Welcome to the Mark in Russia Podcast network and I’m your host, Mark. Today in episode 048, I’m going to do my best to explain the American election system to my foreign students. If you understand how things work when you finish with this podcast, then you know more than about 80% of American citizens.
If you are not listening to this on my website, then you should go to http://www.markinrussia.com and listen to it there. On the site you can read the show notes along with the explanations of some of the vocabulary.
The U.S. Presidential election takes place every 4 years on the first Tuesday of November. On this day all eligible voters can go vote in their district where they are registered to vote. But, unlike many other countries, the winner is not necessarily the person who receives the most votes. What! How can that be? OK, first you need to understand a little bit about the structure of the United States. Unlike what many say, the U.S. was not founded as a democracy, nor is it now. It was founded as a Constitutional Republic in which the U.S. Constitution is the ruler of the land and great powers are reserved for the states and not the federal government. Although the people in Washington like to think that they are the bosses, in fact they are not. The Constitution lays out what each branch of government can do, and whatever is not listed is the reserve of the individual states.
Therefore, the states, while they vote on the same day in November are treated a bit separately.
When the founding fathers wrote the Constitution, and yes feminists, the country was founded and the laws written by these same men, they did not want to congress to elect the President as done in some countries like England (though called a Prime Minister), but they also did not want the masses to directly elect the President, so they formed a system called “Electors”, now known by the “Electoral College”. It is this system which I will explain.
Now many will say that the people should directly elect the President and any other system is not fair, but you have to take into account some concerns. It was thought at first that only land owners should have the right to vote, since they were the ones with something to lose. This is not a bad argument in some respects. Think about this for a minute. Someone like Bill Gates gives a lot of thought to politics and has 91,000 people who depend on him for a job. Yet his vote can be cancelled by an illegal immigrant in the US who has no right to vote, but it is known by most that the Democratic Party arranges for perhaps hundreds of thousands of these illegal votes. Yeah, most foreigners would be very surprised to learn that the Democratic Party has done everything possible to make it so that nobody can even ask a voter for identification? That’s right; you don’t have to prove who you are. So next time the Democrats are preaching to other countries about their voting policies, they should remember how they highly depend upon the illegal and uneducated vote in the U.S. Well, I digress here. I despise the American Democratic Party, but the purpose of this podcast is to explain the election process, so I’ll focus.
As a compromise, the states each have a number of “Electoral” votes equal to the number of U.S House of Representatives that the State has plus two more to equal the number of U.S. Senators they have. So, based on 2008 numbers, the State with the most electoral votes is California, due to its population with 55 electoral votes and there are 8 States (actually 7 States plus the District of Columbia) with only three Electoral votes each.
In 48 of 50 States the Electoral votes are awarded as follows: whichever candidate wins the majority of votes in that state gets all of the Electoral votes. This is known as “winner takes all”. Two of the States award them to the candidates proportionately.
In 2008 there were a total of 538 Electoral votes, which means that it required 270 Electoral votes to win.
OK, so far it does not seem really hard to understand, at least the mechanics of how it is done, but it does beg the question, “People in America have a system in place to amend the U.S. Constitution, why haven’t they amended the Constitution to change this process?”
It’s a good question which deserves a well thought out answer. My listeners in Russia have a Constitution that can be changed without any input from the people, as a matter of fact, the government changed the Constitution a couple of years ago without asking for the peoples permission or even input to increase the term for Duma Deputies from 4 years to 5, and for the President from 4 years to 6.
In America only the people can change anything in the Constitution. The President, Congress and the Supreme Court are all unable to do anything to change the Constitution. It is a good system in my opinion.
To change, or the official word, “to amend” the Constitution both the House or Representatives and US senate must first vote to amend the Constitution with a 2/3 majority in each, then it is up to all of the States to vote on the issue and ¾ of the States must vote for the amendment in order for it to pass.
After every Presidential election there are calls by people, politicians, etc. to amend the U.S. Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College system and just go with the popular vote. But there are a couple of reasons why this does not happen.
One reason, although not the biggest reason, is that most Americans still like to see the individual States retain power and not give it to the federal government. But, the biggest reason why this doesn’t happen is because people soon lose interest in this question right after the election and politicians, although they mouth that they think it is a good idea, they actually would hate to see this system ever end. So, as spoken about a minute ago, the Constitutional change must first start in the House and the Senate and since the politicians are actually quite happy with the system, we don’t see this happening. If fact, changes to the Electoral system have been proposed more than 700 times in the past 200 years, more than any other proposal, but as you can see, the proposals have never made it through the House and Senate.
If you are listening to this on my website, then you will find a link here at this point to a file which shows how many Electors each State has. On this list, as mentioned earlier, eight states have only 3 Electors each, whereas the bigger States may have anywhere from 15 to 55 each. You should go to the site and download this file in order to fully understand what I’ll speak of next.
Campaigning to be President in America is both very expensive and time consuming. If the vote was a popular vote, meaning count all of the votes in the country and whoever has the most votes wins, candidates would have to visit all 50 States during an election year, involving a lot more travel and expense. But, if a candidate only had to concentrate on about 10 or 12 States during an election year, they could save both time and money.
Which do you think the politicians actually prefer? It is obvious that they would do almost anything to make people forget about the Electoral College right after the vote. The system works to their advantage and any protests from their mouths about this system are merely for public consumption.
With the Electoral system it is even possible for the person who actually got the most votes in the country to lose the election. This has happened twice in American history, the last time being the 2000 election of George Bush Jr.
For the average American the Electoral system is really not equal. If you live in a large State with a lot of Electoral votes, the candidates will be present a lot during an election year and will also be making all kinds of promises to your State. If you live in a small State with few Electoral votes, you can pretty much forget the candidates even remembering where your State is located, much less any promises to help your State in any way. So in this respect, your vote in Wyoming is not equal to a vote in California.
Two of the most populated States, California and New York, are also two of the biggest welfare States and account for 86 Electoral votes, or 32% of the Electoral votes needed to become President. The Democrats are the Kings of the Welfare State, promising the uneducated masses all kinds of money and benefits without having to work. Maybe this 32% of the needed vote being almost automatically given to the Democrats makes their socialist behavior a little bit clearer? In addition to being 2 of the biggest welfare States, they are also two of the States with the highest illegal immigrant populations. Are things coming more into focus now? Electing a Republican President is more of an uphill battle.
Who are these Electors? I mean, these are real people, just a few from each state who decide the election. First let me describe to you who they are not, according to the Constitution.
According to the U.S. Constitution, “………….no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”
So, we now know that the Electors are not politicians or bureaucrats. It is up to each individual State Legislature to determine how to choose these few Electors.
Now I’ll get into some really wild and crazy facts about the electors, which by far, the average American voter has not even the slightest clue about, because they don’t take the time to learn these important things by reading the Constitution.
How about this, according to the rules of the Constitution:
The electors meet in their State to select the President and Vice President of the United States. No Constitutional provision or Federal law requires electors to vote in accordance with the popular vote in their States.
Let me repeat that again: No Constitutional provision or Federal law requires electors to vote in accordance with the popular vote in their States.
So according to this, these Electors can pretty much do as they please and are not bound to cast their vote to reflect the popular vote in their State? In this case, what is the purpose of people voting at all?
There are 29 States that have laws requiring that their Electors cast their vote for the candidate who won the popular vote in their State, but this still means that there are 21 States without such a law. But, it gets even worse. Even in the 29 States with the law concerning their Electors, the penalty for not voting for the person who won the popular vote in the State is about $1000. Not much money at all when there is a Presidential election at stake.
Even these 29 laws could be found unconstitutional if challenged in court. I’ve also heard of a Supreme Court ruling which basically states that if an Elector votes for someone other than the winner of the popular vote in their State, that they can be penalized and replaced. This sounds better, but I don’t know if it is a fact.
The fact is that Electors have voted for the candidate who did not win in their state before. It hasn’t happened often and didn’t change the overall outcome of the election, but the fact that it can and in fact has happened before, really scares the hell out of me when we have the most corrupt and dishonest Presidential administration in our history in office now. By their own actions, they have shown disdain towards the Constitution before and using tricks of this nature would not surprise me.
For any of you that remember the election of 2000, when the winner was not announced until sometime in December and only then by the order of the Supreme Court to cease the vote count. In that election everything came down to the State of Florida. After all of the other State’s votes were counted and the Electoral votes also calculated, neither George Bush Jr or Al Gore had the required 270 electoral votes needed to become President. Whichever one of them won the State of Florida, with its 27 Electoral votes, would become the new U.S. President. The election was so close in Florida, that even when the results were announced, the vote was so close that it automatically required a recount of the vote.
After recounting the vote several times and running into a myriad of interpretations about what can make a vote invalid, the US Supreme Court finally stopped the recount and ordered that the last count results be official. George Bush won Florida by 543 votes. Think about this: out of nearly 200 million votes cast, the winner won by 543 votes in one State.
A few final things to mention about the Electoral system. The final votes of the Electors are given to the National Archives sometime in December and then delivered to Congress on the 6th of January when they are counted and the results made official. This is largely a ceremonial process at that point, but in the case of a large enough group of corrupt Electors, January 6th could be a huge surprise day.
Now for some editorial comment of mine. I do not like the Electoral system of electing a U.S. President. The fact that residents of small States are in effect counted as less important than those in big States disturbs me. Also, the fact that an Elector in the worst case scenario can basically be a wild card not obligated to do what they should be doing for the voters of their State also is a surprise to me frankly and also deeply disturbing.
I’m not sure exactly how I would prefer to see things, but here are my thoughts; a voter should absolutely be required to show positive proof of who they are before being allowed to vote. The fact that they are not forced to do so now is due to the corrupt and dishonest policies of the Democratic Party.
Furthermore, I believe that a very simple test to determine if the person is mentally fit to vote, or at least knows the most basic of questions concerning the political process should be required. I mention this because I don’t happen to believe that neither a drunk, drug addict nor idiot’s vote should be able to be counted and also cancel out the vote of someone more normal. These two suggestions make me the equivalent of a Nazi in the eyes of a typical Democratic Party member, but I really don’t care. If we could do this, then I think that a popular vote where the winner is the person who receives the most votes in the country would be the fairest method.
Hey, thanks for listening through to the end of this podcast and I hope that you now have a deeper understanding of how the President is elected in the U.S.
I hope to have more podcasts concerning the American political system during this U.S. Election year. Please check back and listen to my next podcast. Until that time, Goodby