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ARTS & LIFESTYLE
Bad Marks For Electoral College
Friday, November 10, 2000
Watching the political coverage of last Tuesday night filled my mind with images depicting hoards of strategists busily working to advise their political employers as to which states were important enough for them to visit. States like Wyoming and Rhode Island were most likely deemed expendable for their sad lack of electoral prowess while California and Florida were decreed to receive television advertisements, countless posters in front lawns, buttons and pins galore, along with numerous hallowed visits from the candidates themselves.
In what would be a twentieth century first, political commentators found themselves theorizing about the possibility of an “electoral tie” between the two candidates despite an almost assured difference between their respective popular votes. Both Bush and Gore clamored for attention from those areas deemed to be important enough for their campaigns; states where a win would carry the most influential results.
Why, in this country of great technological advancements, do we have this archaic system of voting in place? Why, now that we are able to accurately tally the popular vote of the nation, do we still rely upon the electoral system?
The electoral system was founded by the framers of the constitution with the intentions that they would vote for the two most qualified persons without specifying which was preferred for president and which for vice president. Although this caused a significant problem in the election of 1800 when both the presidential candidate, Thomas Jefferson, and his vice-presidential running mate, Aaron Burr, received the same number of electoral votes. The House of Representatives named Jefferson as President soon after the election, and later in 1804 Congress passed a bill mandating that separate electoral votes would be cast for each office.
However, the 1888 election saw a different problem with the electoral system. Grover Cleveland won 5,540,050 popular votes to Benjamin Harrison's 5,444,337 although, Harrision won the presidential election with 233 electoral votes to Cleveland's 168.
Another example of the faults behind the Electoral College lies in the 1996 race. Despite Bob Dole's winning of 38% of the Californian popular votes he was awarded none of tie state's 54 electoral votes. Although in total Dole walked away with 39,197,469 American's voting for him (41% of the total), his defeat has gone down in history as a “landslide” because he won only 29% of the electoral votes (159 to Bill Clinton's 379). Although Dole lost the popular election, perhaps his efforts would be regarding with a higher respect if the Electoral College were not the deciding factor of the presidency.
The race between George W. Bush and Al Gore was no different from any that were before it. I seriously doubt that anyone would disagree with the fact that the race would have gone differently for both the candidates and the American people were it decided by the popular vote at large. In fact, I propose that the race would not only have been more civil, but that it would have better represented the wishes of the people as well.
On September 11, 1997, two republican representatives Ray LaHood from Illinois and Tom Campbell from California, proposed legislation to end the electoral system. Although this initiative eventually failed, a poignant quote from LaHood plainly summarizes my stance on this issue: "We live in a democracy that elects every public official -- except one -- by who wins the popular vote. The only exception to this democratic process is the highest office in the land, the president. It's just a totally antiquated, outdated system of electing our president."
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