Tomorrow is the California primary and this year it is the prize everyone needs and wants. But should our presidential electoral system run this way?
America’s presidential election system is a strange one, mixed with traditions of the Founding Fathers and reforms made by the progressive movement to try to make it more Democratic. In 1789 George Washington won the presidency when he was elected unanimously by the electoral college, and again for his second term. But who were these electors?
The Constitution says that the state legislatures nominate people to the electoral college as it seems fit. The Founders believed these electors would exercise their own judgement when voting. Whoever won the most votes would be president, and whoever won the second most votes would be Vice President. Also, that the electoral college would rarely be able to choose the President in this manner and that if they couldn’t the election would go to the Congress.
The Constitution allows the states to choose its own ways to nominate its electors. This is how states, like Colorado, were able to not hold a primary or caucus to choose its delegates publicly.
There have been changes since the 1790s. One being separate ballots for the president and Vice President so the country doesn’t repeat the 1800 election. The 14th Amendment made it so every male over 21 would be counted for representation (and in turn, the number of electors in the Electoral College), and would lose Representatives in the House if they unlawfully denied people the right vote.
Basically since the 14th Amendment has passed, the language of the amendment has been interpreted to be those with the legal right to vote.
Now primaries, why do we have them? The primary system was set up in the early 1900s to give more power to the people when choosing a presidential candidate. Each party has its own rules within these primaries and each state has its own rules as well.
There are other options though in choosing the President. America is already used to having a long election season and the states already pay for the elections, so it wouldn’t cost us additional money, why not move to a single transferable voting system? This would allow for a voter to rank whom he or she would want to win and allow voters to feel more involved. The first-past-the-post system, or winner-take-all, doesn’t allow for third party candidates to gain any traction and voters feel disillusioned because most of the people didn’t vote for the winner of the election. First-past-the-post is the system used in all but two states in the electoral college.
The electoral college was invented before the information age, before computers and technology gave the American people the opportunity to be more engaged and informed in politics. Our voting system should do so as well.