Why do electors have right to elect the president?
Published 11:04 pm Tuesday, October 14, 2008
By By Steve Flowers
As the Presidential Election draws near, there appear to be signs that a record turnout of votes will be cast. Hopefully we can have a harmonious decision whereby the candidate who receives the most votes wins. Our system of relying upon the Electoral College is archaic and unimaginable in this day and time. The system is a disaster waiting to happen. In the greatest democracy in the world it is hard to understand how the candidate who gets the most votes throughout the country could not win the election.
The Electoral College was designed by the framers of the Constitution as a means to select a President who was the most qualified, but not necessarily the most popular. This autocratic and arrogant concept was reached by the framers while the Constitutional Convention was coming to an end. They were exhausted and this decision was put off until the end of the convention. It was a hasty last minute compromise that was an error in judgment. It also showed the inordinate power that the small states had at the convention and illustrated the arrogance that some of the delegates had toward a total democratic egalitarian society. They simply felt that the general public did not have the ability to choose the best candidate for president.
The Constitution calls for the Electoral College to convene one month after the election. It is made up of 538 electors. This is based on 100 Senators and 435 members of the House of Representatives, plus 3 electors from the District of Columbia. These electors are not bound to vote for who received the most votes in their state. However throughout history we have had very few examples of faithless electors. The departures have been few, infrequent and inconsequential. Although, that is not to say that a faithless elector could not bolt in the future and change the decision of who will be elected President of the United States because there is no legal requirement forcing the unscrupulous elector to vote as his state has dictated. In essence, one elector could change the will of 50 million Americans.
It is not like the system has not caused controversy in the past. You only have to look back eight years ago to the Gore and Bush controversy. Despite winning the popular vote by more than a half million votes, Al Gore lost the Presidency to George W. Bush after the Supreme Court ended a ballot recount in Florida. Bush’s victory in the Supreme Court by a 5 to 4 decision narrowly avoided a national crisis in the Presidential Election.
The controversy surrounding the Electoral College has existed throughout our nation’s history, beginning with the 1800 Election. A tied vote between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr had to be decided by the House of Representatives. The 1824 Election was also decided by the U.S. House in a brokered deal orchestrated by Henry Clay. The Electoral College System also caused chaos in the 1876 Election between Samuel Tilden and Rutherford Hayes, as well as a decade later with Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison. In the 20th Century, we have had more controversial elections than normal over the flawed Electoral College. The elections of 1948, 1960, 1968 and 1976 were all close calls and they had the possibility of being chaotic like the 2000 Election.
The real imperfection in the system is that the winner-take-all process gives inordinate power today to the swing states. A person’s vote in Alabama should count the same as his neighbor in Florida. It is hard to imagine in this day and time in a true democracy that this flawed and unfair system exists. The bottom line is we should all vote for President on Nov. 4 and everybody’s vote in all 50 states, plus the District of Columbia, should be counted and the candidate who receives the most votes throughout the United States should be President.
See you next week.
Steve Flowers is Alabama’s leading political columnist. His column appears weekly in 72 Alabama newspapers. Steve served 16 years in the State Legislature. He may be contacted at www.steveflowers.us.