Thursday, December 6, 2007

Some Americans think that the electoral process we now have with the Electoral College is working well for our country. But, since the 2000 election, when Al Gore won the most popular votes but George W. Bush won the most electoral votes and therefore the presidency, more and more Americans are considering reform or abolition of the Electoral College. In a country like the United States that values democracy, the ideal method of election would be a direct election of the president; however, a nationwide, direct popular vote presents many problems. First, if the vote were extremely close, then there may be some uncertainty about who should become president and a recount may be needed. That is the second problem with a direct popular vote; nationwide recounts would be almost impossible(Turner Jr. 415). Florida had difficulty doing its own recounts in the 2000 election, so imagine trying to do a recount like that in every state. A direct popular vote seems like a good idea, but in a close election it would just take too long to decide who wins the election and we could possibly end up with no definite winner. However, just because a direct popular would be difficult does not mean nothing should be done to reform the Electoral College. Therefore, after considering both sides of the argument, the best compromise is to reform, not abolish, the Electoral College by instituting a divide vote system where not all Electoral College votes go to one candidate so that the electoral votes that go to each candidate will better reflect the popular vote.
It is clear that the electoral process we have now does need some reform. The 2000 election was not the first time that a candidate lost the popular vote but won the presidency. This has happened four times in the past. The first time was the election of 1876 when Samuel Tilden won the popular vote but lost the election when the last twenty disputed electoral votes were awarded to Rutherford Hayes (Turner Jr. 411). This can occur because the winner –take-all system o f distributing electoral votes does not accurately show the proportions of popular votes the candidate receives in each state. For example, the popular vote in a state may be close, but all the electoral votes would go to the candidate who got more popular votes by a slight margin (MacBride 44). When the candidate who wins a majority of the popular votes does not win the election, a majority of the American public will be unhappy with the result. Obviously, that is a problem since American are supposed to be able to elect their leaders. If the electoral process were reformed to divide the electoral votes among candidates, the electoral votes that each candidate receives would be a representation of the popular vote in that state. This is easier to do than a direct popular vote and it reflects the popular vote.
Yet another problem with our current system of electing presidents is that there may be faithless electors. A faithless elector is a member of the Electoral College who does not vote the same way as the popular vote in the state. This distorts the voting in an election and could possibly affect the outcome of an election. In the 2004 election one elector voted for John Edwards when the popular voting in his state showed that he should have voted for John Kerry (Bennett 122). Some states have been able to eliminate the possibility of faithless electors by imposing fines, forcing the elector to resign if he decides to become faithless, or treating faithless voting as a fourth degree felony (Bennett 121). The fact that not all states try to discourage faithless electors shows that reform is necessary to eliminate the possibility of faithless electors. If we divided the electoral votes of each state among the candidates, based on proportions of the popular votes or based on the popular votes in each district, electors would not be needed to decide who gets the votes, so that eliminates the possibility of faithless electors entirely.
We do know that a reform to split the electoral votes of a state between the candidates can work because two states, Maine and Nebraska, already do this. Maine has four congressional districts which means it has four electoral votes. The candidate who wins the most popular votes in a congressional district receives one electoral vote. The number of electoral votes a candidate receives is determined by how many districts in which he or she wins the popular vote (Official Web Site of the State of Maine). Nebraska does the same except it awards two last votes to the statewide winner. This system of electing presidents is based on popular votes in each district (Wagner 579). There is an alternative method of dividing votes that is based on the proportions of popular votes statewide (MacBride 43). However, this method would not always work out well if the proportions of electoral votes did not come out to be whole numbers (Wagner 585). So the best method of splitting electoral votes seems to be based on popular vote in each congressional district. Under this system, both the popular vote and the Electoral College are used to determine who will be president. If a recount were needed, it would only have to be performed in the congressional district that had the dispute, so it would be much easier and more efficient than a nationwide recount (Turner Jr. 415). The electors in each congressional district are required to vote the same way as the majority popular vote in that district so there will be no faithless electors (Bennett 121). Added benefits of this method of dividing votes is that presidential candidates will campaign equally as much in small states and large states because each congressional district is treated separately and the will be less voter apathy since the popular vote will decide who wins the electoral vote (Schumaker and Loomis 132). In order for this system to be fair, all states would have to use this method of distributing electoral votes. California recently considered changing to a split electoral vote system but decided against it because it would not be fair (Alter). California has the most electoral votes (55) and generally votes Democratic. So if California implemented the split electoral votes now it would be helping Republican candidates and hurting Democratic candidates (Alter). Especially since Texas has the second highest number of electoral votes (34), tends to vote Republican, and is not considering using the split voting system. It would take national government involvement to get all states to change to splitting electoral votes to make that system fair (Alter).
The Electoral College does need to be reformed because it allows for a candidate to win an election even if he or she loses the popular vote, but a direct popular vote is too difficult to conduct nationally. Therefore, the best method of electing a president is by splitting the electoral votes in each state based on the popular vote in each congressional district in all states. This method requires both the Electoral College and the popular vote to elect a president. It is not as difficult as a direct, national popular vote, but it still represents the popular vote. This method still uses the Electoral College and electoral votes per state, but it requires the elector to vote the same way as the popular vote in each congressional district. It is a compromise between supporters of the popular vote method and the Electoral College method and it truly seems like a fair method if electing presidents that will produce outcomes that will make a majority of Americans happy.

Works Cited
Alter, Jonathan. “A Red Play for the Golden State.” Newsweek. 13 August 2007.

Bennett, Robert W. “ The Problem of the Faithless Elector: Trouble Aplenty Brewing Just
Below the Surface in Choosing the President.” Northwestern University Law Review
100.1 (2006): 121-130.

MacBride, Roger Lea. The American Electoral College. Caldwell: The Caxton Printers Ltd, 1963.

Schumaker, Paul D., and Burdett A. Loomis, eds. Choosing a President. New York: Chatham
House Publishers, 2002.

Official Web Site of the State of Maine. 2007. 4 December 2007 <>.

Turner Jr., John J. “One Vote for the Electoral College.” History Teacher 40.3 (2007): 411-416.

Wagner, David S. “The Forgotten Avenue of Reform: The Role of States in Electoral Change.”
Review of Litigation 25.3 (2006); 575-602.

Saturday, December 1, 2007

Step 6: Collaborative Brief

We will begin with our own opinions of the issue. After stating these, we will use a similar thesis to find a way to mediate the topic. Next we will point out flaws of our chosen sides. We will both conclude that the popular vote is not a good idea and that splitting electoral votes yields a truer depiction of the peoples vote.
Thesis: After looking at both sides of this argument, the best way to compromise the two is institute a divide vote system where not all Electoral College votes go to one candidate.
Reason 1: Electoral College needs Reform
Evidence: the four elections that did not show the true peoples vote
Reason 2: Popular vote is too difficult
Evidence 2: Recounts are tough, allow for third parties
Reason 3: Negates faithless electors
Evidence: They no longer exist.
Reason 4: Maine and Nebraska have good systems already in place
Evidence 4: RESEARCH!
Conclusion: Electoral College needs reform; it’s old and has produced the wrong winner on multiple accounts. With a greater attentive public, the electors of the Electoral College are unnecessary. Look into proportional vote or district popular votes. District popular voting has the best potential. This only works when all states participate.

Sunday, November 18, 2007


Our system of electing a president now needs to be reformed, but not necessarily abolished.

1. A candidate can recieve a majority of the poular vote but lose the presidency.
Evidence: this has happened in the 1876 election and the 2000 election
This can happen because the winner-take all system of distributing votes and the possiblity of faithless electors do not acurately reflect the popular vote.

2.The winner -take -all system does not show if a popular vote in the state is close.
evidence: the voting may be very close but all the electoral votes go to the candidate with the majority even if that candidate got the majority vote by only a slight margin. 48 states have this system(maine and Nebraska are the two that don't). since two states divide their votes to better reflect the popular vote we know that that new method can work. This can be done using proportions of the popular vote or by giving the electoral vote of each congressional district to the cndidate that recieves the most popular vote in that district.Two possible problems with this are taht proportions of the votes may not work out to whole numbers of votes and the second method might encourage gerrymandering. The winner take all system also encourages candidates to focus on campaigning mostly in the states with more electoral votes and ignore the smaller states.

3. another problem with the system we have now is that the elector in each state does not neccessarily have to vote the same way as the majority vote in that state. when they don't vote like the popular vote, they are called faithless voters and they can distort the voting in an election. This has happend before like in the 2000 election one elector voted for John Edwards when the popular voting in his state said he should vote for John Kerry. Some staes try to discourage this by imposing fines or forcing resignation as elector or counting being a faithless voter as a fourth degree felony as in North Carolina and New Mexico.

4. We could consider going to a direct popular vote system, but that could cause many problems with uncertainty of who sould be president if there is a really close vote. Also recounts would be extemely difficult. So It could take a very long time to decide who won the election which would be bad for our country to not have any leader for a while. another thing to consider about direct popular vote is that it makes it easier for a third party or other more local candidates to recieve more votes which may or may not be a good thing, I do't know how that would affect future elections. so I think some reforms to our curent system of electing presidents is the best choice.

Conclusion: I would consider reforming the electoral process so that each congressional district is counted separatly with one vote that would go to the candidate that recieves the most poular votes in that district.
this would reflect the popular vote better and make candidates consider all the congressional districts not just the ones in states with more total electoral votes and it would make it impossible for the elector to vote differently than the popular vote. recounts if needed would be easier than in a direct popular vote system. But there are possible problems with this because there may be more gerrymandering and there may be many local candidates who receive electoral votes but who would not get enough electoral votes to be elected president.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Our group chose to argue to mediate about the electoral college.
My position is that the system we have now needs to be reformed to better represent the popular vote.