By Steve Thomas Observer Nevis Editor
(Charlestown, Nevis) ” No one ever graduated from the United States Electoral College, but only one person has ever become president without winning it. This 18th century invention by the framers of the U.S. Constitution continues to confuse and confound many observers, some of whom want it abolished in order to establish the direct election of the president by popular vote, though public interest in the Electoral College never appears to be sustained enough to win support for change. The Electoral College appeared to be in real trouble in 2000 when George W. Bush won the presidency by winning the Electoral College vote, but losing to Al Gore in the popular vote. In a 2004 editorial titled, “Abolish the Electoral College,” the New York Times stated: “The Electoral College got a brief spate of attention in 2000, when George Bush became president even though he lost the popular vote to Al Gore by more than 500,000 votes. Many people realized then for the first time that we have a system in which the president is chosen not by the voters themselves, but by 538 electors. “It’s a ridiculous setup, which thwarts the will of the majority, distorts presidential campaigning and has the potential to produce a true constitutional crisis. There should be a bipartisan movement for direct election of the president. . .The main problem with the Electoral College is that it builds into every election the possibility, which has been a reality three times since the Civil, that the president will be a candidate who lost the popular vote. This shocks people in other nations who have been taught to look upon the United States as the world’s oldest democracy. The Electoral College also heavily favors small states. The fact that every one gets three automatic electors – one for each senator and a House member – means states that by population might be entitled to only one or two electoral votes wind up with three, four or five. . . The majority does not rule and every vote is not equal – those are reasons enough for scrapping the system.” Then there are the supporters of the Electoral College, including William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director of the Federal Election Commission National Clearinghouse on Election Administration. He writes: “The Electoral College has performed its function for over 200 years (and in over 50 presidential elections) by ensuring that the President of the United States has both sufficient popular support to govern and that his popular support is sufficiently distributed throughout the country to enable him to govern effectively. “Proponents of the Electoral College system normally defend it on the philosophical grounds that it: contributes to the cohesiveness of the country by requiring a distribution of popular support to be elected president; enhances the status of minority interests; contributes to the political stability of the nation by encouraging a two-party system; and maintains a federal system of government and representation.” Mr. Kimberling’s argument underlines a simple truth about a direct election versus the electoral system: A direct election would push presidential candidates to focus entirely on the two coasts and a few heavily populated regions in the U.S. Midwest. The electoral system forces them to pay attention to smaller states that have to be won in order to secure a majority in the Electoral College. In short, without the electoral system, voters in North Dakota, South Dakota, Idaho, Montana, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and a handful of other states would be ignored by those running for president. The Electoral College was created by the authors of the U.S. Constitution as a compromise between election of the president by Congress and election by popular vote. The electors, who make up the Electoral College, are a popularly elected body chosen by each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. They are chosen on the Tuesday after the first Monday in November, which is election day. This year it is Nov. 4. The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. The total equals one elector for each of 435 members of the House of Representatives and 100 Senators, plus three electors for the District of Columbia. Each state’s allotment of electors is equal to the number of House members to which it is entitled plus two Senators. Every 10 years, a national census is taken by the U.S. government. The results show how the population has grown and moved. This information is used to allot seats in the House of Representatives. If a state gains representatives, it gains electors in the Electoral College. If it loses representatives, it loses electors in the Electoral College. The electors meet in each state on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. This year the date is Dec. 15. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President and Vice President. No Constitutional provision or federal law requires electors to vote in accordance with the popular vote in their state. Electors have voluntarily followed the wishes of the voters as expressed in the election. If no presidential candidate wins a majority of electoral votes, the 12th Amendment to the Constitution says the presidential election is to be decided by the House of Representatives. In 1800, the Vice-President Thomas Jefferson defeated sitting President John Adams in the presidential election. However, there was a tie in the Electoral College between Jefferson and a third candidates, Aaron Burr. The House of Representatives had to decide the election, taking one week and 36 votes to choose Jefferson as president ” the only election not decided by the Electoral College. According to RealClearPolitics.com, the average of 12 major polls conducted in the U.S. show Sen. Barack Obama has opened up an 8 point lead in most polls over Sen. John McCain. The electoral map presented by RCP also points to an Obama victory in the Electoral College. RCP has 259 electoral votes classified as ‘solid” for Sen. Obama and 27 electoral votes as “leaning” toward him. Their tally for Sen. McCain has 137 electoral votes listed as ‘solid” and 23 “leaning” toward him. A total of 92 electoral votes are listed as ‘toss-up.” Should the vote be held now, according to RCP, and the polling trends remain unchanged, Sen. Obama would win 364 electoral votes and Sen. McCain would win 174 electoral votes. The biggest shift in Sen. Obama’s numbers in recent weeks has come in what are known as “battleground states,” where neither the Democratic Party or the Republican Party can safely count on its presidential candidate winning. Some states historically vote for one party or another, i.e., New York state almost always votes Democrat while a number of states in the south ” Mississippi, Alabama and Louisiana ” have tended to vote Republican since the 1960s. Battleground states tend to change parties depending on the candidates. For over a century, the state of Missouri has voted for the winner in every presidential election with the exception of 1956, when voters picked Gov. Adlai Stevenson over incumbent President Dwight Eisenhower. According to RCP, here is how the latest numbers look in a number of key battleground states: “””””””””””””””””” BO””” McC”” Colorado”” 50.4″”” 45.0″” Obama +5.4 Ohio””””””””” 48.3″”” 45.5″” Obama +2.8 Florida”””””” 48.6″” 46.6″”” Obama +2.0 Nevada”””””” 48.0″” 45.7″” Obama +2.3 Missouri”””” 48.0 “”45.3″” Obama +2.7 N.Carolina” 48.3″” 46.8″” Obama +1.5 Virginia”””””” 52.8″” 44.8″” Obama +8.0 Although Sen. Obama has only reached the magical mark of 50 percent in Virginia and Colorado, his support has increased in these battleground states while Sen. McCain’s support has either stagnated or decreased. “It’s not good news for the Republican candidate.
Obama Winning in the Electoral College Race Where the Presidency Is Decided
By Steve Thomas Observer Nevis Editor