By Chris Barts
Back in the seventeen hundreds, when the Constitution was being written, few people knew about the nation as a whole. Those living in a large city, such as Philadelphia, would have had papers relatively frequently and perhaps some official announcements or handbills. They knew important things, like the candidates running in the presidential election. But most people still lived on farms, from the small subsistence plots in New England to the vast plantations of the South. Few papers reached them, giving them little idea of who wanted to be elected. Keeping these people in mind, the framers of the Constitution drafted our method to elect the president. It has lasted, largely unchanged, for over 200 years. That's a problem.
These days, we have CNN, regular papers, radio stations, and the internet to keep us posted. Most people, even those living in places like Alaska and Hawaii, a world away from the people who lived in New England in the 1700s, know the result of the Super Tuesday polls in Georgia and Ohio. The age of a largely ignorant public is gone. Yet we still have the Electoral College, a throwback to those days.
Basically, the Electoral College system works like this today. Every ten years the census figures adjust how many representatives each state has. Also DC has three electors. Then each state has the right to decide how to select these electors. Each elector pledges to vote a specific way, to better serve the people he represents. Once the electors have been selected, they vote for the president. The candidate with the most electoral votes wins.
Even though each elector pledges to vote how he's supposed to, there are no federal or constitutional repercussions for voting differently. In a large way, the Electoral College, a minority, selects the president. Never a good thing, especially in a country that has tried to spread democracy since its inception. It may have made sense back in the 1700s, but not now.
Now we have the ability to vote directly for our president. The current polling methods, coupled with our current information services, plus some laws mandating that everyone of voting age must vote could easily elect a president. In the event of no candidate getting a majority, a run-off among the top two candidates would settle the issue. Laws mandating that all people legally entitled to vote must cast a ballot just make sense in a country where less than half of the public actually bother to show up at the polls. Having a free national requires more than CNN.
As always, education is the key to the whole thing. Education about the process, education about issues, and education about the candidates are all vital, as is participation. No free nation can ever defeat tyranny if apathy has already won.