The U.S. Constitution: The Safeguard of Our Liberties
Published on October 8, 2015 by Karen Newmeyer
What is the deal with the Electoral College? Why don’t we just have a popular vote? That is one questions raised by students
during the 2015 Constitutional Day (September 17th) celebration at Broadview University, Orem Campus. This annual event included a quiz, asking questions such as:
- Who is considered the “Father of our Constitution” (James Madison, by the way)?
- Where was the first capital of the United States of America located (New York City)?
All participants received a candy bar and the student with the most correct answers was given a Broadview University hoodie. This year’s winner was paralegal student Cheri Christensen. Congratulations, Cheri!
So, why do we have the Electoral College to choose the president rather than a popular election? The Constitution writers were faced with a conflict between states with relatively small populations and those with larger populations. The more populous states wanted a popular election while the less populous states want the president appointed by Congress. The small states, with a relatively rural population, didn’t want everything determined by the larger metropolitan areas. It similar to the argument that led the writers to create the two houses of Congress: The Senate with two senators from each state (each state has an equal voice) and the House of Representatives with the number of representatives being appoint by population.
So how many electoral votes does each state receive? The same number as their combined senators and representatives. This gives the small states the tiniest bit more say in the election outcome than the larger states. It is possible for a candidate to have the most popular votes and still lose on the basis of electoral votes as demonstrated in the Bush/Gore election of 2000. Most states have a winner-takes-all approach, with the notable exception of Nebraska and Maine. The electors meet in their respective states on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December after the presidential election. The vote is sent to Congress and then are tallied in a joint session on January 6th after the election. The President of Congress, the current Vice President, declares the winner of the vote.
The things you can learn during Constitution Day!! As TV journalist Jeff Greenfield said, “After immersing myself in the mysteries of the Electoral College for a novel I wrote in the ‘90s, I came away believing the case for scrapping it is less obvious than I originally thought.”
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