Election day is drawing ever nearer and lot of issues are being discussed. The third debate has come and gone and yet there’s something that seems to me to have gone ignored. The United States prides itself on being a democracy (we’re actually not a democracy, we elect officials to vote on issues for us, so we’re actually a republic) and yet we still have a very undemocratic system. What’s up with that? Well, let’s look at it.
Most people took civics in middle school and U.S. government in high school, so you probably know all of this already, just think of it as a little refresher.
The U.S. government is broken up into local government, state government, and federal government. Local governments are generally made up of counties, municipalities, and townships. They deal with everything from schools, the police, local construction projects, voting, etc. Local governments probably affect people the most, and yet people are least likely to vote in local elections. State governments are modeled after the federal government and they have the same three-branch system, with a legislative, executive, and judicial branch. They are the ones responsible for most of the power that the federal government doesn’t have, because of the tenth amendment. It’s why things like marijuana are legal in Colorado but not in Virginia, or why flamethrowers are legal in 40 states but not all 50. They also decide things like driving laws and standardized tests.
The federal government is the one that people think of the most when they think of the U.S. government. They have the same three branch system that states have, but instead of dealing with more local issues like the state and local governments, the federal government deals with things like the military, other countries, and disputes between states. The presidential election is probably the one that will affect you the least out of all of the elections, yet it is given the most attention. Did you realize that we don’t actually vote for the president though? We have a system in place called the electoral college, and the electors choose the president for us.
What is the electoral college?
The electoral college is a process where electors are selected to vote for the president and vice president. There are 538 electors, but a candidate only needs 270 electoral votes to win the presidency. The electors are *supposed* to vote based off of the popular vote in their state, but not all states hold them to it.
Who are the electors?
Electors can’t be a member of congress or a “Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States.” They also can’t be an enemy of the U.S. The electors are chosen by their political parties and then when people vote on election day we essentially vote for the elector (either by name specifically or by popular vote for the presidential candidate), except in Nebraska and Maine, where the electors are proportioned equally.
Why is this a problem?
Other than the obvious morality issue of having someone else vote for the president, there is also the issue that in most states electors aren’t required to vote the way that the people of their state have. They can vote for their self interests if they choose to. There are only 26 states that require by law that the elector votes according to the popular vote in their state, and Virginia’s law is more of a suggestion.
Another big problem is that if one candidate wins the popular vote and another wins the electoral vote it’ll be the candidate that wins the electoral vote that wins the presidency. The best example of this is in the 2000 election when Governor George W. Bush ran against former Vice President Al Gore. Gore won the popular vote but Bush won the electoral vote, and it was decided that Bush had won the presidency.
How do we change this?
The only way the electoral college will change or be abolished is if the people of the United States come together and let our voices be heard. To do that you can write letters to your senators, governor, congressmen (and women), and even the president. You can protest peacefully and sign petitions, but it’s not going to happen overnight and it certainly won’t happen before this election is over. It probably won’t happen for years, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try to let your voice be heard.
Freedom belongs to the people, and it’s time we take some of it back from the political system.
Freedom belong to the people