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The making of a president

The Making of a President

 

 

 

The presidential election of the year 2000 will go down in history as one of the tightest races ever. Although democratic candidate Al Gore obtained a higher number of the popular vote, Republican candidate George W. Bush appears to have won the election with a greater number of electoral votes. In both 1992 and 1996, Bill Clinton won the presidency with less than 50% of the popular vote. Rutherford B. Hayes won the election in 1876 and had less popular votes than his opponent, Samuel Tilden.   Article II of the Constitution of the United States calls for the appointment of the Electoral College, it reads as follows:

 

            Each state shall appoint, in such a manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of senators and representatives to which the state may be entitled in the Congress; but no senator or representative, or person holding an office of trust or profit under the United States, shall be appointed an elector.

 

            The electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for two persons, of whom one at least shall not be an inhabitant of the same state with themselves.  And they shall make a list of all the persons voted for, and of the number of votes for each; which list they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the seat of the government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives open all the certificates, and votes shall then be counted. The person having the greatest number of votes shall be the President, if such number be a majority of the whole number of electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such a majority, and have an equal number of votes, the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by ballot one of them for President.

 

Clearly the original intention of our forefathers was for electors to vote for the person that they thought should be president. It was never intended that the popular vote chooses the president. Our forefathers did not foresee the development of political parties, the development of primaries, and presidential conventions.  The twelfth amendment modified the constitution, to make the Electoral College to vote for one presidential candidate and one vice-presidential candidate.  The question needs to be asked, Should the Electoral College be eliminated?

 

            Your class will be separated into three groups. One group will be in support of the Electoral College, one group wants the Electoral College eliminated in favor of a popular only election, and one group is undecided.

 

            The pro (for the electoral college) and con (against electoral college) groups must develop an argument for their point into a debate format.  The pro group will be given four two-minute segments to make specific arguments. After each one minute pro segment, the con side gets to make a two-minute rebuttal. Then the con side gets four two minute segments to make their key points, followed by a pro side, two minute rebuttal.

 

            There will then be a fifteen-minute question and answer period, where the pro side and con side ask questions of the undecided.  Both sides can response to the questions, but not to each other (pro does not address con, and visa-versa).

 

            After these two sessions, one or two members of first the pro group, and then the con group, give a two to three minute summary of their key points.

 

            All students will have a pre-debate vote on this topic, and the class will conclude with a post debate vote, the difference between the two votes will decide the winner.

 

            Pro and Con groups will be given one and one half days to prepare for the debate. You should try and create a physical climate that promotes your position (make posters, slogans, even campaign buttons).

 

            The undecided voters will also role-play. You must choose one role and come up with a set of three questions that might reflect your position as a person living in the United States. You must research the Electoral College and determine how if effects you. You must be able to explain reasoning. Choose from the roles below:

 

  1. A business person who lives in Los Angeles.
  2. A retired person who lives in North Dakota.
  3. A farmer from the state of Ohio.
  4. A nurse from New York City.
  5. A member of the US Senate, living in Washington DC.
  6. A member of the military stationed overseas.
  7. A minister from Utah.
  8. The manager of an apartment complex in Dallas Texas.
  9. A college student at the University of Michigan majoring in Political Science
  10. A teacher from a rural school in New Hampshire.

 

Listed below are some opinions / facts regarding the Electoral College. Please remember that you can (and should) research this topic in order to strengthen your understanding and position.

 

  1. Since it is state by state winner takes all system, there is little likelihood that a close popular election total would result in legal disputes in various states. These disputes, in a popular vote system, could last for months or years without a clear winner being determined. Has this years election proved this theory false?
  2. There is a math problem that affects the chances of a third party or independent candidates chances of being successful in playing the spoiler by preventing any one candidate from getting a majority. For example:

 

Candidate A            (very conservative)    35% of the popular vote

Candidate B            (conservative)            10% of the popular vote

Candidate C           (liberal)                       40% of the popular vote

Other candidates                                          15% of the popular vote

 

In this example, a majority of the people wanted a conservative, but yet the liberal candidate wins with 40%. Plus the liberal is expected to lead he Nation while having a very weak mandate. The popular vote alternative to the Electoral College would likely splinter the two-party system, a system although with its own problems, has provided great political stability over the years.  The way of solving the above problem is to have the two highest candidates compete in a second run-off election (like the French do it).  However are the American people ready for a second campaign and a second election?

 

  1. The Electoral College actually gives smaller states a bigger say. The number of electoral votes is equal to the number of representatives and senators in any particular state. So if you make a ratio of electoral votes to people in a state, you will find that smaller states have a more favorable ratio. Using California and Alaska is the best example.  Because of this fact, the smaller states would be less likely to support amending the constitution to do away with the Electoral College. It could be considered desirable to give states somewhat more power in that it forces candidates to deal with these states and their issues. With just a popular vote, candidates would spend even more time and money than they do now on concentrating on the big population chunks. The Electoral College reflects our federal system (people represented in the House, states represented in the Senate).
  2. A candidate needs only to win 11 of the most populated of the 50 states in order to win an election with the Electoral College system. Taking California (even by a slim margin) gives a presidential candidate 20% of the votes needed to win the election. Bill Clinton focused much of his time on California in 92 and 96.  It is mathematically possible (however highly unlikely) that a person could become president by winning only 22% of the popular vote.
  3. Use the internet to seek out this web page http://www.avagara.com/e_c/ec_1888.htm

This site desribes what happened in the election of 1888. Part of the argument to keep thee electoral college is that it prevents a favorite of a certain region from walking away with the presidency. The short article from the web page will show that clearly.

 

States have the right to use any system they want to dispense their electoral votes. Forty Eight of the Fifty  United States use what is called the General Ticket System. This is the winner-takes-all approach. Only two states (Maine and Nebraska) use what is called the district system, in which each congressional district votes for their electors. Thus the vote in these two states could be split. This system favors the involvement of a third party.  No states presently use the legislative sytem , in which state legislatures pick the electors. It is commonly thought that this system opens up too much bargaining, politics, and payoffs.

 

There are 39 generally smaller states in the United States. These states hold a majority in the senate, and also hold a majority for amending the constitution.  It would appear close to impossible to amend the constitution in such a way that would take power away from the smaller states and give the power of electing a president to a popular vote.

 

The constitution clearly states that the choice of electors is to be made by the states. And court cases have named it constitutional for the states to require electors to vote one way or another according to their pledge(Glennon 137). Thus an easier, but just as effective, method of change is called "Allocating the Electoral Vote." In this method the states hold a poplar election and the electoral votes are allocated by percentage. Thus if a state had ten electoral votes, and candidate A received 70% of the popular vote, and candidate B received 18% of the vote, and candidate C received 12% of the vote, then candidate A would receive seven electoral votes, B would get two electoral votes, and C would get one vote. In a worse case scenario, a president could be elected with a minimum of 42% of the popular vote. While this is not as accurate as a real direct vote, it is much more accurate than the current general ticket system. The reason this system does not require a constitutional amendment is because it can be imposed on an individual state basis. In order for this system to work properly, it must also be part of state legislation to require the electors to vote on what they have pledged to vote.