Electorial College

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I start this thread because the last election (however you voted) brings the question of the electorial votes. I try to understand the justification for this system, and why it helps the smaller states especially, but I get the feeling that my vote counts more if I am in Florida, than if I am in Oregon. Could someone share the pros and cons of this system of counting votes.

-- Anonymous, November 10, 2000


Rev. Hill, The Electoral College is structured to provide fundamental fairness in our Presidential elections due to the imbalance of population across the 50 states. The Jeffersonian vision wanted the more sparsely populated states to have equal say in governing so that the aristocratic northeastern cities and states like Virginia would not dominate the agenda. In my view this is an unambiguous benefit and it is the way US Presidential elections are determined. The only reason critics are now "suddenly astonished" at the process is due to their disappointment with the arithmetic. Now the only flaw as I see it may be in the "winner-take-all" process of electoral votes. Currently only Maine and Nebraska allow for a proportional rule to determine how many elctoral votes each candidate will get. I'm not convinced however that for the other 48 states to adopt proportional rules is the efficient course of action. The only reason Florida matters vis-a-vis Oregon is due to the margin of victory. Florida happens to be one of the big four states. But its electoral influence is offset by four states with equal or more combined electoral votes. What I find interesting are the sudden demands to scrap the electoral college completely. Some european newspapers have described our system for selecting Presidents an "anachronistic dinosaur". Disregarding that this charge is redundant, it is ironic that Europe, who have brought us two world wars and the recent balkanization of Yugoslavia and concomitant death and bloodshed would have the chutzpah to criticize a system which has endured for over 200 years without armed combat after an election.

Recent demands for the scrapping of the electoral college in this country only illustrate the low political IQs for such counter- revolutionaries. The defeat of the electoral college would have to go the route of a Constitutional amendment. In order for such an amendment to pass it will require at least 2/3 or all states to vote in favor [33]. The less populated states will surely create an effective roadblock thereby eliminating any such amendment. In fact, there would be many larger populated states oppossing the amedment. Our democracy is indeed imperfect but a proponderance of the evidence points to it being the best available option for selecting our political leaders. It is time to move beyond the whinning, redundant recounts and threats of litigation. It sure would be nice if people got fired up for the Lord's work like they are about the outcome of this election. Is Al Gore more important Jesus???

-- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

The Electoral College is a vestige of a time gone by. It was given to us by the FOuding Fathers, so we should examine it first in that context.

THe USA was created ostensibly to be a place without tyranny, without monarchical oppression. To assure this, the Founding Fathers decided that the voice of the poeple was pretty imporatant. They also recognized, or came to the conclusion that not ALL the poeple would have a sensible voice. To that end they structured our government to be a republic, a place of representative government, where an educated, landed, and empowered (wealthy) few would represent the views and concerns of the Many. The Many were still given the voice of choosing from among the few.

This Republic structure extended not only to the composition of the Legislative branch (Initially the House was elected, but senators were appointed), but also to the electoral college. The fear was that a charismatic leader, given over to only the popular vote, could essentially establish a monarchy-like dominance of the elected office of President. To avoid this, the people would choose Electors (again from the landed, educated class) who would in turn choose the president.

Built into both the electoral college and the upper House (the Senate) is the notion of Equal Representation of the states. There are two senators from all states (none for the District of Columbia and the posessions and territories of the US). This means that for the Upper House, Deleware is just as important as California. But the electoral college combines the makeup of the two houeses, so by adding the proportional representation of the Lower House, California, New York, Texas, and Florida resume some degree of importance.

Another consideration for the Electoral College was travel. The reason it is in December is that it took that long for the Electors from the (then) remote states of New Hampshire and Georgia to get to the site of the election (5-6 weeks). Remember that the consitution was created before telephone, telegraph, Pony Express - almost everything except carrier pigeons.

As to which state counts more, we may see a shift in scenarios. In this particular case, we get the sense that Florida counts more, because as the (next to) last state to offer a tally, it can swing victory either way. Oregon, with 7 EV, would simply be lost under the cap if the opponent gets Florida. Consider:

  • Bush 246 + Florida 25 = 271; Gore 260 + Oregon 7 = 267 Bush wins
  • Bush 246 + Oregon 7 = 253; Gore 260 + Florida 25 = 285 Gore wins

    Now one of the things that is being considered in this litigious time is a recount in the other "close" state - New Hampshire (4 EV), Iowa (7 EV), and Wisconsin (11 EV). NH went to Bush, while the other two went to Gore. There is actually a scenario that could have the recounts change the outcome in such a way that we end up at 269-269. This tie would throw the election to the Republican-controlled Lame Duck House (I may need help here. Is it the current house, or does it wait until Jan. 3?).

    The nation has changed much in 213 years. We have gone from a government giving franchise to landed white men, to a government that enfranchises all. We have seen the addition of women, people without property, former slaves, and a drop from age 21 to age 18. Along with this change has come a change in the educational demographic. I don't have statistics that I can cite, but my sense is that literacy is more universal now. Certainly communications have improved, with all citizens having access to information from either the printed press, broadcast journalism, or the internet. The potential for an informed universal electorate is greater in 2000 than in 1788.

    Given the increased awareness of the voting public, the increased access to candidate history and record available from libraries and the internet, and the increased uniformity in character and legal behavior of the states, one could argue that the time for direct - as opposed to representative - enfranchisement has come.

    The argument against would probably point to the continued lack of detailed awareness or understanding of the issues, the lack of preparedness to make critical decisions in the matter of government, and similar things. It is a somewhat patrician notion - we still don't want to take reponsibility for ourselves, so we choose someone to make the tough choices for us. If this remains the tenor of the populace, then maybe the Electoral College still serves a useful function.

    -- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

  • Bill, one quick correction: a new amendment requires ratification by 75% of the states (38 in current composition, I think).

    -- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

    Thank you Bill and Jeryl. My question was due to the fact that before this year, the race has not been close enough for me to pay attention to numbers as such. I only voted and waited for the results. Perhaps I am among the polically IQ challenged as Bill eluded. I believe I have a better understanding of the intent of the college.

    However, as fair as it was in the past, it seems to me that it is unfair in the present. I rather take responsibility for my choices rather than leave it up to a representative, at least in the area of who will be my president.

    My concern is that we preach to our people that their one vote can make a difference, but that does not seem to be the case. In some areas of the country, their one vote makes little differnce at all. It seems that we need to re-examine our system in the light of todays environment.

    Lastly, Bill, Gore is certainly not more important than Jesus. I would like to be (as a voter) as important as any other voter in this country.

    -- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

    I'd like to offer an amendment to my correction. THis is from Article V of the Consitution (without looking at its amendments. If there are relevant amendments, Reader Beware:) The Congress, whenever two thirds of both houses shall deem it necessary, shall propose amendments to this Constitution, or, on the application of the legislatures of two thirds of the several states, shall call a convention for proposing amendments, which, in either case, shall be valid to all intents and purposes, as part of this Constitution, when ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress; provided that no amendment which may be made prior to the year one thousand eight hundred and eight shall in any manner affect the first and fourth clauses in the ninth section of the first article; and that no state, without its consent, shall be deprived of its equal suffrage in the Senate.

    -- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

    My concern is that we preach to our people that their one vote can make a difference, but that does not seem to be the case. In some areas of the country, their one vote makes little differnce at all. It seems that we need to re-examine our system in the light of todays environment. But Ray, it does make a difference. As of this morning, the difference in Florida after AP's polling of the 67 counties is 327. Now consider these possibliities:
  • if Bethel Miami alone mobilized itself to the fullness of its membership, and if half of its membership actually voted, they would have easily surpassed 327.
  • Ditto bethel Tallahassee, St. Mark Orlando, and probably at least three other churches in the state of Florida (Bill, we need your help here).
  • There must be at least 327 communities throughout the state. If one more person in each of those communities had voted for Gore, we would be tied.
  • There must be 327 "black" precincts throughout the state. See above.

    Our focus today is on Florida, because that's where the national focus is. But the situation is similar in many states: NH, OR, IA, WI, WA. While it may not seem like "one vote" makes a difference, if those are opened up to recount, we may see it comme down to just that.

    We can't lose sight of the power of democracy. But it is an amalgamated power. One voter does not normally determine the presidency, but in a situation like today, where it may come down to a dead heat, then one person could very easily break the tie. But when many rise up together, when many speak with one voice, when many unite behind the common banner of a candidate or cause, the true power of democracy is felt.

    Vernon, where are you? :-)

    -- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

  • My thanks once again Jeryl....my question is answered so I am stepping out of this thread.

    -- Anonymous, November 10, 2000


    Thanks for the correction about the number of states required for ratification. By raising the bar to 75% this only assures that any talk about the "death" of the Electoral College is tantamount to Sri Lanka becoming a world economic power. In other words good folks it is pure wishful thinking. The historical circumstances of the Electoral College outlined by our resident scribe Mr. Payne are extremely important for a proper understanding of the issue at hand. However, I would be remiss if I did not point out that Jerryl's discussion is not antithetical to why the Electoral College should remain in tact.

    Now the mobilization of FL AME churches is an interesting point. I have no doubt that Bishop Adams has worked indefatigably to get the message out that Election 2000 is of paramount importance for every AME parishoner. At the FL Annual Conference, which I attended, he clearly articulated this point. Some anedotal evidence is suggesting that black voter turnout was at an all time high this year. Tavis Smiley was quoted as saying that the black vote was roughly 12% of all votes cast so we have attained parity [i.e. black voting was proportional to black population]. The problem with this interpretation is that it doesn't tell us what was the percent of all eligible black voters who DID VOTE. Furthermore since ballots are not identified by race we are left with the statistically unreliable technique of exit polling. If the overall voter turnout was roughly 55% of eligible voters intra-black voter turnout was probably somewhere between 55%-65%. The premier black think tank in the US, Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, provides the best research on black voting patterns and their senior research David Bositis will have the definitive word on this issue.

    The uncomfortable truth about American democracy is this: Choosing Presidents based exclusively on the popular vote is nothing more than partisan wishful thinking. Do you really believe if Bush won the popular vote or Dole the popular vote in 96 we would be inundated with these cacaphonous calls about electoral reform?? Are the Dems immune to the charge of "voting irregularities"? Consider how black voters in St. Louis benefitted by having polls remain open for an additional two hours in defiance to a court-ordered injunction. Is it fair to allow some voters to have longer hours to vote compared to others??

    The make-up of our Republic is too diverse to allow CA, NY, TX, FL, PA, MI always decide who is President. Election 2000 is an anomaly simply becuase there are only 3 other Presidential elections where the nominee did not win both a plurality of the popular vote and the electoral vote. I am an unabashed apologist for the Electoral College. It has worked remarkably well for a very long time. I suspect this is why we have emulated the Electoral College even in our Zion. If it 'aint broke, don't fix it :-) I too eagerly await Counsellor Byrd's informed opinion about this topic.

    -- Anonymous, November 10, 2000

    Interesting discussion. I notice the assumption that all AMEs voted for Gore. Not so, this family voted for Bush. Assuming that Florida goes to Bush and he wins, the Electoral College will have done what it was designed to do. Notice that Bush won more states. I saw a map of the U.S. showing Counties won by Bush and Gore. The interesting thing was that the counties Bush won was scattered all over the US. Whereas the counties won by Gore was in the highly populated areas. I think this was one of the aims of the Electoral College, to get the broadest representation possible.

    -- Anonymous, November 11, 2000

    Alot of people are assuming that the electoral college nullifies the individual vote, which is definitely incorrect. Since we live in a Democratic Republic which is actually a union of 50 individual states our popular vote counts mostly in the election of our state government and our congressional representatives which in themselves have a much larger effect on our lives than the Executive branch.

    Our popular vote also counts towards the election of the president within our individual state. So the popular vote although it may not decide in a nationwide tally, it is fought out to decide how your state will go as a body towards the overall governing of the union, and Florida is now fighting that fight.

    The system we have is an excellent compromise. It allows the smaller states population wise to have a say in the election of the president. Otherwise the candidates could go to the top 10 cities in the nation and promise them everything to get the majority of the popular vote and ignore the rest of the union. This could potentially lead to Civil War if the level of abuse to other states got bad enough.

    So when we go after the popular vote, it must be done state by state, which is why the candidates visited so many more states than would be necessary if the popular vote was all that was neccessary.

    One last thing..... I believe the electoral votes for each state are determined by Census data, so now we REALLY should realize the importance of being counted.

    -- Anonymous, November 11, 2000

    Each state has 2 votes, one for each senator, and one vote for each representative. The number of representatives is based on the census data and redistricting, which will be done this congressional year. Indirectly it is based on the census, however total persons, not black vs white. By the way, Gore will steal the election from Bush, my p[rediction.\

    -- Anonymous, November 13, 2000

    Just to clarify Pastor Paris's last comment, each state has a minimum of three votes: 1 for each seantor allocated to it (2), and a minimum of 1 as apart of the House. Less populous states have, therefore 3 - Alaska Delaware Montana North Dakota South Dakota Vermont Washington, DC Wyoming The District is included in this number by Constitutional Amendment (25?). More popular states have larger numbers that sahift every ten years. When I was a child (60s) New York was the largest with 43 total, followed by California (40) and Pennsylvania (29). Now the top 3 are California (54), New York (33) and Texas (32). The readjustment is also driven by the Constitution, which set a ten-year period for adjusting or taking the census. Every House election of xx02 reflects the new composition.

    -- Anonymous, November 13, 2000

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