Merriam-Webster’s dictionary defines the Electoral College as a body of electors chosen by the voters in each state to elect the President and Vice President of the United States. The founding fathers of our nation ingrained it in the Constitution as a compromise between the election of the President by a vote in Congress and by a popular vote of adept citizens. Research will show the impact and importance the Electoral College has on the political system in the United States.
The process of the Electoral College consists of 1). Choosing the electors, 2). Certifying the majority vote, and 3). Gathering the electors in each states’ State Capital where they submit two ballots; one for the Presidential candidate and one for the Vice Presidential candidate. “In these elections, voters would choose the members of an intermediate body, then these members would in turn select public officials. The last vestige of this procedure in America is the electoral college,” (Ginsberg, Lowi, Tolbert, Weir, pg. 394).
Voters are therefore casting their ballots for their state’s electors to give their electoral vote to the most favored candidate. 38 electors account for the Electoral College, so for a candidate to win the Presidency a total of 270 votes are needed. The number of electors a state is given is usually equal to (2) U. S Senators and the amount of its U. S. Representatives. The political parties are then given a list with the names of individuals that have pledged to cast their electoral vote for a particular presidential candidate to each states chief election official; this list of names is usually equal to the number of that state’s electoral votes, Georgia currently has 16.
Then at 1:00 p. m. on January 6th, the votes are opened by the Vice President in alphabetical order. The votes are then handed to four tellers whom will reveal the results, at the conclusion of the count the Vice President will announce the name of the next President. The votes in the Electoral College come from a group of people known as Electors. Electors are chosen by the state legislature and will have solidified their vote for a particular candidate.
All of the chosen electors, with the exception of Congress members and federal employees as they are prohibited from serving as electors, that have pledged to cast their vote for the presidential candidate with the most popular votes in a particular state will actually become the elector for that state. “The framer’s idea that electors would be chosen by the state legislature gave way during the nineteenth century to various systems of popular selection of the electors,” (Ginsberg, Lowi, Tolbert, Weir, pg. 21). Meanwhile Nebraska and Maine use what is called the congressional district method when choosing Electors, where one elector is chosen from within each congressional district by a popular vote and the remaining two electors are chosen by a statewide popular vote. “The winning candidate in each Stateexcept in Nebraska and Maine, which have proportional distribution of the Electors—is awarded all of the State’s Electors,” (Unknown pp. 5).
Both Nebraska and Maine’s state winner will be awarded two Electors while the winner in each congressional district of the states are only awarded one. As it stands, this procedure allows Maine’s and Nebraska’s Electors to be given more than one candidate. This system was instituted to preserve the small-population states interests considering the advantage small states have in regard to representation in the U. S. Senate that can be brought over into the process of the presidential election.
The 12th amendment further clarifies how the Electoral College system should work in the selection process of the President and Vice President. This amendment was ultimately birthed out of the U. S Presidential Election of 1800 which was a rematch between Thomas Jefferson and John Adams. The election subsequently ended in a tie, which had to be decided upon by a lame duck-“an elected official whose time in office or position is about to end,” (Merriam-Webster). Previous elections were chosen by the elite American until the nstitution of the 12th Amendment and the Electoral College. Therefore, it is best to consider the election to be a two phase procedure: the first phase is the Electoral College vote and the second phase to be used will depend upon a candidate not winning a majority of the Electoral Votes, “If no candidate wins a majority of the Electoral College vote, the Constitution provides a back-up method for presidential selection. This procedure is often referred to as the Constitution’s contingent election procedure.
In this secondary election, the election of the President is sent to the House and the election of the Vice President is sent to the Senate,” (Ross pg. 26). Although the process of the Electoral College is far from perfect, it is indeed clever. As with any political scheme, there are those that are for the Electoral College and those that oppose it. Those in favor of the college, lean on the certainty of the outcome, as its vote protects the interest of small states.
In the election of 2004, for example, President Obama received a majority of the electoral vote, but only half of the popular vote. While all of the United States reward the winning candidate with all of the electoral votes, a mere plurality would create a landslide victory of the electoral vote. Author, Tara Ross writes, “… appears to retain the small advantage, while giving greater weight to the popular vote. In reality, it would devolve into constant disputes about who gets the last electoral vote in each state.
The Electoral College, by contrast, tends to magnify margins of victory and give certain election outcomes,” (Ross pg. 159). Lastly, just as those that favor the Electoral College believe that the President should have the support of the people, those that oppose it feel like the people should then be able to pick the President. The idea is that the personal vote does not mean anything because citizens may vote one way while the Electoral College votes another, thereby making the popular vote obsolete. In the Academic Journal “Who Should Elect the President?
The Case Against the Electoral College,” the author writes, “In the minds of some, there is a question of whether our form of government as a federal republic is safeguarded by having the Electoral College. According to this view, the fact that this country is a federation of states, and that the Constitution assigns certain powers to the federal government while others remain with the states, is of more importance than direct election of the President based on the principle of one person, one vote,” (Jenkins pg. 176). Nevertheless, the rules are fair and the objective is clear.
The Electoral College has proven to do and be all that the Framers’ of this country intended. The legitimacy of its factions on the political system in the United States has worked exceedingly well for more than 200 years. Since it apportions larger voting strength to the smaller states, it doesn’t appear that any amendments will be made to abolish the process. While the founding fathers may have thought the Electoral College to be imperfect, it may very well be the only way the United States will be electing the President