312-Hassan-US Presidency, Election procedure and Its Role

Locker No 312, Major Hassan
Professor Dr Mansoor Akbar Kundi
Introduction. United States is an established democracy with functional
constitution since 1789. It has matured over time and is considered a symbol for
other countries. It is a Presidential System in which US President has most of the
powers but there is a system of check and balances between US President, House
of Representatives, Senate and US Supreme Court.
Aim. To study and analyse election of US President and his role in Political
Historical Perspective.
founding fathers of United States met in
Philadelphia to write the legendary US Constitution in 1787. In creating the
constitution they recognised that they were designing the rules that would govern
how future political game would be played. The delegates to the 1787 Philadelphia
Convention, who framed the U.S. Constitution, brought with them various
conceptions of executive power. Three questions dominated the framers'
consideration of the role the executive would play in the new government. First, the
delegates discussed whether the executive should be a single individual or whether
multiple persons should share the office. Second, they considered at length the
amount of power the executive should wield. And third, they debated the best
means by which to elect the executive. Generally, deliberations on these questions
involved the balance of power in the new government. The framers feared that a
powerful executive could usurp legislative authority and engage in tyrannical
actions. The weak executives created by the state constitutions, however, proved
unable to prevent state legislatures from trampling on the people's rights. The
founding fathers sought to create a government in which, as James Madison
explained in FEDERALIST 51, "Ambition must be made to counteract ambition."
Madison deemed a balance of power necessary, and he called for a governmental
arrangement in which it would be in the best interest of all citizens to resist
executive encroachment. Although they recognized the importance of strong
leadership, Americans feared executive tyranny. To guard against the creation of
an authoritarian monarchy, many delegates called for a plural executive. Advocates
of a plural executive believed that vesting presidential power in more than one man
Stephen E. Frantzitch and Stephen L. Percy, American Government. (Brown and Benchmark
Publishers, 1994), P. 23.
would lessen the danger that leaders would abuse power. When the Pennsylvania
delegate James Wilson moved on June 1, 1787 that the executive should consist of
one person, a lengthy silence ensued. The framers eventually decided upon a
single executive. They decided this on the basis that conflicts would be more easily
avoided if there were only one executive. Also, they believed that Congress could
more carefully watch and check a single executive. The length of the president's
term and the method of election were also contested issues. The delegates initially
agreed that the president would serve a seven-year term and would be ineligible for
re-election. After much debate, they decided a bicameral Congress would elect the
executive. On July 26, the Convention presented its decisions to the Committee of
Detail, which was charged with the task of organizing the resolutions into a
constitutional draft. Of the five members of the Committee of Detail, only Nathaniel
Gorham advocated executive authority. As a result, the Committee's draft of the
description of the executive provided the office with scant power. In late August, as
the Committee of the Whole reconvened to examine the Committee of Detail's
draft, the proposed presidency consisted of the following:a.
There would be a single president elected for a seven-year term by a
joint session of Congress.
The president would be ineligible for re-election, would have no power
of appointment or removal, and could be impeached by the House
and convicted by the Supreme Court.
The president would be commander-in-chief, would possess a
conditional veto over Congressional legislation, and could grant
pardons and reprieves.
In the final days of the Convention, several adjustments were made in
these provisions and the executive office evolved into its current form.
The president's enumerated powers as listed in Article II of the
Constitution included commander-in-chief of the armed forces, the
authority to grant pardons and reprieves, the ability to veto legislation,
the power to make treaties with other nations, and the power to
appoint judges, executive department heads, and ambassadors.
To ensure a balance of power, the legislative and executive branches
had the ability to check presidential actions. For example, only
Congress could declare war, two-thirds of both Congressional houses
could override a presidential veto, the Senate must confirm all treaties
made by the president, and the Senate must approve presidential
appointments. The House could impeach the president with the
Senate serving as judge or court. The framers hoped this system of
checks and balances would prevent the reign of a tyrannical
executive. In addition to finalizing the executive's power, the framers
discussed methods of selecting the president. Lacking trust in the
people's ability to elect the president directly and hesitating to allow
existing legislative bodies to select the president, they designed the
Electoral College.
Election of US President
a natural-born citizen is eligible to serve as
President of the United States. He or she must be at least 35 years
old and must have been a 14 year resident in the United States prior
to running for office. So far the United States has never had a female
President or Vice President. As of the year 2001, the United States
has had 43 presidents since 1789; this number includes the current
President-Elect George W. Bush who took office on 20th of January
usually begins the year before a
Presidential election, but gets in to full swing after Labour Day the
year of the election. The candidates travel throughout the country
often speaking several times a day sometimes to greet crowds and
consult with various party leaders to gain support. Campaigns whip up
enthusiasm among supports and help bring voters to the polls. The
national conventions are held in the summer before a Presidential
election. Delegates from all the states, the District of Columbia, and
the United States possessions choose the party candidate for
President by majority vote, normally through state-to-state primaries
How The
3 ibid.
Election Methodology. 4The Presidential election is held on the
Tuesday after the first Monday of November in years divisible by four.
Voters do not vote directly for the President, but instead select
Presidential Electors. 5Each state is assigned a number of electors in
the Electoral College equal to the number of members of the House of
Representatives from that State plus the State’s two senators. 6Voters
choose a body of electors who run in the name of the Presidential and
Vice Presidential candidates of their party and are pledged to cast
their state's electoral votes for these candidates. The outcome is
usually known immediately after the popular votes are counted, but
the election is not officially settled until the electoral votes are cast
and counted in early January following the election year. If no
candidate receives the majority of electoral votes, the House of
Representatives chooses the President from the three with the
highest number of electoral votes. The balloting is by state, each state
having one vote. The electors meet in their state capitals on the first
Monday after the second Wednesday in December following their
election. Sealed certificates of the electoral vote of each state are
then sent to Washington D.C. On the sixth day of January the votes of
the electors of all the states are opened in the presence of both
Houses of Congress. After the votes are counted, the result of the
election of the President and Vice President is officially announced.
The President of the United States is inaugurated on the 20th of
January of the year following the election. The ceremony occurs on
the steps of the capitol. The oath of office is administered by the
current Chief of Justice of the United States.
Other facts. 7The President is the chief executive officer of the United
States national government. He is both head of state and head of
government. This is similar to having powers of a king and a prime
minister, in comparison to other republics. His salary was about
Stephen E. Frantzitch and Stephen L. Percy, American Government. (Brown and Benchmark
Publishers, 1994), P. 285.
How The
7 ibid.
$200,000 a year with $50,000 a year for expenses; both taxable.
Presidents may obtain not more than $100,000, non-taxable, for travel
and entertainment expenses. (A President receives a lifetime pension
of $60,000, plus free mailing privileges, free office space, and up to
$90,000 a year for office help. His widow receives $20,000 a year for
office help). President George Bush will receive $400,000 a year, due
to a bill passed while President Clinton was in office. The President of
the United States then serves a four year term as defined by the
Constitution of the United States (Article II, Sec. 1). He or she may
then campaign and run again. If elected again, they will serve another
four years. A President can serve only two terms. They do not have to
be consecutive, as in the case of the 22nd & 24th President Grover
Cleveland, but usually have been. However, Franklin D. Roosevelt
served four terms, but died before fourth term was up. The 22nd
Amendment of the Constitution, adopted in 1951, provides than no
one can be elected President more than twice.
Role of President in US Politics
Constitution of the United States gives the president enormous
power. However, it also limits that power. The authors of the
Constitution wanted a strong leader as president, but they did not
want an all-powerful king. As a result, they divided the powers of the
legislative, and judicial. The president, who is often called the chief
executive, heads the executive branch. Congress represents the
legislative branch. The Supreme Court of the United States and other
federal courts make up the judicial branch. Congress and the
Supreme Court may prevent or end any presidential action that
exceeds the limits of the president's powers and trespasses on their
authority. The president has many roles and performs many duties.
the Constitution assigns following powers to the
The President of the United State [Online] Available
Commander in Chief of the Armed Forces.
Make treaties, with two-thirds consent of the Senate.
Receive ambassadors and other public ministers from foreign
Appoint ambassadors, Supreme Court justices, federal judges,
and any officials as provided for by the Congress, with the
approval of the Senate.
Give an annual State of the Union Address to Congress.
Recommend legislation to Congress.
Convene Congress on extraordinary occasions.
Adjourn Congress, in cases of a disagreement about
"Take care that the laws be faithfully executed".
Fill in administrative vacancies during Congressional recesses.
Grant reprieves and pardons for offences against the US.
For convenience, we have divided these main powers into
three categories: Head of State, Administrative, and Legislative
Head of State, the President meets with the leaders of other
countries. He has the power to recognize those lands as official
countries and to make treaties with them. However, the Senate must
approve any treaty before it becomes official. The President also has
the power to appoint ambassadors to other countries, with the
Senate’s approval. The President is also the official head of the U.S.
military. As Commander in Chief, he can authorize the use of troops
overseas without declaring war. To declare war officially, though, he
must get the approval of the Congress. The President’s administrative
duties include appointing the heads of each Executive Branch
department. Of course, these appointments are subject to the
approval of the Senate. The President also has the power to request
the written opinion of the head of each Executive Branch department,
regarding any subject relating to their department.
Procedure for Impeachment of President of United States.
of the U.S. Constitution adopted the British procedure with modifications primarily
designed to discourage the practice (then common in England) of using
impeachment as an instrument of political warfare. Six clauses in the federal
Constitution embody the law: Article I, sections 2 and 3; Article II, sections 2 and 4.
The House indicts, the Senate tries, and the chief justice of the United States
presides over the inquiry in case of impeachment of the president. Traditionally, the
House, after drawing up and voting on articles of impeachment that specify the
charges and their factual bases, assigns congressional "managers" (prosecutors) to
present the case before the Senate. At the start of the trial, the members of the
Senate are sworn in as "jurors" by the chief justice. A two-thirds vote of the
senators present is required to convict. Punishment is limited to removal from
office, though disqualification from future office is considered to fall within the
discretion of the Senate, and the acts of the accused are still subject to criminal
proceedings in the courts. Impeachable acts are "Treason, Bribery, or other high
Crimes and Misdemeanours." The presidential power to grant pardons does not
extend to impeached persons. One of the most vexing questions raised by these
provisions is what are high crimes and misdemeanours?" Few have questioned that
the actions attributed to Pres. Richard Nixon during the Watergate affair were
sufficiently criminal to warrant impeachment. But citizens and experts alike
questioned the impeachment in 1998 of Pres. Bill Clinton for lying about an illicit
sexual affair, which many considered to have little or no bearing on the president's
ability to conduct his office. The conclusion reached by most scholars is that clear
criminal law violations represent impeachable offences, whereas misconduct that is
not necessarily criminal but that undermines the integrity of the office (such as
disregard of constitutional responsibilities) may rise to the level of an impeachable
offence. Partly because of this and other ambiguities, and partly because the trial
stands to tie up the Senate for a considerable length of time, impeachment has
taken place infrequently at the national level. Repeated attempts in Congress to
simplify impeachment or to establish a special court for the removal of judges have
fallen before the enduring conviction that the present procedure, however
cumbersome, is a necessary element of the system of checks and balances. By
making impeachment difficult, the Constitution guards against the intrusion of the
legislature into the business of the judiciary and executive branches. It also ensures
that impeachment remains primarily a legal, or judicial, procedure rather than a
political process. Attempts have been made to impeach a number of presidents, but
only Andrew Johnson, Richard Nixon, and Bill Clinton were in real danger of being
removed from office.
Analysis of US Presidential Election and Presidency
US Presidential system is a very good federal system with appropriate
check and balance between the powers of all three pillars of state i.e.
executive, legislature and judiciary.
Electoral system of counting votes in which the candidate
winning the majority of popular vote in a state wins all the electors
encourages Presidential Candidates to focus their campaign effort on
the politically competitive states with the largest number of electoral
votes. Thus advertising campaign and candidates visits emphasis
major urban areas of large population states where the candidate can
see a lot of voters and capture the attention of both local and national
media. The winner takes all nature of the Electoral College encourage
both the voters and issues of those states they have either little
chance of winning or losing.
The Electoral system of counting votes means that popular vote of
people is not truly respected e.g. a candidate winning 49% of valid
votes in a state does not get even a single elector vote in that state.
Hence 49% valid voters are denied any participation in the election of
President. The whole system of Presidential Election is quite
undemocratic as 2000 Elections brought out that Democrat Candidate
Al Gore was defeated despite winning more overall popular votes.
Electors selected through Presidential Election elects the President.
Electoral College elects are not bound to vote for popular vote.
US President enjoys overwhelming powers which if given to a realist
person like George W. Bush could destabilise the whole world.
Stephen E. Frantzitch and Stephen L. Percy, American Government. (Brown and Benchmark
Publishers, 1994), P. 368.
The growing cost of Presidential Campaign forces Presidential
Candidates to look for donations from individuals and organisations.
These contributing organisations can have a motive for financing
which they would pursue in case of success of their sponsored
candidate which could become harmful for democracy. Influence of
Jewish organisations in United States is a typical case in point.
Despite propagating the trumpet of equality no women has ever been
elected as President of United States.
Equal Rights
Amendment (ERA) is an example of a proposed constitutional
amendment which was approved by both houses of Congress but
failed to obtain approval at the states’ level.
Despite the American commitment to equality, the presidential
selection process takes place on an uneven playing field that
historically deals out many more potential players that it includes
which is a clear case of discrimination.
Conclusion. The presidential selection process shapes the nature of
Presidency it spawns by determining the incoming leader and the nature of the
team he brings into the White House. Constitutional requirements and public
preferences limit the bench of potential players to a relatively restricted set of
contenders. Presidents are human being who bring with them a series of past
behaviour patterns and personal goals that affect the way in which they view and
carryout their duties. Presidents set the tone of their administrations and establish
key policy priorities. Success or failure is marked to a large degree by the
President’s skill and willingness to go beyond the strict constitutional definition of
the President as an administrator and enter the political battle.
Stephen E. Frantzitch and Stephen L. Percy, American Government. (Brown and Benchmark
Publishers, 1994), P. 48.
14 ibid, P. 365.
Stephen E. Frantzitch and Stephen L. Percy, American Government, Brown
and Benchmark Publishers, 1994.
How The President of the United States Is Elected [Online] Available
The President of the United State [Online] Available http://bensguide.gpo.gov/9-
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