Thursday, December 6, 2007

William Fochtmann
Adam Million
ENGL 103 054
2 December 2007
The Electoral College: To Preserve or Reform?
As a founding member of ideas that created our great nation, the Electoral College has proved its worth time and time again. Its basis of electing electors to vote for a presidential candidate has produced clear winners with few exceptions. Although the system is good, these exceptions demonstrate that the Electoral College is not great, and far from perfect, for today’s society. Showing the clear need for an update, society today consists of a much larger attentive public than the time when the Electoral College was created. With examples like the 2000 Bush/Gore election, we see that new ideas need to be implemented to continue a true depiction of America’s choice of president. Such ideas consist of systems based off Nebraska and Maine’s systems and ones as drastic as a popular vote. All of these will be taken into account as we mediate this issue on our way to a possible solution.
Because of the Electoral College’s history of success, it seems logical to continue using it. Originally, the idea was for Americans to vote for electors who they identified with from their state. These electors would then vote for the next president of the United States. This system worked in all but 17 elections. In these elections, America, via the Electoral College System, presidents have taken office with a minority of the vote (Jost). If a popular vote was in effect, the correct president would have been voted to office; however, the possibilities of recounts, demonstrated in the 2000 Florida election, keeps the popular vote from being a viable alternative. After debating these issues concerning the Electoral College and process, it seems the best way to compromise is to divide state’s electoral votes.
At first glance, the Electoral College is a good system. It is necessary to attract presidential candidates to less populated states. Without this aspect, candidates would focus solely upon large states that could swing the vote in their favor. Having “backup states,” states that slowly build up their numbers to the needed 270 votes of the president, forces serious candidates to have a wide support group that crosses state borders. Campaigning in a large number of states insures they have the “backup states.” The nature of these “backup states” compels candidates to compromise on issues as well. Without compromises, the candidate would have strong support form a thin range of individuals in a league where it is better to have broad support; “Presidential candidates cannot win American elections unless they campaign broadly” (Ross). Secondly, the Electoral Congress better shows the margin of victory. Important because of its decisiveness, we have seen close electoral races magnified by the Electoral Congress. Demonstrating this phenomenon is the 1960 election where Kennedy bested Nixon. “John E Kennedy beat Richard Nixon by just a few tenths of a percentage point in the popular vote but won, 303-219, in the Electoral College” (Glassman). This advantage again shows the strength of the Electoral College.
Here it is necessary to address the other extreme of the spectrum: the popular vote. In the mediation both sides realized the absolute mayhem this proposition proposes. Not only does the popular vote allow the possibility of a nationwide recount, an occurrence that threw Florida into panic in 2000, but it tolerates and encourages third party candidates. Yes, third parties have shown the nation their respective ideas and made us think about issues like global warming, but to allow a candidate to reach office would mean drastic changes. Foreign policy to immigration would all be changed. Having the Electoral College negates the third party agenda at large and as a result, third parties must compromise with existing powerhouse parties to see a candidate advance. The compromise means the new parties important views will be heard, but major changes in the nations working system will be kept to a minimum. Furthermore, eliminating the Electoral College in place of this system can only be done by a Constitutional Amendment. Not only does this take massive amounts of time, but the compromises needed would distort the system until the Electoral College seems desirable again. As mentioned before, both sides of this mediation agree that the popular vote is not in the nation’s best interest.
With the numerous strengths it offers, any mediation will want continued use of the Electoral College. What it needs, though, is an update, a more relevant system in conjunction with the larger attentive public. Possible solutions that need to be examined are: District Voting, Proportional Representation, National Bonus Plan, Instant Runoff Voting, and Direct Election (Clayton 37). Direct Election, as Clayton puts it, is not unlike a popular vote. It is a system that acts the “one person, one vote” mentality; however, as previously mentioned, the negative outweigh the positives in this discussion. Clayton also quotes Douglas Amy on his view of the Instant Runoff Proposal. In the process, voters mark a ‘1’, ‘2’, etc. to show the order of choice of candidate. Although complicated, “[t]his reallocation process continues until one candidate receives and majority of the votes” (Clayton 37). Another possible solution is the National Bonus Plan. It is not only simple, but can be enacted with out the means of a constitutional amendment. The plan consists of lowering the Electoral College to a possible 438 votes, down from 538. The 100 remaining votes, two per state, would be given to the popular vote winner of the state. This insures that the largest amount of votes goes to the correct statewide winner and insures the correct winner of the Electoral College (Clayton 36). Schlesinger also comments that the National Bonus Plan “would stimulate turnout, reinvigorate state parties, enhance voter equality and contribute to the vitality of federalism” (Schlesinger). The next two possible solutions are based on dividing Electoral College votes throughout the state. Of the two, the proportional vote is not as appealing because it causes the tricky task of dividing votes. The other, though, poses the possible solution we have been mediating towards. Through our mediation, hybrid Electoral systems like those of Maine and Nebraska pose the best solutions.
Maine and Nebraska use a system that consists of District Voting. It is similar to the current system but on a larger yet less complex scale. The state’s Electoral Vote is divided into congressional districts and the winner of each district is awarded the vote for toward the Electoral College. The strength of the system is that “[district voting] has the advantage of not shutting out a candidate who is strong in some areas but not in others” (Burns 218). Along with the vote per district, the state winner would be awarded the final two votes to further show the state’s support for the candidate. Showing a more accurate picture of the nations vote, this system also has the benefit of not needing a constitutional amendment. An act like this could be in place for the next election thus better serving the nation.
Mediation shows how both sides are benefited from the Maine-Nebraska/ District Voting System. Proponents can compromise towards the plan because it keeps the Electoral College intact. Opponents of the current system see a greater personal experience, hinting at the ever-so-popular Popular Vote system, because swing states become swing districts. This personal touch increases candidate and constituent interaction. Enthused and interested, constituents will cause greater votier turnout rise as candidates learn the new hybrid system. Opponents of the Electoral College also distrust electors and harbor thoughts of faithless electors. These rogue individuals do not vote in accordance as their constituents want. The district voting system insures faithless electors do not exist. By the fact that each district has its own vote, if an elector was to vote against his parties wishes it would be known as votes are turned in. A quote from The Washington Post sums up the mediation:
I do not favor elimination of the Electoral College. Instead, I suggest that we encourage states to choose a middle ground between abolition and the status quo. I advocate the system used by Maine since 1969 and by Nebraska since last year: The state-wide popular vote winner gets two electors, and the remaining electors are determined by congressional district pluralities. (The Unpopular)
In agreement with our mediation, this author sees the strength of district voting. The federal system is kept intact and common ground is reached.
Because district voting is such a possible solution, states can enact the process much faster than the federal government. All the possible solutions have weaknesses, and our mediation’s solution is no exception. For the system to take maximum effect, all states must participate. As of now, only Maine and Nebraska use the system. If other states follow suit, the Electoral College’s unfairness can be solved without a constitutional amendment, without taking time away from congress, and without devising a new system to replace the Electoral College’s positive aspects.
In conclusion, mediation has showed us that the Electoral College needs work. Votes need to be looked at closer to display a better picture of the America’s choice of leader. With a growing attentive public, electors lose their value to the process of choosing a president. When electors yield this power to the district as a whole, we achieve a true depiction of the American vote. To close on a more colloquial note, Judith Best writes:
The right winner of the World Series is the team that wins the most games, not the team that scored the most runs over all. The win-games principle is the best test of the two teams' abilities. In presidential elections, the win-states principle is the best test of the candidates' abilities to govern. (Jost)
Yes, the president needs to win the most “games”, but if the opposing candidate had a higher average score per game, shouldn’t that be taken into account? The district voting system solves this problem, and with all fifty states consent, the Electoral College will see reform in the near future.

Works Cited
Bates, Nathaniel. "What are the Arguments Made in Favor--and Against--the Electoral College?" History News Network. 26 Oct. 2004. George Mason University. 6 Dec. 2007
Burns, James M., J.w. Peltason, Thomas E. Cronin, David B. Magleby, and David M. O'brien. Government by the People. 2001-2002 ed. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall, 2002.

Clayton, Dewey. "The Electoral College: an Idea Whose Time Has Come and Gone." Black Scholar 33 (2007): 28-41. Academic Search Premier. EBSCO. Cooper
Library, Clemson. 5 Dec. 2007. Keyword: Electoral College.
"Frequently Asked Questions." National Archives. 6 Dec. 2007
Glassman, James. "Reform the Electoral College, Don't Toss It." The American Enterprise 12.2 (March 2001): 16. Academic OneFile. Gale. Clemson University. 4 Dec. 2007.

Jost, Kenneth, and Greg Giroux. "Electoral College." CQ Press. 8 Dec. 2000. 2 Dec. 2007

Ross, Tara. "The electoral college wins again." The American Enterprise 16.1 (Jan-Feb 2005): 9(2). Academic OneFile. Gale. Clemson University. 4 Dec. 2007.

Schlesinger Jr, Arthur. "Fixing the Electoral College." The Washington Post 19 Dec. 2000. 6 Dec. 2007 .

"The Unpopular Electoral College." The Washington Post 4 May 1992. 6 Dec. 2007 .

Sunday, December 2, 2007

Step 6: Collaborative Brief

Step 6: Collaborative Brief

We will begin with our own opinions of the issue. After stating these, we will use a similar thesis to find a way to mediate the topic. Next we will point out flaws of our chosen sides. We will both conclude that the popular vote is not a good idea and that splitting electoral votes yields a truer depiction of the peoples vote.
Thesis: After looking at both sides of this argument, the best way to compromise the two is institute a divide vote system where not all Electoral College votes go to one candidate.
Reason 1: Electoral College needs Reform
Evidence: the four elections that did not show the true peoples vote
Reason 2: Popular vote is too difficult
Evidence 2: Recounts are tough, allow for third parties
Reason 3: Negates faithless electors
Evidence: They no longer exist.
Reason 4: Maine and Nebraska have good systems already in place
Evidence 4: RESEARCH!
Conclusion: Electoral College needs reform; it’s old and has produced the wrong winner on multiple accounts. With a greater attentive public, the electors of the Electoral College are unnecessary. Look into proportional vote or district popular votes. District popular voting has the best potential. This only works when all states participate.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

In recent years, the Electoral Process has experienced much scrutiny. With reformers always alluding to the 2000 Election of Bush/Gore, many people share the wanted change to the electoral system. What these reformers don’t understand are the strengths that the current process brings. Sure, we could change the system, but that takes time away from solving other pressing matters. Changing the Electoral College process is more trouble than its worth, and, by the mere fact we have a current system, we do not need to amend it.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Brief: Leave the Electoral Process Alone

In recent years, the Electoral Process has experienced much scrutiny. With reformers always alluding to the 2000 Election of Bush/Gore, many people share the wanted change to the electoral system. What these reformers don’t understand are the strengths that the current process brings. Sure, we could change the system, but that takes time away from solving other pressing matters and weakens the known and understood system of today.
Why keep the Electoral College the way it is?
Reason 1: It is necessary to attract presidential candidates to less populous states.
Evidence: If abolished, Candidates would not focus on "swing" states but only very populated ones. In these populous states, the candidate will maximize his potential voters. The Electoral College ensures smaller states have an impact on the presidential vote.
Reason 2: Abolishing the Electoral College allows third party prominence.
Evidence: Having more than two parties disunites America. Three or more parties allows for a plurality winner, one the majority of the nation will be unhappy with. Also, if said third party wins an election, the policy changes will be drastic. The current system handles this by making third parties side and compromise with one of the two major parties.
Reason 3: The Electoral College preserves the Republic and steers clear of an absolute democracy.
Evidence: By definition, the U.S.A. is constitutional republic. Becoming a true democracy, one run by popular vote, means abandoning core values of which the nation was built.
For this argument, my target audience will be the attentive public, that is, those who follow politics daily and are interested in voting. The argument is not limited to just theses folks, but it will serve them the best. Convincing another in favor of the electoral process system is a great achievement, but, if not, creating a greater attentive public is a good second place.
Of this target audience, the public might have preconceptions of the topic of the electoral process. An example is that most in favor of leaving the process alone are conservative and have right leaning tendencies. The preconceptions of these are hard to overcome. My only way to battle this is that I am quite the moderate when it comes to politics.
After reading and understanding my argument, I want readers to see that the Electoral Process is fine in its current state and changing it requires time that it is unobtainable. The basic claim is that reform of the system is unnecessary, and as I will prove, changing the system could weaken the country.
In order to appeal to the attentive public, it will take well reasoned, logical and style based modes of appeal. Included in these modes are: showing how reform sets the stage for a many party system, reform hinders minority groups, changes to the system strike at the foundation of a federal system, and other systems are difficult to consider, implement and apply. Appealing to character will not be helpful in this realm; it will only make my argument weaker because an analytical reader will see it as steering away from the point.
To arrange these, I will need to start with ideas that the majority of people agree with, like giving power to minorities. Once I make a statement that I have considered the possible options, I will try to convince my readers that, on the basis of my remaining examples that the Electoral College is in no need of change.
Introducing the case will be difficult. Because so much of the talk has to do with changing the system, it will be troublesome to bring up the point without the reader automatically thinking the change is necessary. I can try to counteract this by making my claim early and not letting the reader have time to formulate an opinion until after my reasons are read. If I am able to do this, the reader will be much more enlightened and more inclined to see the flaws in possible change to the system.
Concluding the argument will be easier. After making my well reasoned points, it will be clear that the changes are not necessary and proposed changes to the electoral process hurt those who are in need of help.
Gaining the trust of the audience will be achieved by citing relevant figures in today’s politics. Gaining their respect will be a matter of finding ways to implement these figures into my paper, and not only cite them, but show that they agree with me.