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April 15

posted Apr 15, 2013, 6:05 AM by Peter Knowles
Day 48--

Learning Target ImageWhat will I be able to do when I've finished this lesson?How will I  accomplish this task?  How will I show that I have done this?How well will I have to do this?
 I will be able to understand how the electoral college is used to determine the winner of the presidential race every 4 years.I will consider the reasons behind the electoral college, the objections to it today, and possible changes that would make the process better. I will write a paragraph that explains how the process works, and explain how well I think it works to accomplish its purpose. This is a formative assessment. My work will directly help me later as I complete my summative assessment for this assessment cycle.

As your textbook claims in last night's reading, the Electoral College is "one of the least understood parts of the American political process" (McClenaghan 340).
Why is it so poorly understood?

Maybe it's because many people believe that the votes they cast on election day are the votes the "count" for the winner to win.
But that's not exactly true.
Or maybe it's because some believe that their individual vote doesn't "count" because members of the Electoral College will cast the votes that determine the winner. 
That's not quite right either.

So let's take some time today to see if we can sort this out, and THEN you can decide if you think the Electoral College is something that is, on the whole, good for our country, or whether it should be amended or replaced. 

To begin, let's watch a video that explains some of the basics of the Electoral College. 
We've got 4 to choose from:

Electoral College videos from TedED (5:22), or from Common Craft (3:43), or from Disney (7:47), or from CNN (2:58). (If we don't watch all of them in class today, you can always come back and take a look at them later). 

So what did we learn from this exercise? 
Let's see. Take this little quiz to see if you picked up some of the basic ideas. Read each question and see if you know the answer. Don't tell anyone now, but be ready to answer if called on: 

1) True or False: All states have the same number as electors as each other. 

2) Which of following formulas expresses how many electors each state has:
    a) Total number of votes cast for the winner divided by the number of senators
    b) Total number of representatives in the state
    c) Total number of senators in the state   
    d) Total number of representatives in the state + 2

3) Complete the sentence correctly: Almost all the states use the same method to select their electors, based on the one candidate who wins the most popular votes in that state. This is known as _______________ . (EXTRA CREDIT: Which 2 states use a different method?) 

4) Most of the time, the winner of the electoral vote is also the winner of the nationwide _______________________ . 

5) When it comes to states with small population (such as Rhode Island, Wyoming, and North Dakota) the Electoral College:
    a) gives them more power, proportionally speaking, than large population states such as California, Texas, and New York
    b) can be won without a single vote from them
    c) gives them fewer votes per state than those with larger populations
    d) encourages candidates to at least consider them in their campaign strategy and decisions.

So what happens when you go to vote on election day. Who are you actually voting for?

Take a look at this Ballot from Mississippi from the 2004 presidential campaign. When you choose George W. Bush or John Kerry, or David Cobb or James Harris for that matter, who does it say you are actually voting for?

How about this one from Idaho. If you voted for George Bush (who ultimately won the electors in that state) who are you really voting for? 

And how about this letter from the Governor of the State of Washington in 2004. It isn't a ballot, but it's related to the voting in our state that year. Take a few minutes to review it and figure out what it's all about. 

It should be clear by now that when voters vote for President every four years, their votes DO count, but they count indirectly, after going through the filter of the Electoral College. 

So let's take a few minutes to consider the reasons some people are opposed to it. 
Your textbook lists three main ones:

1) There is an "ever present threat that the winner of the popular vote will not win the presidency" (McClenaghan 343). Your book points out that such an event has only happened three times (well, it's four now...and we'll look more at that instance tomorrow in class). 
2) Electors are not required by the Constitution or by federal law to vote for the candidates they are sent to elect. 
But how often does that happen? The chart below shows that this problem is very, very rare, is often for good reason, and has never altered the outcome of the electoral college vote. 

Year Electors Faithless Pctg Party State Reason Adjusted Adj pct
22,972 156 0.679% 85 0.370%
2012 538 0.000%
2008 538 0.000%
2004 538 0.000% Since 1920
2000 538 1 0.186% D DC Protest (P) 8 0.06%
1996 538 0.000% electors
1992 538 0.000% 12,841
1988 538 1 0.186% D WV P
1984 538 0.000%
1980 538 0.000%
1976 538 1 0.186% R WA P
1972 538 1 0.186% R VA P
1968 538 1 0.186% R NC P
1964 538 0.000%
1960 537 1 0.186% R OK P
1956 531 1 0.188% D AL P
1952 531 0.000%
1948 531 1 0.188% D TN P
1944 531 0.000%
1940 531 0.000%
1936 531 0.000%
1932 531 0.000%
1928 531 0.000%
1924 531 0.000%
1920 531 0.000%
1916 531 0.000%
1912 531 8 1.507% R Various Death (VP)
1908 483 0.000%
1904 476 0.000%
1900 447 0.000%
1896 447 4 0.895% D Various WJB 2 VPs
1892 444 0.000%
1888 401 0.000%
1884 401 0.000%
1880 369 0.000%
1876 369 0.000%
1872 352 63 17.898% D Various D (P)
1868 294 0.000%
1864 233 0.000%
1860 303 0.000%
1856 296 0.000%
1852 296 0.000%
1848 290 0.000%
1844 275 0.000%
1840 294 0.000%
1836 294 23 7.823% D VA P
1832 286 32 11.189% D 30 PA VP, 2 MD clay P
1828 261 7 2.682% GA vp
1824 261 0.000%
1820 235 1 0.426% DR NH Adams P
1816 217 0.000%
1812 217 3 1.382% F VP P
1808 175 6 3.429% DR VP P
1804 176 0.000%
1800 138 0.000%
1796 138 1 0.725% F DR P
1792 132 0.000%
1789 69 0.000%

3) If neither candidate wins a majority of the electoral vote, the "contest will be decided in the House of Representatives" (McClenaghan 344).
This has happened, as the book notes, twice, in 1800 and in 1824. But it could have happened a number of times since then, usually when a strong 3rd party candidate takes electoral votes from one or both of the two major party candidates, making it more difficult for either of them to earn more than 50%. So it could be a "problem", but it hasn't been. But is it really a "problem"? 

How about some alternatives:
Your text talks about The District Plan (345), The Proportional Plan (345), Direct Popular Election (346) and the National Bonus Plan (345). But a plan not discussed in the text (because it's relatively new) that has gained support lately is known as the National Vote Interstate Compact. In this plan, individual states promise to have their electors vote for the winnner of the national popular vote -- no matter which candidate won their state -- but it only takes effect after enough states have agreed to do this to ensure at least 270 electoral votes for the popular vote winner. So, until enough states agree to the plan, no changes will take place. The states that have approved this plan so far make up almost 1/4 of the total electoral votes, so they are halfway there. 

So what do you think? Are you worried about the way our president is elected? Does the Electoral College serve its purpose? Is it a problem that needs to be solved? 
Write a short paragraph that explains what you think about the Electoral College now that you know more about it. And if you want to write more than a paragraph, you might want to consider Essay Option 3 for your unit essay.