Monday, October 27, 2008

The Electoral College -- Pass or Fail?

Michael White, Archivist of the United States, explains his role in "administering the Electoral College process on behalf of the states and the Congress," as well as the history of the electoral college in this article from Prologue Magazine.

You know how it's a common joke that our electoral system is complicated and confusing? Remember the 2000 election? Here are some quotes from the above article, designed to further strike fear into the heart of the voter:

"... the incoming officials may not be well prepared to grapple with the stylized procedural language of the 19th century and some of the more arcane aspects of federalism."

"Too often, Federal Register attorneys would later have to track down bewildered bureaucrats who were surprised to learn that they had been given this task."

"There are more than a few things that can go wrong."

"It was not unusual for as many as half of the electoral votes intended for the Senate to be misdirected, which raised the stakes for the Federal Register to obtain the reserve set of votes for the Congress to act upon. "

The National Archives has created a guide to the U.S. Electoral College, which is designed to educate both the public and election officials on proper procedures. Keep your fingers crossed.


HomelessRobles said...

The electoral college is an archaic system that no longer accurately represents the votes of its constituents. 2000 was not the first time that a pres. was elected when not winning the popular vote, but 2000 did mark the first time it happened in the new age of mass media. People know more, and have access to more information now than ever before. I'd think that the people can vote directly for president-- that they're educated enough to do so (mostly)-- and not have to have an elector cast a vote for thousands.

The electoral college effectively disenfranchises a large segment of the populace. It fails. Epically.

Anonymous said...

The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided "battleground" states. In 2004 two-thirds of the visits and money were focused in just six states; 88% on 9 states, and 99% of the money went to just 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people were merely spectators to the presidential election. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule under which all of a state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.

Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.

In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.

The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.

The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

The National Popular Vote bill has passed 21 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.