vineri, 11 februarie 2011

The Electoral College System...Good or Bad? read this and then reconsider the question..

Election season is among us and once again so many uninformed people will go to the polls and choose the person they want to run this wonderful nation, not based on merit or qualifications but instead on the clothes they wear or because of their stance on one or two their beliefs. I would bet that less than 2% of the American voters really have an understanding of the views and track records of the person they vote for. If Oprah Winfrey ran for president against Abraham Lincoln, today, Oprah would win hands down because Abe's hat wasn't in style. Its scary if you ask me. How many of you are against the electoral college. Do you actually understand the purpose of it? Well here you go.. Check it out. If after reading this you are still against it, go to the wall and beat your head against it for an hour. Maybe that will knock some sense into you..

After the very interesting election of 2000, I became interested in our system of electing the president that we call the Electoral College. After the controversial outcome of the election, many people wanted change and demanded that the electoral college be replaced by the popular vote system. Due to the abnormal outcome of the 2000 election many people felt robbed and thought that they as the people didn’t have the power to elect the president of their choice. The common theme of the time was the “disenfranchised American voter”. I took it upon myself to research this process called the electoral college, I and wondered what could the Founding Fathers -- the Framers of the Constitution -- the Champions of Democracy -- have been thinking in 1787? Did they not realize that the Electoral College effectively took the power to select the American president of out of the hands of the American people? After learning more about the system I realized that yes, they did. In fact, the Founding Fathers always intended that the states -- not the people -- select the president. They designed the system to purposely work that way.When we step into the voting booth and pull the lever or punch the hole, we aren’t directly electing the president—we’re electing members of the Electoral College. They elect the president. It was designed this way to ensure that ALL STATES of the union have a chance to affect the outcome of the election. It was also intended to be protection for the smaller states and for the entire voting populace. The Electoral College does even more than provide states with influence and protection, it provides small states with power they would not have with a popular election.James Madison, chief architect of our nation’s electoral college, wanted to protect each citizen against “the most insidious tyranny” that arises in democracies: the massed power of fellow citizens banded together in a “dominant bloc.” As Madison explained in The Federalist Papers (Number X), “a well-constructed Union” must, above all else, “break and control the violence of faction,” especially “the superior force of an . . . overbearing majority.” In any democracy, a majority’s power threatens minorities. It threatens their rights, their property, and sometimes their lives. The Electoral College System, by requiring candidates to win states on the way to winning the nation, has forced majorities to win the consent of minorities, checked the violence of factions, and held the country together. So, the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College system as a process to insulate the selection of the president from the whims of a politically naive public. They also intended that the Electoral College system would enforce the concept of federalism -- the division and sharing of powers between the state and national governments.The Electoral College system does contain within it one small, unavoidable paradox. Every once in a while, if we use districting to jack up individual voting power, we’ll have an electoral “anomaly”—a classic example, in 1888 Benjamin Harrison nudged out a slightly more popular Grover Cleveland. Harrison got 47.9% of the popular vote versus Cleveland’s 48.6%. Cleveland won the popular vote by 100,456 votes but the electors chose Harrison, overwhelmingly (233 to 168). They were not acting perversely. According to the rules laid out in the constitution, Harrison was the winner. These “anomalies”, including other close calls like Bush Gore in 2000, should be viewed not as defects but as signs that the system is working. It is protecting individual voting power by preserving the threat that small numbers of votes in this or that district can turn the election. All that happens is someone with fewer votes gets elected, temporarily. What doesn’t happen may be far more important. In 1888, victorious Republicans didn’t celebrate by jailing or killing Democrats and Democrats didn’t find Harrison so intolerable that they took up arms. Cleveland came back to win four years later, beating Harrison under the same rules as before. The republic survived. Other close calls have gone the other way like in 1960 when John F. Kennedy narrowly beat Richard Nixon in popular voting, 49.7 percent to 49.5 percent a smaller margin than Cleveland had over Harrison. Kennedy won the bigger states and went on to win the electoral balloting, so in this case the popular vote winner became president.As citizens of The United States of America we must remember that each state is a member of the union effectively making it the United States. As The United States we must acknowledge the fact that each state has certain needs based on their location and population. The citizens of NY, Chicago and Los Angeles may all have the same type of political concerns based on their demographics, while states like Wyoming, Kansas, Hawaii and Alaska may have totally different political needs. The Electoral College allows for these states to have an influence in the election process, when a popular vote only system may fail them and ultimately alienate them from the entire process. The Electoral College by allowing each state an opportunity to influence an elections outcome is capable of opposing an overbearing majority, while direct national voting is not. Under raw voting, a candidate has every incentive to tempt only the largest bloc or the majority, (e.g. Serbs in Yugoslavia). If a Serb party wins national power, minorities have no prospect of throwing them out; 49% will never beat 51%. Knowing this, the majority can do as it pleases (lacking other effective checks and balances). But in a districted election, no one becomes president without winning a large number of districts, or “states”- -say, two of the following three: Serbia, Bosnia, and Croatia. Candidates thus have an incentive to campaign for non-Serb votes in at least some of those states and to tone down extreme positions. The Founding Fathers understood this and purposely created the Electoral College.Still, so many uninformed Americans are disgusted with this system. Their confusion and ignorance of the system causes them to push for reform. These confused Americans would want nothing more than to see this system changed to a popular vote only system. Even the House of Representatives in 1969 approved a constitutional amendment that teetered on the verge of wrecking the Electoral College, an institution that has no equal anywhere in the world. The American Bar Association at the time supported the move, calling our current electoral system “archaic, undemocratic, complex, ambiguous, indirect, and dangerous.” In the Senate, too, the amendment had broad support but it ultimately died there. It had majority support, but not the two-thirds majority required to pass it. The important thing to remember is that as a nation we are not the pure or direct democracy that we so often confuse ourselves with. Instead and definitely for the better we are a representative democracy. Only in a pure democracy could one expect or demand to have a popular vote system. In fact that is the basic definition of a pure democratic system. Our system, a Representative democracy, I believe was a good choice by the framers because direct democracies historically have been subject to anarchy. Without the electoral system, our democracy might well have fallen apart long ago into warring factions. If the opponents of the Electoral College had it their way and we adopted the direct-election system, no candidate would ever visit the 30 smallest states (population) in the U.S., including New Mexico. Every campaign would be based around the big, urban city. If you don't live in NY City, Los Angeles, or Chicago, you wouldn’t see the candidates. The idea is to be sure all votes in a district have power. Ideally no single party, race, ethnic group, or other bloc, nationally large or nationally small, will dominate any of the districts-- which for now happen to be the 50 states plus Washington, D.C.Some political experts argue that the Electoral College robs voters of their individual power. A physicist from MIT named Alan Natapoff, in 1970, questioned that belief and he worked on a theorem that would show the people the value of our Electoral College. He worked on a mathematical explanation to identify the voters’ power in an electoral system versus a direct popular voting system. He asked himself, “What is the probability that one person’s vote will be able to turn a national election?” The higher the probability, the more power each voter commands. Almost always, he found, individual voting power is higher when funneled through districts--such as states--than when pooled in one large, direct election. It is more likely, in other words, that your one vote will determine the outcome in your state and your state will then turn the outcome of the Electoral College, than that your vote will turn the outcome of a direct national election. A voter therefore, Natapoff found, has more power under the current electoral system.In The United States many people seem to have the belief that we as Americans all want and need the same thing but the reality is that we need different things from our politicians and we ultimately have different views. The Electoral College ensures that the minority will have the capability to affect the outcome of an election and hopefully have their needs met by their elected officials. I think the events of election 2000 needed to happen to show the ignorant public how the system was designed and to assure the smaller states (population) of the union that they too have a say in the election. It reinforces the fact that we are a representative democracy and we use a representative process called the Electoral College to elect our president. The public needs to understand the benefits of this system and why James Madison developed it this way. The Electoral College is essential to protecting the rights and needs of the minority e.g. Yugoslavia.I am proud of our system and am thankful that it gives my vote more individual power it allows for my needs and my states needs to be considered. I want the officials who run for office to hear my voice and to visit my state so I may have the opportunity to influence them. The bottom line really is that mathematically I get more bang for my buck with the electoral college, Natapoff proved that mathematically. So in answer to the question what electoral reforms would I recommend today, other than educating the public on our systems benefits, absolutely none. Thanks to the framers for putting this system in place and I hope that we as Americans can learn to respect it and hold on to it with a clenched fist.