In recent time one of the most broadly discussed political issues in contemporary America has been the Electoral College Reform. The debate about the necessity of getting the current Electoral College arrangement reformed has become the matter of primary concern for the U.S. legislators as well as for representatives of academic community. Indeed, despite the great variety of respective opinions, there is clear evidence that the current state of affairs has to be changed in some way. As a matter of fact, the most reasonable decision on the matter appears to be the adoption of the institutional reform which would abolish the Electoral College as such and thus let American people participate in truly democratic presidential elections.
Generally speaking, the Electoral College is a specific political institution which operates exclusively during presidential elections. The main function of this institution is to ultimately decide which of the candidates is to obtain the presidential post. Initially, the electoral college was designed so as to reach an effective compromising point in the discussion regarding whether the president has to be elected by direct popular vote or by legislators’ vote in Congress (Neale 1-2). Both alternatives had their own disadvantages: while the idea of direct popular vote seemed to be too precarious and reckless, the other option appeared to be not democratic enough since it factually presupposed the complete alienation of the public from the process of electing the president. In this context the establishment of the Electoral College was considered to be the most appropriate decision which would assure that the president is elected in a democratic and at the same time effectively weighed manner.
Basically, the credentials of the Electoral College are exercised by electors which are nominated by each state in a number that reflects the current number of that state’s representatives in Congress. Once the popular vote is cast and the results are disclosed, the members of the Electoral College are supposed to cast their own votes for one of the candidates for the presidential post, and it is exactly the Electoral College’s vote that actually determines the result of the presidential elections. In a general sense, such mechanism of electing the president is expected to favour the candidate who manages to gain support of the broad public and the group of honorary politicians and civil leaders that cast their votes in the capacity of the members of the Electoral College. Theoretically, the elaboration of such mechanism has to result in the election of the most skilled and respectable candidate out of those who participate in the presidential elections. However, in practice the situation appears to be slightly different, and the impact that the Electoral College exerts on the outcome of the presidential elections in no way can be regarded as completely immaculate and unambiguously beneficial for American people.
The fact is that the institutional framework within which the presidential elections currently take place tends to misrepresent the people’s will, which is commonly expected to have a decisive role under the democratic political regime.
On the one hand, such misrepresentation appears to be related to the winner-take-all principle that dictates the way in which distribution of the electoral votes is accomplished. As a matter of fact, the current framework presupposes that the procedure of presidential elections is to be activated by the popular voting for one of the competing candidates. In this respect, each eligible citizen of the U.S. casts a vote for the particular candidate and the whole of those votes are then counted by authorized organs of each state and the results of the voting in each state are declared. However, those results are not ultimate since the members of the Electoral College have not yet cast their respective votes. Under the current arrangement, each state delegates its own number of the electors depending on the number of that state’s population, and since each elector is eligible to cast one vote, each state secures different number of electoral votes through its representatives in the electoral college. However, those electoral votes cannot be distributed between the candidates in a way that would correspond to the actual distribution of popular votes. In fact, if distribution of the popular votes between the candidates is rather equable and one of the candidates acquires just a minimal advantage over the other, it is actually that contestable winner who is going to be then supported by the whole of the electoral votes allocated to that particular state. In this case it remains insignificant that the other candidate managed to acquire support of just slightly smaller number of people who manifested their own political position in such manner of voting. Position of that minority group is completely neglected regardless of the factual number of its representatives, and it is only the majority, however marginal it might be, that gains the privilege of deciding the way in which the electoral votes of that state are to be cast. Even though the founders of the political system of the U.S. made great effort to prevent the very possibility of the tyranny of majority, this phenomenon clearly exposes itself in the matter of the discriminatory manner of allocation of the electoral votes in the presidential elections.
Apart from the imperfect distribution of the state’s electoral votes between candidates, the arbitrary allocation of those electoral votes by members of the Electoral College also contributes to the possible underestimation of the people’s will in the presidential elections. Basically, the electors are delegated to the Electoral College by respective institutions of each state. However, the premises on which electors are appointed in the particular state might vary to some extent. The most popular option presupposes the composition of separate groups of potential electors that are gathered on the basis of the identical political party affiliation. Should the candidate from the particular political party gain the majority of popular votes in that state, the state authorities delegate the electors from the same party to cast their electoral votes. Another option presupposes the appointment of electors directly by the state authorities which choose the potential electors among the respectable citizens of that state. Generally, in both cases electors are supposed to cast their electoral votes for the candidate who gained the majority of popular votes in the state they represent. However, they are supposed but not obliged to do so, and this peculiarity occasionally leads to the situation when electors prefer not to vote for the candidate that has been the winner of the popular elections in that state. In this case the elector retains the capability to vote in a fully arbitrary manner which might transcend the result of the popular elections as well as the elector’s commitment to the particular political party. Such arrangement factually diminishes significance of the popular elections since their result might easily be neglected by the elector and thus not taken into account during the count of electoral votes, which actually decides the outcome of the presidential elections. The most peculiar feature of this situation is that American citizens seem to falsely believe that by casting their vote in presidential elections they choose the future president but not the group of electors that are going to actually choose the president in a fully arbitrary and unrestricted manner.
Ultimately, the possible misrepresentation of the people’s will, which might be caused either by disproportional distribution of state’s electoral votes or by arbitrary elector’s voting, predetermines possibility of the factual discrepancy between the result of popular elections and the result of elections that are conducted by Electoral College. Indeed, there is a real chance that under such arrangement the presidential post might be granted to the candidate who has actually received less popular votes in comparison with his competitor. In fact, there have already been four American presidents that got their post due to the result of the electors’ voting which appeared to differ from the results of popular voting (Whitaker and Neale 7), and such matters in no way can be regarded as the proper manifestations of the democratic rule of the people in the U.S.
Taking into consideration all mentioned above, it needs to be stated that the current institutional mechanism of presidential elections has to be modified so as to become more transparent and genuinely democratic. In order to assure the decisive role of the people’s voting in presidential elections, the Electoral College, which currently functions as a specific institutional entity that mediates and filters the people’s will, has to be ultimately abolished, and the institutional framework of direct presidential elections by popular voting is to be designed and introduced. As the proponents of such reform emphasize, direct election plan would give every vote the equal weight, no matter in which state it was actually cast (Koza et al.). Moreover, the people’s will would no longer be hampered by the possible arbitrary exercise of the credentials of the members of electoral college, which currently exert the decisive impact on the result of presidential elections. Even though the opponents of such reform would argue that the current institutional framework is deeply historically rooted in the American political culture (Whitaker and Neale 19-20), such reverence for political tradition cannot compensate the constant presence of the possibility that the constitutional right of American people to elect their president might be neglected in favour of the arbitrary will of the narrow group of the members of the Electoral College. The maintenance of such state of affairs is inadmissible for the truly democratic state, and in this respect the adoption of the institutional reform that would abolish the Electoral College appears to be sufficiently reasonable and justified.
In conclusion, it should be highlighted that the Electoral College Reform seems to be essential for support of the democratic rule of people in the U.S. Current Electoral College arrangement, which tolerates the possibility of the discriminatory distribution of the state’s electoral votes and the arbitrary electors’ voting, is to be regarded as inadequate for assuring that democratic rights of the U.S. citizens are exercised in full extent during presidential elections. In this respect, the adoption of the reform that would get the Electoral College abolished appears to be a sort of decision that is unconditionally beneficial for American people.