US Presidential Elections

Carolyn Jefferson wants to raise awareness to the general public that the Presidential electoral process of the United States is weak. She recommends that it should either be replaced completely or amended. She acknowledges that the debate on whether the presidential electoral system should remain as it is or should be changed is being discussed in the media and in the congress among other places. From this, she wants to bring out the fact that people are realizing that there is need for change. Carolyn states that the reason the Electoral College method of electing the president was created by the fathers of the nation is because, at the time, the constitution was applicable in a different way compared to now. She makes it known that the writers of the constitution never trusted popular opinion and that is why women, the black Americans and men without property were never allowed to vote. This is the reason why only the ‘wise’ and ‘prudent’ were trustful in the process of choosing the nation’s President. She however argues that since there have been several constitutional amendments where any form of discrimination has been abolished and even the African American and women been allowed to vote, the Electoral College system requires amendments if not completely replaced by the popular vote system.

Carolyn Jefferson is not quick to make her own conclusions but moves step by step; from the history of the system to what the constitution stipulates on how the president of the USA should be elected. She states the arguments of both the proponents and the opponents of the Electoral College system. This is very important as the reader will have the opportunity to analyze them and know what system he or she should support. The reader is made to know that the reason why the there was a need for a strong executive in America was because they feared the British monarch which appointed governors to rule them. Definitely this was a revolution as in the former system; the Americans never had any voice in the management of their country.

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The author of the article gives a descriptive process of how the election of the US president is done under the current constitution. In the United States the President and the Vice-President are elected through an indirect process with the emphasis of individual States. The Presidential polls as stipulated in the nation’s constitution are held on the Tuesday that follows the first Monday of the month of November. The citizens of USA do not cast their votes directly to the president but for the electors. The Votes are counted locally and handed to the electoral commissions of each State. The number of delegates in each state is determined by adding the number of representatives it sends to the House of Representatives in addition to the number of senators that it sends to congress; each state sends two senators each regardless of the size or the population.  States do not have the same number of electors or delegates but depends on their population, for example California with fifty five electors (highest in USA) meaning that the number of representatives is fifty three and two senators. In addition, the District of Columbia which is not a state has three electors. There are five hundred and thirty eight electors in the entire United States of America. For one to be declared the president, he has to have acquired at least two hundred and seventy electoral votes. In the District of Columbia and in other forty eight States, whoever wins the popular votes in that state is entitled to get all the electors votes even if he or she has won by only one vote. However in states Nebraska and Maine, the electoral votes are allocated to the candidates proportionally depending on the total popular votes that they have gotten.

On the December 15th that follows, all the electors meet to select the President together with the Vice-President. The results are sent to both the President of the Senate and the Archivist. Finally both houses meet and count the electoral votes and then set the date for the inauguration of the President. This system, as complex as it looks is the one that must be followed to the latter in USA. This is in addition to the party primaries that must take place to choose their presidential candidates which are conducted in the similar ways as the national elections. This calls for much use of time and financial resources to support all this. This can be minimized if the popular one-man one-vote is to be adopted as the parties would just set a day to nominate their presidential candidates and during the presidential elections the people would directly vote for the president on one day and the votes counted, the president would be known.

When one studies the constitution, it is very clear that this system has loop holes as brought forward by Carolyn Jefferson.  One, there is a possibility of choosing a minority president. This is the situation whereby the candidate with majority popular votes fails to win the presidency. This may happen especially if there are more than two strong presidential candidates and this would mean that they would split the electoral votes and none would acquire the required minimum votes, as happened in the year 1824 and was nearly a possibility in 1948 and 1968. This may mean that either one candidate would give one of the candidates his/her college votes or the House of Representatives would vote for the President. This means that even the one who had gotten the lowest electoral votes has the chance of becoming the president. A minority president may also be elected if one candidate wins in most of the small States but only in few large ones. Eventually he would win the popular vote. The other candidate who has taken a slight lead especially in all States that have many electors would be the winner.

Secondly, it is possible for the so called “faithless electors” who before the election pledge to vote for a certain candidate but during the exercise, does the opposite. There are those who have been known to have voted for the President as the Vice president and the vice versa just for their own personal reasons or to pass across some message.

The fourth point that can be drawn from the discussion is that the system does not encourage a large voter turn out in the elections which is a blow to democracy. Since popular votes do not count so much as the electoral votes, voters are sure that even if a candidate wins with only one vote, he or she will be allocated all the electoral votes in the majority of the States. Many do not care whether they vote or not especially if they suspect that their candidate is loosing in that state.

On the other hand, the author of the article claims that the opponents of the system supports it because it takes into account the interests of the small States and communities in the rural areas. This is because the electors are distributed evenly across the states because if that was not the case, the candidates would only campaign in the densely populated areas and cities ignoring the small states. However, it is clear that the votes from small states have more weight than those of larger states.

In conclusion, there are some points that can be drawn from Carolyn’s article. Looking at the factor against the Electoral College vote system, it is high time the citizens of the United States abolish this mode of voting as it stands against democracy. Also she has made it clear that it may be very hard to change the constitution of the nation, thus the States can pass laws that will amend the system. Though the proponents of the system are mostly of the argument that each State’s identity is recognized, the problem comes when winners are denied their victory. Everyone should be given equal voting rights regardless of his or her location. People should be encouraged to vote as the citizens of the United States and not as members of a certain State. This is because there is a possibility of more divisions as some States may associate themselves with certain parties and candidates.  There is a weakness in the allocation of delegates especially when a candidate gets full allocation of State delegates even if he or she had defeated his opponent with only one vote. The US citizens should be given a chance to vote for their President directly as the Electoral College system is faulty.
REFERENCES

Jenkins, C. J. (2001). Who should elect the president? The case against the Electoral College.

National Civic League, summer v90 i2 p173-180.

Department of Homeland Security. (2009). The United States constitution online. Retrieved

February 17, 2009, from http://www.usconstitution.net/const.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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