Tag Archive | "election"

The Electoral College is absurd and should be abandoned

Our country is in desperate need of electoral reform — and I’m not even talking about our horribly broken system of campaign financing. I mean the manner in which we elect presidents through the delegate-nominating system and the Electoral College is absolutely insane and makes no sense whatsoever.

So, it being an election year, I would like to examine our election system and make some recommendations on how to fix it. I realize my recommendations will probably be a bit unrealistic because they would require constitutional amendments in some cases, but I think these are things worth considering.

I will be splitting this subject into two parts. In this first installment, I will be examining the absurdity that is the Electoral College. And next week I will discuss the ridiculous process of candidate nomination by delegates of the two political parties.

As we all know, the president and vice-president are not chosen by the popular vote in the general election but by an absolute majority of votes from the Electoral College.

This is how the Electoral College works: As per Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution, each state either elects or appoints electors that make up the Electoral College who cast a vote for president and vice president in the general election.

The number of electors must be equal to the total number of Congress members (but electors cannot be a member of Congress).

Ergo, there are currently 538 electors, meaning it takes the votes of at least 270 electors to win the general election.

It is up to each state as to how electors are chosen. For example, in Florida, the governor nominates electors to represent their political party, and the electors swear an oath to vote for the candidates of the party that he or she is nominated to represent (this is pretty close to how most state’s electors work, but some states nominate electors in party conventions).

Generally speaking, the electors act as functionaries of the state and pledge to cast their vote for whomever wins their state’s popular vote in the general election. However, they are not required to do so.

In theory, electors can actually cast their votes for anyone they choose. When electors cast their vote for someone other than who won their state’s popular vote, this process is called “faithless electors.”

Faithless electors are a rare occurrence, but it has happened several times over the years and as recently as 2004 when a Minnesota elector cast his vote for John Edwards for president instead of John Kerry (presumably by accident).

It also happened in 2000, when Elector Barbara Lett-Simmons cast an abstention vote in Washington D.C. instead of voting for Al Gore.

The Electoral College system also allows for the possibility that a candidate can win the presidency without winning the overall national popular vote.

Such an occurrence has happened four times in our nation’s history, most recently in the 2000 election debacle when Gore received 550,000 more votes than George W. Bush.

The Electoral College can also end in a tie. It’s only happened once in the 1800 election when Thomas Jefferson tied Aaron Burr in Electoral College votes. In this absurd scenario, the election gets turned over to be decided by Congress.

And don’t think an Electoral College tie cannot happen again. There are even a couple of completely plausible scenarios that could result in a tie in the upcoming 2012 election (such as this scenario).

If the election goes to Congress to be decided, the president would be chosen in the House of Representatives and the vice president would be chosen in the Senate.

To decide the president in the House, each state delegation gets one vote.

So, while the House currently has 435 members, they would collectively only be casting 50 votes with the representatives from each state voting as a group.

And, no, they are not obligated to cast their vote in line with how the voters in their respective states went. That means a state like Colorado could vote for Obama on Election Day, but since four of the state’s seven representatives are Republican, the state could theoretically end up going for Romney or whoever the Republican nominee is.

Furthermore, this also means that hypothetically Obama could be picked as president by the House and a Republican could be picked as vice president by the Senate or vice versa. This means we could have ended up with Obama and Sarah Palin in 2008 under such a scenario.

So, you may be wondering, then why the hell do we even have an Electoral College if it operates in such a ridiculous manner?

The Founders actually appropriated the system from the Holy Roman Empire, when, starting in the 13th century, elector princes chose the emperor.

The American Electoral College system was chosen, in part, because of the prevalence of slavery in the South and the worry that the infamous Three-Fifths compromise would lead to under-representation of southern states.

Also, there was the completely erroneous hope that such a system would discourage the most populated states from deciding the election at the detriment to the least populated states. However, the Electoral College actually allows just as easily for the opposite to occur.

The United States is currently the only county in the world that allows for an indirect election of an executive president.

Germany and India allow their parliaments to elect the president, but the real executive authority lies with the prime ministers who must win direct elections.

The Electoral College system is an outdated, arbitrary mess that should be completely eradicated.

It would take a constitutional amendment to change the system, but poll after poll has shown that the majority of Americans support such a change, such as a recent Gallop poll that found 62 percent favor nixing the Electoral College.

Our presidents should be chosen by the overall national popular vote, plain and simple — anything else is absurd.

 W. Paul Smith
Opinions Editor 

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Ron Paul offers much to like and dislike

Ron Paul, who had a strong third and second place showing recently in Iowa and New Hampshire respectively, is a bit of an anomaly when it comes to presidential candidates.

He’s running as a Republican but counts among his supporters people from all sides of the ideological spectrum, from anti-regulation libertarians to Occupy Wall Street protestors, from leftist 9/11 Truthers to right-wing white supremacists.

While it may be a moot point considering Mitt Romney will almost certainly be the eventual Republican nominee, I would like to examine who exactly is Ron Paul and where he stands on the issues.

The former obstetrician-gynecologist has served as a Republican congressman for Texas’ 14th district since 1997, and over the years has solidified a reputation as a bit of a renegade who marches to the beat of his own drum.

Part of the reason Paul garners such a wide cross-section of support is because his positions on the issues offer a little for everyone to like — and perhaps dislike.

For example, he appeals to some liberals and progressives (especially the younger ones) because when it comes to the drug war, civil liberties, executive power and some aspects of foreign policy, you could perhaps say that Ron Paul is more progressive than President Obama.

He advocates ending the so-called War on Drugs and supports drug legalization, saying that prohibition doesn’t work and drug addiction should be treated as a medical problem. 

He has taken a strong stance advocating an end to War on Terror and preemptive wars and has condemned the practices of drone attacks and targeted assassinations on American citizens involved with terrorism, all of which Obama supports.

He is the only Republican candidate to come out against the far-overreaching Stop Online Piracy Act and the highly controversial National Defense Authorization Act, which some critics think has provisions that could potentially allow for the indefinite detainment of American citizens.

While these positions have gotten Paul in trouble with the Republican base, he also has positions that appeal to social conservatives: He doesn’t believe in the separation of church and state, thinks there is war on Christmas, rejects the theory of evolutionis against gay marriage (though thinks it should be left to for the states to decide) and denies that global warming exists.

When it comes to abortion, Paul considers himself to be strongly pro-life, as he supports a repeal of Roe v. Wade and has introduced the Sanctity of Life Act several times into the House that would have defined human life and legal personhood as starting at conception.

But Paul has also said that the Ninth and Tenth Amendments would not allow the federal government to ban states from performing abortions and feels that abortion is not a constitutional issue. However, in a rare moment of inconsistency, he has voted twice for a federal ban on partial birth abortions.

Paul appeals to those who think government is too big. He thinks that both Social Security and Medicare are unconstitutional, but stops short of saying he would abolish the programs.

He’s not keen on many federal departments and agencies and wants to eliminate the departments of Energy, Commerce, Interior, Education, and Housing and Urban Development, as well as FEMA.

He’s no fan of many international organizations and global alliances and wants the U.S. to not only pull out of the United Nations but also NATO and the World Health Organization.

Paul even once said the United Nations was a threat to the U.S. that would confiscate firearms, end the Second Amendment, take away private property rights and curtail the right of free religious practice.

He is also against all foreign aid to other countries including Israel.

Paul largely appeals to libertarians, which is the philosophy that seems to inform much of his worldview.

He is a disciple of Ludwig von Mises and Friedrich Hayek, pioneers of the so-called Austrian school of economics (far too complicated to discuss here, but imagine a fanatical reactionary response to Marxism and you’ll start to get the idea) as well as Ayn Rand, who ranks up there with L. Ron Hubbard as one of the worst novelists of the 20th century and believed in pure objective reality.

He comes from the dogmatic school of thought that believes unfettered free market capitalism will solve everything and almost all government regulation will only encroach on people’s freedoms.

It is this libertarian spark that starts to put Paul’s positions into perspective.

Paul essentially believes in the privatization of everything and thinks individual liberty can only be achieved when government has a hands-off approach to nearly every aspect of society, especially business.

In his 1987 book “Freedom Under Siege,” Paul wrote that in a “free society an individual can own and control property and run his or her business as he or she chooses” and that “free people have the right to discriminate.”

Paul has said numerous times that he would have voted against the seminal 1964 Civil Rights Act, which he feels was an affront to liberty and private property.

He rejects the notion that we need regulation to protect people from unfair corporate practices, such as monopolies, racial or sexual discrimination, overworking hours, child labor, etc. He even once said that it was actually capitalism that ended child labor.

And this is where Paul totally goes off the rails for me.

He claims to be against corporatism, but I would submit his economic policies would lead to disastrous results and inch us that much closer to corporate tyranny.

There is no question that sometimes government regulations can be overreaching, ineffective and corrupt just like any other human system, but I think the idea that industries can be entirely self-regulating if we just left them to their own devices is utterly absurd.

First of all, this ignores the fact that much of the bills passed by Congress regulating industries are actually already written by the very industries and their lobbyists that are to be regulated, either weakening the regulation or preventing regulation altogether.

But if the financial crisis of 2008 taught us anything, it’s that private industries cannot be trusted to self-regulate.

Remember the credit ratings agencies, such as Moody’s and Standard and Poor’s? These were private regulatory agencies that were to set standards for rating investments as either safe or dangerous.

But instead, the credit ratings agencies knowingly rated toxic investments as safe because they were in cahoots with the financial service industry and turned a massive profit from the ratings — one of the key factors in the financial collapse.

And, no, capitalism did not end child labor. Child labor was ended in the U.S. with unions and federal regulations after many hard-fought years of workers’ struggle through political activism.

In fact, many American corporations still engage in child labor in other countries, such as Apple. I know we can’t live without our iPhones and iPads, but we all need to understand they were built in part by child labor and sweat shops in China.

And why China? Because China doesn’t have regulations that outlaw such practices like we do in America.

I feel the failure to understand this simple truth of the relationship between capitalism and regulation is to be totally out of touch with reality. We should be calling for better more effective regulations, not wanting all regulations to be abolished.

Of course, if you don’t agree with this notion, then perhaps Paul is your candidate. Ultimately, whether you want to support Ron Paul depends on which issues are of most importance to you.

But I’m certainly glad he is a candidate, because he offers something new and substantive to the debate and a challenge to the status quo whether you agree or disagree — and if that makes him an anomaly in American politics then I welcome it.

W. Paul Smith
Opinions Editor 

Cartoon courtesy of Andy Marlette/amarlette@pnj.com

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Finley and Merritt run unopposed in SGA election

The Student Government Association emergency election, held Monday, was mired in controversy as SGA President Josh Finley and Vice President Cora Merritt won in an unopposed race after Dong Pyon and Diego Santiago, candidates for president and vice president respectively, were disqualified.

The candidates were disqualified last week after the SGA Election Commission received complaints of early campaigning, and the SGA Supreme Court upheld the Election Commission’s disqualification in an appeal case filed by Pyon and Santiago.

“It is unfortunate that candidates have been disqualified,” said Assistant Vice President and Dean of Students Tammy McGuckin, “but the decision of the Elections Commission has been affirmed through the official appeal process.”

Records indicate that the complaint to the Election Commission against Pyon and Santiago was filed by Finley and Merritt, who accused Santiago of early campaigning during the summer by wearing his ticket’s campaign shirt from the previous election.

The exact date of the shirt-wearing incident was not specified, but all parties agreed that the wearing of the shirt was a one-time instance that occurred sometime in late August.

In a brief filed with the SGA Supreme Court, Arianna Maggard, the elections supervisor, wrote, “His shirt is considered campaign material because he is still running for the same position on the same ticket.”

The brief also stated: “The Election Commission felt that ignoring the violations and not disqualifying the candidates would be contradictory to the Commission’s mission to maintain justice, integrity, and ethicality in the Student Government Association.”

“I wore the shirt unintentionally,” Santiago said in an email to The Voyager. “I had no intent to campaign that day.”

Santiago said, “I think it was a petty decision to try to disqualify us based on a shirt that was mistakenly worn.”

After considering the facts of Pyon and Santiago’s appeal, the SGA Supreme Court concurred with the Election Commission and upheld the disqualification.

The court’s decision read, in part, “We find that the wearing of the T-shirt is in blatant violation.”

The court considered Santiago’s motives for wearing the shirt but maintained their decision: “The fact remains that a violation occurred and that ignorance is no excuse for law-breaking.”

Santiago said in an email to The Voyager: “I was unhappy to hear that the court decided to uphold the Election Commission’s disqualification. However, I feel that the court made an informed decision based on the information given during the trial and ruled fairly.

“I respect the justices and their decision to uphold the integrity of this organization’s laws, even if it meant disqualifying candidates for a seemingly trivial mistake.”

The justices seemed to express a similar sentiment in their decision, writing: “The precedent that candidates can simply attempt to rid the field of opposition by finding seemingly inconsequential actions that could be seen as rule-breaking is not the precedent the Court wishes to make; but given the circumstances, we have no choice but to render such a ruling.”

This is the third time a recent SGA election has seen controversy.

The original 2011 spring election was invalidated after an appeal case brought before the SGA Supreme Court revealed records were unavailable to confirm the proper swearing in of election commissioners.

The next election was invalidated after Luke and Rachel Killam, candidates for president and vice president respectively, were disqualified after credible evidence of proxy voting was found, though such evidence showed that only two proxy votes occurred.

McGuckin said that this election did not mark the first time an SGA president has run unopposed but did not name a specific past race in which such a scenario occurred.

“While an unopposed presidential race has not occurred during the time that I have served as the SGA advisor,” McGuckin said, “I have been informed that there has/have been an unopposed race(s) in the past.”

Neither the SGA Constitution and statutes nor the emergency election packet address the issue of what to do in the scenario that all but one presidential candidate has been disqualified before the election takes place.

Santiago said, “SGA prides itself on being a body that represents the students of this university, but how can they claim to represent the student body when the students don’t even have a choice in who holds the highest form of office available?”

Finley said in an email to The Voyager, “It is unfair that SGA gets the bad reputation when it was the individuals running for SGA who cheated, not SGA.

“Please note that those candidates that did file, qualified, and followed the rules are those candidates who are still in the race.”

The only contested position in which students had a choice for whom to vote in Monday’s emergency election was for SGA Finance Chair, won by Keldrick Averhart.

Voter participation in the election was down 64 percent from the last election.

W. Paul Smith
Staff Writer

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