Who really elects the President of the United States?
- Written by Carolina Rosario
"…every member must have an equal and effective opportunity to vote, and all votes must be counted as equal." Robert Dahl
In the presidential elections of Venezuela, 81% of the citizens went to the polls. Hugo Chavez, despite being in power for more than 14 years, was re-elected with 54% of the vote. His opponent Henrique Capriles lost with 44%.
Although, most of the exiled-Venezuelans were unhappy with the results, it was proven that the election was a clean and democratic process where every citizen’s vote was counted. In other words, the majority decided. Now, let’s take a look at the United States electoral process.
On November 6, 2012 the United States will hold the 57th quadrennial presidential election where registered American citizens that are 18 or older can vote. But, if you think that each citizen’s vote is counted to choose the winner, like in Venezuela and most auto-denominated democratic countries, you might be surprised to know that this is not always the case.
The president of the United States is chosen by the “Electors,” a group of 538 people (reflected as points in all the states) that makes up what is called the Electoral College.
Each of the 50 states is assigned the same number of electors as it has representatives and senators. In other words, the amount of electors is assigned by the state’s population. The most populated state in the country is California with 55 electors followed by Texas (38), New York (29) and Florida (29). That is the reason why these states are so important to the presidential candidates.
How is the president elected?
When people vote in a state, all the votes in that state are counted and the candidate with more votes is the candidate that state will support; therefore, it gets all the electors in that state. The presidential candidate that gets 270 or more electors will be the next president.
Can the electoral vote contradict the popular vote? The answer is yes!
It happened 3 times in the history of this country. The most recent one was the controversial election on November 7, 2000, when President George W. Bush (R) was running against Al Gore (D). After a legal recount contest Bush was elected president because he won the electoral vote, even though Gore won the popular vote with a lead of more than half million votes.
Ironically, in the United States, the Electoral College chooses the president of the United States and not the citizens.
Over the existence of the Electoral College the U.S Congress has received more than 700 proposals to reform or eliminate it, but nothing has been done.
I ask you: Can we call the electoral process of the United States "democratic"?