Electoral Voting System

I don’t normally listen to Howard Stern but my attention was recently called to a set of interviews he conducted in Harlem. They make a strong – and sad – case for continuing the electoral system. Listen to the recording here and see if you think the average American should directly elect the President, or if we still need the electoral process where, hopefully, wiser minds can prevail.

Indeed, we have an “electoral” voting system because the founding fathers didn’t think the run-of-the-mill citizen would be able to adequately assess the candidates and cast a meaningful vote.

This does not demean the average citizen. Instead, it is simply a recognition of the limitations of the era, and the limitations of individual human beings.

Remember that the late 1700s was a time of horse and carriage transportation, and the telegraph wouldn’t be invented for several decades. Weeks and months might pass before citizens learned of a significant event. Indeed, the news that “The British are coming, the British are coming!” travelled no faster than a horse could gallop.

So, in the late 1700s, it made sense for citizens to elect representatives – electors – who would then travel to their respective state capitals, consider the candidates and then cast votes for the President and, separately, for the Vice President. Those who attend those gatherings and cast the decisive votes are termed the electoral college. Although they may have pledged to vote for certain candidates, they are actually bound by their good judgement, and in unusual circumstances, that “good judgement” might well come down on the side of a candidate different than what the elector’s constituents expect.

This is the core-essential of a representative form of government and how it is distinguished from a pure Democracy where every citizen, whether masterfully or pitifully capable, participates equally. That is, to run our representative-based form of government, we elect individuals who are, we hope, better prepared and more capable in leadership areas and in the machinations of politics than ourselves. And we expect them to do things that will be in our best interests. Same with the electors who cast the essential votes to elect our President and Vice President. We elect individuals to cast those final votes, individuals whom we believe to be more capable than ourselves in making such choices.

But today, with our instant communications and wide dissemination of candidate’s speeches, with our live public broadcast of their face-to-face debates, some citizens question the wisdom of the electoral voting system. They say that the popular vote, by a simple majority of the citizens, should directly elect the President and, indirectly, the Vice Presidential candidate chosen to run with that individual.

But after listening to the Howard Stern interviews (see link above), I am quite convinced that we still need this system of electors that was created by our founding fathers.

The popular election is tomorrow and it promises to be turmoil-provoking no matter how the count is tallied.

But the real vote, that of the electors – the real vote that will determine who will be sworn in as President and as Vice President of the United States – that vote will be by those we elect tomorrow.

So, who will be the electors for your state? Shortly after tomorrow’s election, you should Google (search on-line) for “2008 Certificates of Ascertainment” to find out.

And then starting in December for the four years thereafter, we will see the wisdom, or lack thereof, in the votes of our electors.


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