Monday, June 6, 2016

Mel Jackson: Is the Electoral College outdated?

  In the infancy of the United States of America and while forming the Constitution, our Founding Fathers solved a dilemma - how to elect our very first president to lead a nation consisting of thirteen individualized states, distrustful of centralized governments, and desiring to have their own rights. The nation was small, with less than four million inhabitants of mostly rural communities, and relatively uneducated. Transportation, communication, and the daily news was slow. The Founding Fathers felt that the average citizen may not have been able to gather the needed information regarding the various candidates from the different states to select a president with the popular vote. It was assumed that each state would want to elect their "favorite son" which would give the most populated state the wining advantage. So, they created the Electoral College.

  The Electoral College was to be made up of people who possessed the knowledge and understanding of what would make a good president. The idea of the College of Electors was not a new concept but dated back to the Roman Catholic Church and the College of Cardinals in selecting a Pope.

  Each state, either large or small, was given a fair amount of electors and allowed to elect their electors in their own manner, meet in their respective state, and cast two separate votes each. Each state sealed and sent their votes to the U.S. Senate to be opened and read. The candidate with the most votes won.

  With every presidential election cycle one question seems to always reemerge: Is the Electoral College still essential?

  Some would say, "Get rid of the Electoral College. It's non-democratic and it does not reflect the national popular will," and that "the candidate that garners the most popular votes should be the winner."

  The American culture is one of instant gratification. We want information and we demand it now. This instant information is available by Internet. The problem is, there is accurate and inaccurate information. It's possible to end up with falsehoods and lies, so, "Caveat lector" or "buyer beware." There's a tendency to also rely on advertising to be our guide, which is designed to sway opinions. Friends, family, and the mass media also seeks to guide us with their respective agendas.

  Despite not being very democratic, many citizens choose to defend and want to keep the Electoral College. There are some practical reasons for keeping it, namely: there is little likelihood of having a disputed outcome with the Electoral College. It works well in getting a president with trans-regional appeal. It's likely that presidential candidates will focus more attention on the toss-up or swing states rather than the states they are sure to win in. The electoral votes are better weighted in favor of less populous states keeping the big states from having an advantage. And the Electoral College votes prevent run-off elections whereas the popular vote can be disputed.

  The Electoral College has functioned fairly well for more than 200 years. Doing away with it has been considered, but few viable and non-problematic options seem to be available. So the Founding Fathers were truly sharp guys who devised a tool to fix their dilemma. The Electoral College at present may still be our best bet for electing a president.

  About the author: Mel Jackson is a writer, radio broadcaster and with the help of a few friends does a weekly show called "Coon Prairie Ramblers." It can be seen on YouTube at: He also wrote the book "Runaway," a story of a young boy longing for the love of his father which can be found on

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