Every four years, the Electoral College enjoys a fleeting moment of fame. But the impact of the college on presidential elections is far greater and more controversial than its brief life indicates. ======================================… ======================================… HOW DOES THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE WORK ? Each state has a number of electors equal to the number of its U. S.
senators (2 in each state) plus the number of its U. S. representatives, which varies according to the state’s population. Currently, the Electoral College includes 538 electors, 535 for the total number of congressional members, and three who represent Washington, D.
C. , as allowed by the 23rd Amendment. On the Monday following the second Wednesday in December, the electors of each state meet in their respective state capitals to officially cast their votes for president and vice president. These votes are then sealed and sent to the president of the Senate, who on Jan. 6 opens and reads the votes in the presence of both houses of Congress. The winner is sworn into office at noon Jan. 0. Most of the time, electors cast their votes for the candidate who has received the most votes in that particular state.
However, there have been times when electors have voted contrary to the people’s decision, which is entirely legal. ======================================… ======================================… ” THE PROS AND CONS ” Opponents of the college call it undemocratic. They say it functions in contradiction to the one-person, one vote principle and that the president should be elected by the direct popular vote of the people.
They point out that the distribution of electoral votes in each state is determined by the number of members it has in the House of Representatives plus the number of members of the Senate, which is always two. Each state, therefore. has at least three votes, even though on a straight population basis, some states might be entitled to only one or two. They further argue that this distribution of electoral votes over-represents people in rural states.
Opponents argue that the Electoral College system makes it extremely difficult for third parties or independent candidates to make much of a showing. By failing to reflect the national popular will, it reinforces a two-party system that restricts the choices available to the electorate. ======================================… ======================================… Supporters argue that the principle of one-person, one-vote should not pertain to the Electoral College, just as it does not pertain to the U. S.
Senate. They point out that the college was designed to underscore the federal nature of the U. S.
government. The college, they argue, recognizes and embodies the delicate balance between the powers of the states and the powers of the central government. To abolish the Electoral College in favor of a nationwide popular election for the president would strike at the heart of the federal structure laid out in the Constitution and would lead to the nationalization of our central government–to the detriment of the states.
As to the issue that the Electoral College over-represents rural populations, proponents respond that the United States Senate, with two seats per state regardless of population, over represents rural populations far more dramatically. Supporters of the Electoral College argue that it contributes to the cohesiveness of the country by requiring a candidate to demonstrate a distribution of popular support to be elected president. Without the college, they point out, presidents would be selected either through the domination of one populous region over the others or through the domination of large metropolitan areas over rural ones. As things stand now, no one region contains the absolute majority (270) of electoral votes required to elect a president. Thus, there is an incentive for candidates to pull together coalitions of states and regions rather than exacerbate regional differences.
These proponents also point out that the Electoral College enhances the status of minority groups because the votes of even a small minority in a state may make the difference between winning all of that state’s electoral votes or none. Since minority groups are concentrated in those states which have the most electoral votes, they assume an importance to presidential candidates well out of proportion to their number.