The Founding Fathers wrote the Electoral College into the United States Constitution as insurance against popular passion electing the chief executive into office. They believed there needed to be a buffer between the people and election of the president. Also a concern of the forefathers was they did not want the states with a larger population to completely overshadow the states with a smaller populace. The Electoral College system was devised to help cope with these problems.
The Constitution was written and ratified in 1787 more than two hundred years ago. At the time of drafting the drafters of the Constitution never imagined there would be a two political parties that dominate our system of government or a national media that can readily bring each candidate before every citizen of this vast country. These were the problems of the time that faced those that wrote the Constitution. While some of the problems that faced the forefathers are no longer applicable to the year 2001, some problems still exist and others have cropped up.
In the United States Constitution, each state selects a group of electors equal to the number of Senators and members of the House of Representative a given state has in Congress. The number of electors for each state can fluctuate every ten years due to population shifts determined by the national census. The political parties or independent candidates must submit a group of individuals who pledge support to their candidate, to each states chief election official. This number of individual is equal to the number of electoral votes in a given state. Members of Congress or any employees of the federal government are prohibited from serving as members of the Electoral College. On the Tuesday following the first Monday of November in years divisible by four, the people in each State cast their ballot for the party slate of electors representing the choice of the citizens fo the president and vice president.
In every state except for two, the candidate who wins the popular vote receives all the states electoral votes no matter how close the popular vote in that state. On the Monday following the second Wednesday of December each State's electors meet in their respective state capitals and cast their electoral votes. The electoral votes for each State are then sealed and sent to the President of the Senate who reads the results in front of both houses of the Congress. The candidate with the most electoral votes provided that it is an absolute majority, is declared president.
If no candidate receives a majority then the decision falls upon the House of Representatives. In that event each State gets one vote for the president and once again an absolute majority is required to elect. This system has some problems that need to be overcome ("How "). A problem that some fear and has come to the nations attention because of the presidential election of 2000; the ability for candidate to win the popular vote but still not be elected president.
This can occur because of the winner take all system. No matter how slim the victory is in a state the winner receives every electoral vote for that state. There have been a few proposals to revamp this winner take all system but none have gained enough support to pass as legislation (Grolier). The first fix for the problem is to have a direct popular vote for president. The problem with this idea as a fix is the difficulty in getting 38 states to ratify it as an amendment to the Constitution. The smaller states still favor the Electoral College.
The reasoning for this is part of the original plan of the forefathers to increase the influence the smaller states have on an election. Also a small percentage of a popular vote could elect a president (Grolier). The next proposal would be to split a state's electoral votes into districts. Each district would have at least one electoral vote and the presidential candidate would be awarded electoral votes form that state based upon districts won.
This idea could help insure that smaller states would not be overshadowed by larger industrial states by splitting the larger states electoral votes between the candidates. This proposal is seen as an inaccurate way of allocating a state's electoral votes and is a threat to the two party system (Grolier). The third proposal is a more accurate way of distributing a state's electoral votes. Electoral votes in each state would be given to the candidates based upon the percentage of votes each candidate received. This proposal brings about the sharpest controversy. This system could weaken the two party system.
By changing the allocation of electoral votes to this system, the door open for third party candidates to snatch up electoral votes in states they enjoy popularity. In allowing the door to open up for third party candidates an absolute majority would not be guaranteed in the presidential election. If a majority was not able to be reached then the House of Representatives would decide the presidential election and the senate would decide the vice presidential election. This would be the worst-case scenario in the views of many people. If the election were thrown to Congress then it would be possible for the president and the vice president to be from two different political parties. Having a president and vice president from two different political parties could stymie the executive branch and cause almost nothing to be accomplished (Grolier).
All the proposed changes to the Electoral College solve one problem with the system but at the same time create another. The direct election by the people causes the influence of the smaller states to decrease and the possibility of a president being elected with only a small percentage of the popular vote because of third party candidates. The district system in conjunction with the Electoral College causes the problem of third party candidates gaining electoral votes and no one gaining an absolute majority. The third proposal which allocates a states electoral votes by the percentage of popular vote each candidate receives seems to be the most fair but opens up the problem of third party candidates gaining enough electoral votes to cause an inability of any candidate to gain an absolute majority. Winston Churchill once said, "the electoral college system is probably the worst possible method of choosing a president except for all the others" (Wikman 2). The system as it stands has only failed our nation a handful of times and never caused the United States a catastrophe.
The nation has always gone on. Until someone can come up with a system that does not solve one problem by creating another, then the system as is should stand. "American Presidency." Grolier Multimedia Encyclopedia." 2000. web "How the Electoral College Works." FEC. web Wikman, Eric. "The Electoral College: Then, Now, and Tomorrow." 1999.