Electoral College Essay

The electoral college system is one which is criticized often. In most of the countries in the

world their leader is chosen by popular vote. This was true even in communist countries,

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although many times only one candidate runs sometime. This system of popular vote is not used

in the United States, the country that is supposed to be the most democratic.

The Electoral College, the constitutional system for the election of the president and vice

president of the United States. It is the collective name for a group of electors, nominated by

political parties within the states and popularly elected, who meet to vote for those two offices.

Each party within a state selects a slate of electors numerically equal to the state’s

congressional delegation. The electors normally pledge to vote for the nominees of their party,

but they are not constitutionally required to do so. When the American people vote for president

and vice president, they are actually voting for slates of electors pledged to their candidates.

Because the electors usually are chosen at large, the electoral vote of each state is cast as a unit,

and the victorious presidential and vice presidential nominees in each state win the state’s entire

electoral vote. The candidates receiving a majority of the total electoral vote in the United States

The electoral college system was established in ArticleII, section I, of the U. S.

Constitution and has been modified mainly by the 12th Amendment. Numerous plans have been

proposed for eliminating or altering the electoral college, including direct election of the

president and vice president by popular vote. It extremely ironic that the what is supposed to be

the most democratic government in the world, does not choose a president according to what the

The electoral college system generally gives all of a state’s electoral votes to the winner

in that state, no matter how slim the margin. Thus it has happened that candidates have been

elected even though they received fewer popular votes than their opponents. Both Rutherford B.

Hayes in 1876, and Benjamin Harrison, in 1888, were elected in this manner. In the case of

Hayes, a special electoral commission was called in 1877 to decide the contested returns. John

Quincy Adams also received fewer popular votes than his opponent, Andrew Jackson, in the

election of 1824, but his election was decided by the House of Representatives because Jackson

failed to win a majority of electoral college votes. On several occasions the popular vote

pluralities of the electoral college victors have been razor thin or even questionable. One

instance was the election of John F. Kennedy over Richard M. Nixon in 1960.

The feature of the electoral college most prone to attack is the requirement that the

election go into the House of Representatives to determine the president and into the senate to

determine the vice-president if the electoral college fails to reach a majority. There might be a

paralyzing delay in determining the victors, and the president-elect and vice president-elect

could be members of opposing political parties. The House was called upon to elect a president

in the cases of Jefferson and John Quincy Adams, and the Senate chose Richard M. Johnson as

vice president after the election of 1836. The possibility of this happening again remains very

much alive. Should a third-party candidate carry enough states to prevent an electoral vote

majority for any candidate, the House, voting by state delegation, might be prevented from

Pledged electors generally have been regarded as legally free to cast their votes as they

choose, and there have been cases of defection from pledged positions. No such deviation has

had a clear effect on an election result, but the possibility raises an additional objection to the

electoral college. In 1820 a New Hampshire elector voted for John Quincy Adams instead of

James Monroe; in 1956 an Alabama elector voted for a circuit judge instead of Adlai E.

Stevenson; in 1960 an Oklahoma elector pledged to Richard Nixon voted instead for Harry F.

Byrd; in 1968 a North Carolina elector defected from Nixon to George C. Wallace; and in 1988

a West Virginia elector voted for Lloyd M. Bentsen, Jr. instead of Michael S. Dukakis.

Because of this I will shown that the following, although improbable example is possble

to happen. If every single voter in the country unanimously chose “candidate A” for president,

the electors pledged to him still may rally against him and vote for the other candidate. Thus,

having 250 million votes of the people of the United State, could still lose the election based on

the whimsical attitudes of electors. Although this example is not prone to actually occur, it

showns the undemocratic way that we choose the most important public official in our country.

With some changes this system can be modified in to an acceptable one, but why isn’t a

popular vote used. It is sensible, democratic and straight-forward. It is uncontroversial and

allows the people of the United States to choose the person they want to lead them as president.

Encarta 98
World Book Encyclopedia 1999

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