisor of elections explains how important the choice of a wise elector is, and after the voting guides revealing the qualifications and issues supported by each elector are distributed, voters across the nation go to the polls on the second Tuesday in October. Each voter (individually or as part of a group, depending on how many voters are signed in at the time) watches a two or three minute video of their local supervisor of elections reminding them of the importance of choosing a wise elector. Then each voter, filled with patriotic pride, goes to the voting booth and casts his or her vote for the person he or she believes is the wisest person on the ballot (or three persons, in the case of State electors being chosen at the same time). These ballots are counted, and the chosen names are recorded by the supervisor of elections. The next day, the legislature of each State meets and chooses from the citizens of their State one candidate. On the first Monday of November, the electors and candidates arrive at the selected location, along with the supervisor of electors and ten messengers, who will manage the flow of candidates to and from the electoral chamber. The doors are closed, and by the following Friday, the electors have chosen our new President and Vice-president. When the electors and candidates emerge from the selection site, the recounts, if any, are long over and received little press. The new President this hypothetical year was not chosen from one of the major political parties, and neither was her Vice-president. In fact, only ten of the candidates who made it this far were Democrats or Republicans, since there is no longer a strong emphasis on a candidate's party affiliation. Political parties have been relegated to the halls of Congress and to State and local offices. The leader of the free world under this new system almost has to be neutral, since he or she will govern not just Democrats or Republicans, but the entire nation. As the years progress, the new President shows himself worthy of the position. The electors, wisely chosen themselves, have wisely chosen him.
Unfortunately, while this situation is the most likely outcome, there still exists the possibility that the American voters will elect foolish electors, who may in turn elect a foolish President, but the fault lies not with the system. Before this system, or any electoral system, can work most efficiently, the voters have to do their part. You are the key to this system. You need to educate yourself. No one else is going to educate you. Others may try to indoctrinate you, but only you can educate yourself. Do your part. Educate yourself, make your decision carefully, and vote! The future is in your hands.
Want me to write for your publication on a topic of your choice? Want to print this in your publication? Click here.