Archive for Thursday, September 18, 2008

Scholars discuss merits of Electoral College

September 18, 2008


Election 2008

In-depth coverage of the candidates and the issues, all leading up to the Aug. 5 primary and the Nov. 4 general election.

A presidential voting process developed by the country's Founding Fathers has long spurred dissent and apathy among voters.

The Electoral College is a process in which the general public casts votes for an electorate that promises to in turn vote for a favored candidate. Electoral votes are apportioned among states, and it is possible to win the popular vote but lose the election.

Critics say the Electoral College is an undemocratic process and that every person's vote should count.

The mechanics, alternatives and obstacles to creating alternatives to the process were discussed by a three-person panel in "Constitution Day: The Historical, Political and Constitutional Aspects of the Electoral College," at the Dole Institute of Politics. The event, which attracted about 150 people, was not only part of Constitution Day observances, but also the Dole Institute's fall lecture series dubbed POTUS, The Next President of the United States.

Jonathan Earle, a KU history professor and associate director of the Dole Institute, discussed the background of the Electoral College. Part of its origin was rooted in the fact the Founding Fathers "were terrified of direct elections," he said. "They didn't trust ordinary voters to make the right choice."

In the modern world, "you think you are voting for John McCain; you are actually voting for a slate of electors," Earle said.

Paul Schumaker, KU political science professor, discussed an extensive study he and numerous other political science professors conducted to analyze potential methods to propose instead of the Electoral College. He organized a conference after the 2000 election, when Al Gore won the popular vote but lost to George W. Bush. Alternatives include a popular plurality, district plan, bonus plan and a national compact. Though the Electoral College failed a test of criteria, it was still approved by the professors.

Schumaker said people believe the Electoral College system is legitimate, and will accept it, no matter the result.

Richard Levy, a KU J.B. Smith distinguished professor of law, explained the mechanics of law and the provisions that make it difficult for the Constitution to be amended.

"As much as we might like to change, I'm not sure how we can get there because there is an awful lot of vested interests that are at stake and in play that make it difficult to change," Levy said.

A two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress to propose a constitutional amendment and a ratification of the amendment by three-fourths of the states would be required to make the change.

Getting agreement in Congress and having states be willing to possibly give up their solid Democrat or Republican holdings are among the challenges, according to Levy.


just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

So why not just give people in less populous states 2 votes each? That'd be just about as fair as the current system.BTW, nobody has come up with a single example of an election that has been significantly affected by so-called "vote manufactuing."

Paul R Getto 8 years ago

I think we should keep it; without the electoral college, elections would be determined by votes on the coasts and the heartland would be ignored. Republicans should be in love with the electoral college. Without it, they would be finished as a national party.

Bubarubu 8 years ago

jafs: "If no one gets that, perhaps a power sharing government is in order."Power sharing cannot work in an executive that is elected separately form the legislative. I'm all for parliamentary legislature, power sharing, coalitions, etc., but out separation of powers and system of single-member districts from elections mean that structural power-sharing in the executive branch is essentially impossible.

tir 8 years ago

As a voter who has been disenfranchised by the Electoral College in every presidential election I have voted in simply because of where I live, I think it's time to end this undemocratic and patronizing institution forever. We the people want our actual votes to be counted!

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

The electoral college is an anachronism that is just plain stupid and undemocratic-- but it serves the purpose of entrenched interests (i.e, big money and the two major parties it owns) so it will stay with us for the foreseeable future.

Sigmund 8 years ago

jafs (Anonymous) says:"What's wrong with simply electing the person who gets the majority of the votes?"Nothing "wrong" with it, but it would have the effect of giving the most populous State's and urban centers more influence, and the sparci areas and ruracities less influence, in deciding presidential elections. If you live in "fly-over" country this is not in your best interests.

Flap Doodle 8 years ago

google ACORN fraud & see what you find

jafs 8 years ago

Or, require a certain majority, ie. 2/3 of the popular vote.If no one gets that, perhaps a power sharing government is in order.

monkeyspunk 8 years ago

Keep the Electoral College, do away with "Winner Take All"

Janet Lowther 8 years ago

I agree with Dr. Getto.The electoral college weights the selection of the president in favor of the smaller states.Now, states can apportion electors as they wish: Our neighbors in Nebraska elect one elector in each congressional district and two state wide.A requirement for a geographic distribution of the support of a president might substitute for the ancient institution, but the direct plurality election of the president is apt to be a good way to start a civil war.Remember that a lot of recent presidents have been elected by a plurality only, not a majority! Clinton NEVER recieved a majority of the popular vote, even if he did achieve electoral college landslides!

jafs 8 years ago

What's wrong with simply electing the person who gets the majority of the votes?

Sigmund 8 years ago

Wow, I really need an editor, should have been:Nothing "wrong" with it, but it would have the effect of giving the most populous State's and urban centers more influence, and the sparsely populated State's and rural cities less influence, in deciding presidential elections. If you live in "fly-over" country this is not in your best interests.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"Why is the left (OK, more specifically, the far-left) all of a sudden in a huff to discard it?"Your characterization is characteristically inaccurate and needlessly inflammatory.I'd much rather see us move to a modern system of government, such as a parliamentary system with proportional representation. Our current system was cutting edge 220 years ago-- now all it is is insurance to entrenched interests that they will always be in control.

just_another_bozo_on_this_bus 8 years ago

"It's easier to manufacture votes in the inner city."So that means you can show an example of where this has happened in recent times (as in since Mayor Daly senior died?)But not to worry, Republicans are busy caging votes and implementing new poll taxes to prevent too many of the people of (wrong) color from voting.

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