Is True Popularity the Way to Elect A President?

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I didn’t want to start this article with the words “electoral college” lest you immediately start snoring, run screaming back into some other more gratifying pursuit, But there is some serious controversy here. Who are these elusive anonymous electors, and what are they doing meddling with our votes? Do they protect the states or are they part of an archaic system that was only useful before the Internet? Good questions.

This is what electoral college is:

[1]

The Electoral College was set up by the founding fathers along with things like not allowing women or slaves to vote. That is not to say it doesn’t serve a function presently, just that it was set up in a time period when our country’s values were different than they are today. The college was set up out of a concern that a “faction” could form among voters that corralled over 50 % of the vote, so a candidate would then be unfairly elected based on passion rather than an educated choice. [2]

These days we are not nearly as concerned with the educational background of those voting. The reasoning for the electoral college now has more to do with encouraging fairness in the candidates themselves, and in the vote.

  1. One reason for continuing to use the electoral college is to ensure that politicians pay attention to states and people groups they may have ignored had they just been interested in the majority of votes. If politicians had to win only a popular election they would probably focus on large population centers, denying other areas, and minority voters the excitement of rousing speeches and loud rallies. Electoral votes also make it more likely that a candidate has appeal across a broad section of America rather than just in certain areas like the south or the west. [3]
  2. The Electoral College makes the vote easier to call. Because of the winner-take–all electoral strategy many states employ, the candidates are likely to have more electoral votes than popular votes. The additional downside with having a purely popular vote is that candidates may have the incentive to call recounts in state after state, which could seriously put a damper on our political system. [4]
  3. Another thing some people see as a bonus is that the Electoral College encourages a two-party system. A two-party system is said to be rather stable, and provide checks and balances as opposed to a one-party system. [5] 

 Why do Some People Want to Ditch it?

 There are plenty of opponents to this system, and here are a few of their reasons.

  1. While people who are in favor of electoral college like it because it forces politicians to appeal to certain people groups, people in favor of getting rid of it have a similar argument. They say that those people in states who typically vote democrat are ignored by the democrats, and along with those votes being ignored, the needs and wants of the people of that state are ignored as well. [6]
  2. Some critics say getting rid of the Electoral College will increase voter participation. Many people feel like their votes don’t count. If you happen to live in a state where normally the majority of people vote republican, therefore sending all of the Electoral College votes to the republican candidate, and you disagree, you are largely correct that your vote will not count. As a matter of fact some consider the votes that really count to be the ones in battleground states where the outcome is truly undecided until the votes come in. Those states comprise only about 20% of the countries votes, making yours seem even less significant in the scheme of things. [7] [8]
  3. Times have changed. If one of the reasons for the electoral college in the first place was that not all voters would have access to information on candidates because of education, or even the mail system or inefficiency of the printing press, those issues not longer plague us. People are hard pressed to escape hearing about campaigns while relaxing in front of the TV, or scrolling through Facebook. Another testament to the times the Electoral college was put into place was the fact that slave owners were fans. The presence of slavery meant the value of your vote could be increased by how many slaves you owned, but you could have sole sway over who your vote benefited. Is that cause enough to reconsider it? Maybe.[9]

The two sides both seem very concerned about fairness and equality, but from different angles. Both sides want the election system to force candidates to pay attention to important groups of people, and cater their attention to issues that affect those groups, which may lead one to wonder how much all of this attention may sway the vote. Some argue that campaigning has little affect on the vote. [10] Some say various kinds of campaigning have greater affects. [11] And when you get right down to it, maybe your vote will be decided by how easily everyday things disgust you, rather than by anything ranted by either candidate. [12]

States can have some influence on how their electoral votes are used, but overturning the Electoral College would require an amendment to the constitution, so it won’t be going away soon. [13] While we work within our present system what would be the fairest way to vote? As a matter of fact what is the most important thing about campaigning and voting? Is it the ads disparaging candidates we are pummeled with? Are we fighting for more attention to the issues that really affect us? How do we get the focus on things we care about rather than simply winning a contest? What is the ideal way to ensure our leader truly represents the majority of our country and our interests?

 

Questions

 

  1. What influences your vote? Do you vote on specific issues? Do you stick with your tried and true party, or do you vary with the specific candidate? Do you trust electors, or do you wish the popular vote held sway? Why?
  2. What are some of the problems with our current system? Are there problems? Are the problems with the system, the campaigning? What is the biggest problem?
  3. What would help these problems? A new voting system? Reforms of what we have?
  4. What would an ideal voting system look like? Would it be the electoral college, popular voting, or a new system entirely? Would an ideal voting system affect the way politicians campaign or what voters focus on when making their decisions?

 

  1. How the Electoral College Works. Narr. CGP Grey. 2011. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OUS9mM8Xbbw&gt;.
  2. Miller, Joe. “The Reason for the Electoral College.” factcheck.org. N.p., 11 Feb. 2008. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <http://www.factcheck.org/2008/02/the-reason-for-the-electoral-college/&gt;.
  3. “Arguments in favor of the Electoral College.” sciencebuzz.org. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <http://www.sciencebuzz.org/topics/electoral-college-math/arguments-in-favor&gt;.
  4. Posner, Richard A. “In Defense of the Electoral College.” Slate.com. N.p., 12 Nov. 2012. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/view_from_chicago/2012/11/defending_the_electoral_college.html&gt;.
  5. “What are the advantages of a two-party system.” Reference.com. N.p., n.d. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <https://www.reference.com/government-politics/advantages-two-party-system-4c7d7147160ff84c&gt;.
  6. Fadem, Barry. usnews.com. N.p., Nov. 2012. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <http://www.usnews.com/debate-club/should-the-united-states-get-rid-of-the-electoral-college/a-vote-in-south-dakota-should-matter-as-much-as-one-in-florida&gt;.
  7. Ventrella, Michael A. “Top 5 reasons to get rid of the Electoral College.” ventrellaquest.com. N.p., 9 Apr. 2013. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <https://ventrellaquest.com/2013/04/09/top-5-reasons-to-get-rid-of-the-electoral-college/&gt;.
  8. Parker, Clifton B. “Now We Know Why It’s Time to Dump the Electoral College.” thefiscaltimes.com. N.p., 12 Apr. 2016. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <http://www.thefiscaltimes.com/2016/04/12/Now-We-Know-Why-It-s-Time-Dump-Electoral-College&gt;.
  9. “America’s outdated Electoral College.” mobile.nytimes.com. N.p., 20 Oct. 2008. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <http://mobile.nytimes.com/2008/11/20/opinion/20iht-edelect.1.17997223.html&gt;.
  10. Farhi, Paul. “Do campaigns really change voters’ minds?.” The Washington Post. N.p., 6 July 2012. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <https://www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/do-campaigns-really-change-voters-minds/2012/07/06/gJQAEljyRW_story.html?utm_term=.97699387856f >.
  11. Barton, Jared, Marco Castillo, and Ragan Petrie. “What Persuades Voters? A Field Experiment on Political Campaigning.” N.p., Nov. 2011. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <http://cess.nyu.edu/policon2012/wp-content/uploads/2012/02/Regan-Petrie-Candidate-Canvassing.pdf&gt;.
  12. Gorvett, Zaria. “The Hidden Psychology of Voting.” bbc.com. N.p., 6 May 2015. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20150506-the-dark-psychology-of-voting&gt;.
  13. Wagstaff, Keith. “We’re halfway to eliminating the Electoral College.” theweek.com. N.p., 2 Aug. 2013. Web. 8 Oct. 2016. <http://theweek.com/articles/461444/halfway-eliminating-electoral-college >.
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