Anna states vs. large statesReasons for the

Anna StueveMrs. MayorgaAP Language, Period 621 November 2017The Undemocratic Voting System of the United StatesThesis: Despite the historical value of the current voting system, amendments to the Electoral College should be devised in order for the United States to have a truly democratic form of government.BackgroundConstitutional ConventionSmall states vs. large statesReasons for the Electoral CollegeExplanation of the systemElectoral votingPopular votingRepresentationState representationCongressElectorsCounterargumentProblems with representationCensus reports”Winner-takes-all”Faithless electorsSolutionsDifficulty in CongressVotingMajorityDistrict-popularProportionalityNational bonusInstant-runoffNPVICCounterargumentIrrelevance todayTechnologyEqual suffrageVoting FraudAnna StueveMrs. MayorgaAP Language, Period 630 January 2018The Undemocratic Voting System of the United States The United States has an inherent benefit to being one of the most powerful countries in today’s global society: it happens to be one of the oldest forms of democratic government in history. This is something Americans typically pride themselves on; a government that is run by the people through publicly elected officials. However, the American people have become ignorant of exactly what the “American Democracy” actually represents. A Democracy is defined as: “a system of government in which, in theory, the people rule, either directly or indirectly” (Janda 32). When the Constitution of the United States was written 231 years ago, the Framers took to this ideal by creating a voting system known as the Electoral College. This system, which is still used today with nearly no alteration, has many faults including misrepresentation of the people, corrupted electors, and disproportionate electoral votes. Despite this, as previously mentioned, there has only been a single modification to this 231-year-old system. Despite the historical value and necessity of the current voting system, amendments to the Electoral College should be devised in order for the United States to have a truly democratic government. One of the most influential founding fathers and statesman, Alexander Hamilton, noted in a collection of his essays, famously known as the Federalist Papers, that the electoral college was the only part of the government that did not require revision at the time of creation (Grant 9). According Joel K. Goldstein, an American Bar Association representative, the delegates considered over 15 proposals (par. 5). Those representing smaller states both demographically and geographically advocated for equal state representation. This would have given each state an equal role in determining the president, similar to the structure of the Senate. In general, states with more land mass, therefore higher populations, supported direct elections by the people. This in turn would have given those states a larger influence, due to their larger population size, in the electing of an executive officer (Janda 68). The dispute between states became a prominent issue in the last few days of the Constitutional Convention, and led to the conception of the Electoral College. A slew of reasons led to the complex system still used today. Originally, it was created as a compromise between the states. The founding fathers also believed the ordinary citizen did not have adequate knowledge of the different presidential candidates. Instead, they made the decision to have educated, meritorious officials represent the wishes of the people known as the electors (Amar 469). The votes of the electors were also intended to represent those who did not have the right to vote at the time, specifically women and African-Americans (271). Until 1792, state legislatures nominated electors instead of by popular vote. This however quickly became corrupted, when in 1796 political parties emerged and presidential candidates were no longer elected based off of their own merit, but rather the elector’s loyalty to their designated political party (Goldstein par. 9). This is also known as “political polarization” (Maskin par. 3). As the general public became more involved in the voting process, especially with determining electors, the voting system broke into two major factions. The general presidential election is divided up into two elections: popular and electoral. The popular election is one in which citizens have the ability to cast their vote, while the electoral election is based off of electoral votes for each state. While both elections are held, the electoral election is the only one that actually determines the president. The Electoral College is defined as: “A body of electors chosen by voters to cast ballots for President and Vice President” (Janda 69). This body of individuals was intended to be determined by the people, and to represent the wishes of the people. In order to satisfy both large and small state concerns about representation, the Framers of the Constitution decided that each state would receive the same number of electors that represents them in the two parts of Congress, the Senate and the House of Representatives (271). This automatically gave small states three votes, two from the Senate, one from the House despite population size. The number of representatives in the House is based off of census reports taken every ten years, which is how states acquire more electoral votes. Today, there is a total of 538 electoral votes. In order for a candidate to be elected, they must receive the majority, or at least 270 electoral votes (Grant 18). If no candidate receives the majority, by the 12th amendment, the decision for president goes to the House of Representatives, each state receiving one vote. This has happened most notably four times in U.S. history in the elections of 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000. In each of these elections, the House of Representatives determined the president, siding with the candidate with the minority of the popular vote. The election of 2000 is one of the most controversial today. After the election, letters flooded into Congress complaining about the outcome of the election, including a letter from former first lady and presidential candidate, Hillary Clinton, demanding the electoral college be altered (Janda 279). Despite the uproar, little was done by congress to solve the imposed issue due to its strength in American political history. As outlined in the Constitution, the electors are determined by each state independently. This process has two parts, the first action is taken by the political parties of each state. Typically, each party nominates electors at state party conventions. The second part occurs on election day (“About…” pars. 5-8). However, before election day takes place, the electors pledge their vote to a candidate, usually either the democratic or republican candidate supported by their party. By pledging, they are ultimately stating they will represent those in that party. On the actual election day, when citizens cast their vote, they are not actually voting for the presidential candidate they want, but rather the list of electors pledged to that candidate (Janda 279). By doing this, they are essentially letting the government know they support the candidate the elector is voting for (Grant 17). However, the issue surrounding this process remains with original action of pledging. Electors are not bound to the candidate they pledge to, not only creating possibly unexpected discrepancies in the electoral votes, but also completely failing to represent the voters of the party in which they pledged their vote. This occurred in the 2000 election between Al Gore and George W. Bush when Barbara Simmons, an elector for the District of Columbia, refused to turn in her vote (assumed Gore) in protest of underrepresentation in Washington D.C. (Janda 281). Another example of a faithless elector is seen in the election of 1973, when a Republican elector from Virginia cast his vote for the candidate of the Liberation Party (Bayh par. 12).   Conflicts with public representation do not stop with the electors. One recurring issue is with how the number of representatives are chosen for each state. The number, per state, it based off of census reports taken every ten years. In the span of that time, two elections take place, potentially failing to represent the population of new voters accurately (Herbst 13). Additionally, the Electoral College favors rural states and communities by automatically giving them three votes, regardless of population size which tend to favor white Republicans (Amar 471). For example, in 1988 seven of the least populous jurisdictions had the same number of votes as Florida, which had three times their populations (Grant 12). This failure to accurately represent the people is also seen on the other side of the spectrum. As of 1990, a candidate only needs to win eleven of the most populous states to win the election, most notably California which has a whopping 55 votes (Amar 476). Equally important is how the state electoral votes are handled once they have been cast. After the electors have placed their vote, the system defaults to what is known as “Winner-take-all” or the unit-rule (Bayh par. 7). In the majority of elections in United States history, votes for the candidates have been unanimous by state. This is not due to the fact that all electors make the same decision, but instead is a product of the unit-rule. The unit rule states, “All votes for the candidate who loses a state are cast for the candidate who wins the state” (par. 8). For example, if Arizona had 11 votes total, 5 for the democratic candidate and 6 for the republican candidate, all 11 votes would then be given to the republican candidate. This not only completely distorts representation and discourages minorities in a one-party state, but also creates neglect from the candidates. If a candidate is either almost certain they will or will not win a state, they find little reason to attempt to rally that state (par. 14). The lasting effect of this is shown on election day when people do not vote due to their belief that their voice is not heard by the electors or the voting system. This was one of the major fallouts of the election in 2016, where only 61.4% of eligible voters turned out, down 2.2% from 2008 (Krogstad par. 1). Out of the congressional, midterm, and off-year elections, the presidential election is the only one not decided by a pure popular vote (Janda 276). Over 500 constitutional amendments have been brought to Congress to alter the Electoral College, however the only one that successfully passed was the 12th amendment in 1804 (Bayh par. 3). In addition, there have been more proposals to amend or remove the Electoral College than any other aspect of the government since its ratification 231 years ago (Herbst 2). The difficulty with changing the Electoral College doesn’t remain with the people, but with congress. Adopting a new voting system would require two-thirds of congress’ approval and three-fourths of the states being in favor as per Article V of the Constitution, a nearly impossible requirement (Amar 476). Despite the limited reception from Congress, proposals such as direct (majority) voting, district-popular voting, the proportionality plan, the national bonus plan, along with the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) have been made to combat the inequality demonstrated by the Electoral College. Direct voting, as it sounds, would eradicate the voting system, placing the outcome directly in the hands of the people (Maskin par. 2). According to statistics found by author Eric Maskin, 63% of respondents in the 2013 Gallup Poll, a national survey focused on public opinion, favored the majority vote over the current system, which only claimed 29% of respondents (par. 5) If the voting system were to change, it would promote more voters to turnout because they would feel like their vote actually counts towards the outcome of the election. Additionally, candidates would pay more attention to the people of each state rather than the electors representing the people (Amar 277). Defenders of the Electoral College claim majority voting would cause chaos due to recounts, however with developments in technology happening everyday, this problem would cease to exist (Maskin pars. 21-24). Another voting reform is known as the district-popular voting. Instead of having a certain number of votes per state, it would be one vote per district, where the elected representative would accurately represent the wishes of the people (Herbst 4). This would force the candidates to focus on all parts of a state, rather than only major metropolitan areas, along with balance political education and campaign spending (46). Other reforms have been either proposed or enacted upon such as instant-runoff voting, the proportionality plan, the national bonus plan, and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). Instant-runoff voting is already practiced in mayoral elections in major U.S. cities such as San Francisco and Minneapolis. The process involves the voter ranking the candidates on the ballot, then the candidate who attained the majority of #1 rankings wins the election. If no candidate collects the majority, there is a second run-off election between the top two.  The proportionality plan would separate the electoral votes based off of popularity, instead of “winner-takes-all” (22). For example, if Idaho had 60% of citizens vote for the republican candidate and 40% vote for the democratic candidate, out of their ten electoral votes, six would go to the republican candidate and four to the democratic candidate (22). This would better represent the wishes of everyone in the state, not just the majority or urbanites. A supporter of the electoral system could contend that, due to third party candidates and uneven proportions, the proportionality plan would not represent the wishes of the people because votes could not be broken up and distributed evenly. This is when majority would come back into play. For example, if 38% of Idahoans voted democratic, 4 votes would still be given to the Democrat. The National Bonus Plan proposes a solution in which the Electoral College and the majority vote would be fused together. It states that 102 votes, two per state plus D.C., would be given to the candidate who won the majority election in addition to the votes from the Electoral College (Herbst 23). Lastly, the NPVIC is an agreement that was started by states in 2006 that intended to accurately represent public opinion. It promises that states pledged to the compact would give all electoral votes to the candidate that won the popular vote. Thus far, ten states and D.C. have pledged totalling 165 votes, all of which are predominantly democratic states (Maskin par. 9). As previously stated, the Electoral College was created to be both an even divide between densely populated states and smaller states, along with protecting the U.S. government from uneducated voters (Amar 469). With easy access to televisions, news programs, articles, mass media, etc., uneducated voters now have a nearly neverending list of resources that can be utilized to learn about the different presidential candidates. Not only do they now have such resources, but presidential debates and interviews are constantly being conducted during election year which gives viewers first hand access to candidates and what their campaigns stand for. This deems the need for electors unnecessary. By the same token, as history has progressed, Americans have attained equal suffrage giving those that could not vote during the conception of the U.S. government a voice. This also eliminates the need for representatives. Some supporters believe the Electoral College protects from the need to recount and provides a clear result versus uncertainty (Goldstein par. 18). However, studies show the margin of fraudulent ballots to genuinely affect the outcome would have to be substantially more than one in such a close election. In contrast, this compared to the electoral votes shows one fraudulent electoral vote has a much larger effect (Bayh par. 34). Ultimately, while the proposed solutions may be more time consuming and still in some ways risky, they would provide the United States with an accurate, representative government. While the Electoral College does have its merits and does provide an organized method to select a president, it is an outdated system. Currently, the democracy of the United States  is being negatively impacted by the Electoral College through misrepresentation of the people, faithless elected officials, and ignorance of the American government. That being said, the original necessity for representatives due to lack of education is understandable for a newly forming country, however times have changed. After 231 years of protecting this undemocratic system, the citizens of the United States are ready to take on the additional responsibility that comes with another form of voting. It’s about time the voices of the governed are heard by the governors. Works Cited”About the Electors.” National Archives and Records Administration, National Archives and Records Administration. Accessed January 15 2018.Amar, Akhil R. “Some Thoughts on the Electoral College: Past, Present, and Future.” Yale Law School Legal Scholarship Repository, 1 Jan. 2007. Accessed 11 Nov. 2017.Bayh, Birch. “The Electoral College: An Enigma in a Democratic Society.” ValparaisoUniversity Law Review, vol. 11, no. 3, Spring 1977, pp. 316-334. Goldstein, Joel K. “Electoral College.” American Bar Association Division for Public   Education, American Bar Association, 1996. Accessed 15 January 2018.Grant, George. The Importance of the Electoral College. Vision Foreign Ministries, 2004.Herbst, Craig J. “Redrawing the Electoral Map: Reforming the Electoral College with the District-Popular Plan.” Hofstra Law Review, vol. 41, no. 1, 2012, pp.1-51. Janda, Kenneth, et al. The Challenge of Democracy. Wadsworth Publishing, 2009.Krogstad, Jens Manuel, et al. “Black Voter Turnout Fell in 2016, Even as a Record Number of Americans Cast Ballots.” Pew Research Center, 12 May 2017. Accessed 15 January 2018.Maskin, Eric, et al. “The Rules of the Games: A New Electoral System.” The New York Review of Books, 19 Jan. 2017. Accessed 11 Nov. 2017.


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