Omer Ibrahim
Business Law
Contrary to belief the president of the United States is not elected directly by the popular
vote rather the constitution of the United States declares 538 electors elect the president from all
states forming the Electoral College. The College cast the ballots for the candidate that is
receiving majority support from his or her state. Most of the time the winner of the popular vote
receives the support of the Electoral College. The 2000 election resulted in Gore losing the
presidency even though he had 500000 more citizen votes. The outcome resulted in widespread
anger among Gore's supporters and confusion between those who are unfamiliar with EC. The
result encouraged many to abolish it in favor of a direct election. The paper describes the
Electoral college, how it functions, and why it is such a controversy. In Addition, the paper
emphasizes why the founding fathers designed the EC and highlights arguments for and against
its reform. The paper concludes with why the EC should be abolished due to its
misrepresentation of the individual voter.
The Electoral College and how if functions?
The 2000 United States Presidential elections witnessed one of the most controversial
elections in US history. Both candidates were close in the race, Governor George W Bush and
the vice president Al Gore both were favored to be elected as president. It was election night and
there was a great deal of excitement from both candidates and their supporters. The whole
nation watched the elections unravel, out of 105,405,10 Al Gore had almost 500,000 votes over
Bush with 48% of the votes (Federal election commission 2001). Many thought that Gore had
the popular vote making him the president or so many voters thought. Many were unaware of the
fact that the popular vote did not directly result in the winner becoming the president. after vote
submission, the Electoral College (EC) is the final phase of electing the president.
The popular vote does not only elect the president of the United States instead he is also
selected by a group of five hundred and thirty-eight representatives known as the Electoral
College. The smallest state has around three College representatives while the biggest state
California has fifty- five members. The distribution of representative depends on the population
of each state. These College members are local politicians that vote depending on their state's
political leaning or which candidate they see fit to be president. This system was defined by the
founding father to secure the representation of states along with individual vote. The system
creates a balance of powers which is similar to the balance between the federal branches of
government (Huffington post, 2016)
In the EC race, George Bush won the election with two hundred and seventy-one votes,
despite losing the popular vote. (Lori 2001). Americans do not elect their president directly
leaving many to question it this process is fair and if it is a democracy? Many believe that It
contradicts the statement "The power with the people." and many also question the point of
voting if the Electoral College supersedes the popular vote?
What the Founding Fathers feared
The attorney and the author of Enlightened Democracy: the case of the Electoral College
states that the 2000 election awaked many Americans to the existence of the College. Not many
voters seemed to harbor any strong feeling towards the College before the 2000 election and
after the voting results in many instantly developed opposing opinions regarding the wisdom that
the forefathers placed on states to vote for the presidency instead of citizens. Those who
supported Bush became instant supporters of the College while those who supported Gore
seemed to question the fairness of the American democratic process(Henry B. 2004).
Since the Electoral College establishment in 1787 many have tried to challenge it, the
Florida State University Randall Holcombe stated that the process was not intended to be directly
democratic. All the early presidents were elected by elites and not by the population. Popular
vote only became relevant in the 1820s with the election of Andrew Jackson. Furthermore, he
mentioned that the founding father did not intend for the public policy to be determined by the
masses, they tried to ensure that the public policy is not subjected to the direct demand of the
public. They were worried that liberty could be threatened by democracy and the ignorance of
the masses in supporting a tyrannical dictator. Holcombe also explains that the founders formed
the EC to guard liberty against that danger of pure democracy and giving powers to the masses.
He added any proposed that the presidency should solely be decided by citizens to make
the elections both consistent and efficient. The founding father made sure that the voter still
guides the elections but with the direction of the College. James Madison was worried that about
what he called factions or a group of citizens who share a common view that might violate the
rights of others or that are destructive to the nation. Furthermore, countless scholars argued wellreasoned arguments to reform it, but they all failed in transforming these arguments into written
amendments, and since its installments, the College stood concrete as the best option that lasted
for the last two hundred years.
The Political Solution the EC provides
Another benefit that the EC provides is that it empowers the states in deciding the
president and the future of the country. American already look for the federal government to
resolve its social problems. It reminds many how the states still play a huge role in American
politics. The independent hall of association mentioned that federalism compromises and
balances between the two layers of government. The federal system is a shared power between
the national and state government, where certain powers are granted to the central government
and some for the with state (Edwards, 2012).
Two party system
When some of the power in electing the president is with the states, candidates try to
cater to each state's needs. They must run a national campaign which addresses the whole nation
demands and local campaigns targeted toward each state's individual needs. For example,
Arizona has a problem with immigration, and it significant Hispanic population. A candidate
needs to form campaign strategies and offer solutions to secure the Electoral votes in Arizona.
This makes candidates aware of all the national issue that each state is struggling with and it
compels them to address these issues when a nominee becomes president. The Electoral College
provides government stability through the two-party system even though the Democrats and the
Republicans are divided ideologically yet this mechanism provides acceptable candidates that
appeal for the majority of the American people. Also, it filters out candidates with extreme
views. (2017)
Trent England, a member of the US news debate club, mentioned " In most presidential
races, the Electoral College outcome is more decisive than the popular vote result, making clear
who is legitimate president. The EC also uses the states like watertight compartments on a liner
to contain election problems. A dispute in one state does not sink the whole ship, and nationwide
recounts are never necessary." Demanding a recount for votes on a national level is irrational
instead recounting a specific state's votes. Furthermore, he mentioned that Americans are
fortunate that the founding fathers debated to create the Electoral College. Today it functions
better than what the founding fathers imagined by not tipping the scales towards Republicans or
Democrats instead it serves the interest of all. The College is a unique solution that produces a
democratic solution without the dangers of "pure democracy" or majority control.
Al Gore vs. Bush case
The National Constitution center mentioned that the Bush and Al Gore case is one of the
few cases where the Electoral College was a controversial issue. As said before many believed
that Al Gore had the upper hand in the race until many Americans woke up in the morning with
the news of Bush securing presidency. The first vote in Florida resulted in Bush winning over
Gore with 317 votes, and This led Gore to ask for a manual recount of the votes in some of
Florida's counties under Florida's elections laws. The recount led to a between Democrats and
Republicans for the next few weeks especially over recount deadlines. On November 26 the
Kathrine Harris the Florida secretary confirmed that Bush won the votes by 537, which lead
Gore to sue Harris for declaring Bush as the winner before counting all the ballots. Florida's
supreme court sided with Gore and ordered to recount all the ballots. Bush retaliated and
appealed Florida's supreme court decision to the Supreme Court, which resulted in the stop of
vote recount, so the Supreme Court to listen to arguments from both sides. The Supreme court
decision overturned Florida's court decision resulted in Bushes’ vitory. "a 7–2 ruling, the U.S.
Supreme Court overturned the Florida decision, holding that the various methods and standards
of the recount process violated the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution." Britannica.
The two opposing justices criticized the decision and mentioned that the recount process should
have continued because every vote is protected under constitutional protection and should not be
subjected to a timeline.
Hayes vs. Tilden
The 2000 election was not the first case where the Electoral College was questioned. The
1876 presidential election witnessed a considerable controversy regarding the Colleges votes. In
1876 the presidential election was between Rutherford B. Hayes and the Democrat Samuel J.
Tilden. Tilden won the popular vote with 260,000 votes over Hayes and secured the Electoral
College race by 184 votes, he was also one vote away from winning the presidency while Hayes
lacked 20 EC votes. Tilden won Louisiana, Florida, and South Carolina but all of these states had
Republic controlled election boards, resulting in these boards recounting their votes. The recount
resulted in reversing Tilden's victory resulting and both parties claiming victory. (Rutherford B.
Hayes library, 2018 ).
Moreover, due to three states dispute the Congress created an Electoral Commission
comprising of both seven Republican seven Democrats and one Supreme Court justice. The
commission voted two days before the inauguration with 8-7 votes for Hayes securing his
presidency. The Commission’s decision was the result of a closed-door meetings between the
leadership of the two parties. The Democrats compromised and accepted Hayes presidency in
return for the removal of all federal troops from the south. Additionally, the deal is also known
as the Compromise of 1877 (Rutherford B. Hayes library, 2018).
The recent case against the EC
The 2016 election of Donald Trump winning the Electoral vote majority over Hillary
who secured the popular vote stirred up the 2000 election controversy again. Many Democrats
were upset about Trump's win because they viewed that the majority of the American people did
not vote for him. Recently in July of 2018, the former presidential candidate Lawrence Lessing
along with other voter rights activists are suing California's win for all EC system. It Lessing
took this action because he states that it disfranchises the Republican voter. The lawsuit consists
of two arguments, and firstly it is California infringing the constitution's equal protection by not
complying with precedents of the Supreme Court of " on Person one vote." The second violation
is of the second amendment right to free speech in which the lawsuit argues that California
curbed the citizen's ability to associate with a political party. The chief counsel of Equal Citizens
Jassor Harry is also working with Lessing to help individual voters to have a stronger voice. He
said, "we want to help all voters to have some kind of say in states where their votes do not
matter." Both activists are also suing Massachusetts for the low representation or Republicans
and Red states such as Texas and South Carolina for the misrepresentation of blue voters.
Harrows also mentioned "If California's motion is denied, the lawsuit will continue through the
court system. If the case is tossed, Harrow said his team will likely appeal the judge's ruling".
Anderson (2018).
The Opposing View
On the other hand, countless people believe that the college must be abolished to secure
"pure democracy" for the individual voter. Both the 2000 and the 2016 elections left the majority
of the population upset. Michael Ventrella, an angry voter, commented on a proposal to abolish
the current elections process. He also stated that as a Republican living in Massachusetts his vote
is meaningless. "with the winner take all elections we have now, people who are in the minor
party in their state have no reason to come out and vote”. Minority voters believe that their votes
do not count resulting in low participation. Both the elections of 2000 and 2008 had a voter
turnout of 55% (Peters 2014).
Another disadvantage that Electoral College opposers indicate is the division of power
between states. California has the most significant electoral votes for Democrats while
Republicans hold Indiana most Republican votes. Due to the imbalance of votes between
countries forcing presidential candidates to focus on particular states with the higher number of
votes. PBS New Hour mentioned that both Trump and Hillary both focused 90% of their
campaigns on 11 battleground states such as Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio (, 2017)
The EC is a great way to preserve the democracy that the founding father placed because
of the ignorance of the individual in the past. The founding fathers intended for the voter to
decide the fate of the nation indirectly, and to have the elite politicians help steer the election's
direction for the security of the nation. Today majority of the American people are aware and
educated about the social and political problems that the country is facing. The case of 1876
elections revealed the weakness of the Electoral College system. The system allowed few
politicians to decide the country's fate behind closed doors. Hayes won the elections due to him
promising to remove federal soldiers from the south, ending the era of reconstruction and
resulting in the subjugation of former slaves. The EC diminished the voters in the election of
2000. Bush’s win in Florida, and the slowing of the vote recounts was just as nefarious as
the1876 elections. The Supreme Court should have allowed the count of all the votes to decide
the winner without question. Furthermore, if Bush was not elected and Supreme Court listened to
the majority of the American people we could have prevented two bloody wars with
Afghanistan and Iraq, which destroyed these countries and created ghost terrorist organization.
Unfortunately, the win of Trump through the Electoral majority was a disaster. Direct elections
could have prevented us from having a president that uses his position for financial gain, and the
termination of the Paris Climate Change Treaty and The Iran Deal. Sadly, the founding fathers
should have realized that the majority votes could have protected the nation and prevent it from
countless conflict. The Future will sure abolish the EC and give the individual citizen the power
to decide his country's future.
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