Yesterday we considered the Electoral College, but in order to fully appreciate the discussion, I think we need to look into the system that was set up by the Founders. When we look at this question, however, we have to start with voting, and what we find may be shocking to some of you.
Who Had The Right to Vote?
When we look at elections around the founding we find that the only people with a right to vote were land owning males. Now, certainly this says a lot about what the common beliefs were about gender roles at the time, but it also says something else.
If you were to set up a government where you wanted to make sure only the best were chosen—just the ones that had the best of the country at heart—then who would you chose to vote?
The high priority was for protecting the rights of life, liberty and property. Land owning males would seem to be not only better educated, but they would actually be a check on government—because they would not want it growing to take away their property.
The Electoral College
As we discussed, the Electoral College was another check to make sure that the people that were chosen were the best, and should something come out the Electoral College could fix it. These people should be someone of high morals—a group of statesmen.
The Founders believed that a majority of the nominations for President would end up being decided in the House and Senate. That would mean that we’d have statesmen (in their model) deciding between multiple people.
Oh, and the Senate was supposed to be decided by the House, or the legislature, not a popular vote.
So, What If It’s Broken?
The question that we’re left with is this: What should we do if the system is broken?
You see, the Founders planned checks and balances. They planned for people that would have a good chance of limiting government and choosing people that were best for the country would be the ones making the decisions. Now we’re looking at an electorate with its hand out. Whoever makes the most promises gets the job—regardless as to whether it actually comes to pass (we’ll see if a President Obama can come through on everything he promised).
If it should be fixed, how do we go about fixing it? If the nation wants the chaos that comes with Democracy, should we give them what they want?
5 thoughts on “Should Everyone Have a Vote?”
The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President is that presidential candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of closely divided “battleground” states. 98% of the 2008 campaign events involving a presidential or vice-presidential candidate occurred in just 15 closely divided “battleground” states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania and Virginia). Similarly, 98% of ad spending took place in these 15 “battleground” states.. Similarly, in 2004, candidates concentrated over two-thirds of their money and campaign visits in five states and over 99% of their money in 16 states. Two-thirds of the states and people have been merely spectators to the presidential elections. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the voter concerns in states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. The reason for this is the winner-take-all rule enacted by 48 states, under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state.
Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in one of every 14 presidential elections.
In the past six decades, there have been six presidential elections in which a shift of a relatively small number of votes in one or two states would have elected (and, of course, in 2000, did elect) a presidential candidate who lost the popular vote nationwide.
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).
Every vote would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections.
The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).
The bill is currently endorsed by 1,246 state legislators — 460 sponsors (in 48 states) and an additional 786 legislators who have cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.
The National Popular Vote bill has passed 22 state legislative chambers, including one house in Arkansas, Colorado, Maine, Michigan, North Carolina, and Washington, and both houses in California, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The bill has been enacted by Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, and Maryland. These four states possess 50 electoral votes — 19% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.
Susan, let’s look at your arguments one at a time.
1. Campaigns do not spend enough time reaching a majority of the people because of “winner take all” in 48 states.
Candidates are human and will always spend the most amount of time in the places that they have to in order to win the game. Changing the rules will just change the battlefields, but won’t increase the numbers of them. There will still be states that will have a majority of their people behind a candidate and the candidate will avoid them.
States get to determine the rules that the send electors by. If a state thought it was being neglected, they could change their rules to be more competitive– this does not require removing the electoral college system.
2. A candidate that did not win the popular votes nationwide can win the Presidency.
This is more of what this post is about. I’m attempting to discuss the idea that popular votes are necessarily the best, and, indeed, the Founders were wise to make us a Republic rather than a Democracy. Democracies tend to result in anarchy. The problem with direct democracy is that without an informed electorate you can make the argument that someone got the popular vote, but that was achieved by getting any old person to vote without knowing much more about the person than their name, the letter after the name, and what he/she looks like. This is no way to choose the leader of the free world.
Oh, and 2000 was not the only election in which a person won the Presidency without winning the popular vote.
3. The National Popular Vote Bill
I have no opposition to any state deciding to have their votes count in any way. I still believe that we’re best represented without direct elections to the office of President.
For more information on all of this, check out the Wikipedia entry on Electoral College
Simple fact is that either you believe in a democracy or you don’t. If you do, then trust the people and let their will decide – for better or for worse. If you don’t, well, you can call it what you want, but it certainly won’t be a true democracy. Only reason Bush won in 2000 was because he was the son of a President. Otherwise, he wouldn’t even have got the Republican nomination. Ditto for Hillary Clinton. Only, this time, the voice of the people was too loud to be drowned out by kings and queens.
What you need to do is make sure that people with ties and background, but who are incapable of governance, are kept out. I don’t see that happening in a gamed system where you spray the money around a few early states and forget the rest even exist. Only way a candidate will win a direct election is if he or she has massive popularity acordd teh length and breadth of the nation. And no father or Uncle will be able to buy his son that kind of an election.
Several of the commenters are missing a major point. We are not and have never been a “democracy.” The founders understood very well the tyranny of the majority. If you get 50% + 1, you can run roughshod over everyone else. We are a “Representative Republic”… huge difference.
While your description of why land-owning males were allowed to vote is good, there was another reason. The view of the family was different. When the male of the family voted, it was assumed he was voting for his whole household. Also, if he were to die and the wife inherited the land, she could vote as the new “head of household.” Because of the understanding of the family (as opposed to the radical individualism of today), it could be correctly understood as “One Household, One vote.”
The electoral college was set up to ensure the smaller states get appropriate clout in the election of the president.
The House of Representatives was to represent the people. The Senate was to represent the individual states.
And all of it was designed to be minimal. States’ rights and the rights of the people were not to be infringed upon by the federal government.
Somewhere along the line the whole idea of the tenth amendment to the Constitution has been completely ignored. (“The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.”) The federal government has grown wholly out of control under both parties. Now with all branches of the government in solid control of the progressives, the pedal will be put to the metal on the Ferarri as they accelerate us toward the cliff of socialism/fascism and economic disaster.
The republicans in the last eight years were headed the same direction in an old Chevy. The democrats in the Ferarri will make them look conservative in comparison.
I fear for our nation and for the country our children will inherit….
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