How did this process get started? The Constitution – what does it say about the presidential election? Who elects the president? Indirect election – Electoral College Why do we have an Electoral College? How does it work? What are some criticisms? Why hasn’t it been changed?
Rationale for such a system at the Constitutional Convention Poor communication – common people would lack essential information Desire to have the “best” people select the President A compromise by those who wanted direct election and those who wanted the Congress to elect the President
Allotment of electoral votes to states Each state has as many electoral votes as it has members in Congress Minimum # = 3 Washington, D.C. has 3 votes (23rd Amendment) Total = 538 California has the highest number – 55 Washington will have 12 (up from 11 in the previous election)
Selection of Electors Candidate with most popular votes (only a plurality is needed) wins all of that state’s electoral votes (winner-take-all) – concentration of campaigning in large, competitive states Emphasis on “swing” states – FL, OH, PA Electors meet in respective state capitals in December to cast ballots
Winning the election• Majority of electoral votes (270) needed to win• If no candidate has a majority (this is what the Founders thought would happen most of the time. They did not anticipate the development of the two- party system): − House selects President from among top 3 candidates − Each state has 1 vote − Done in 1800 and 1824 − Senate selects V.P. from among top two candidates
Criticisms President can be elected with only a plurality rather than a majority (of popular votes) especially with presence of strong 3rd party Faithless Elector – no federal law requires electors to vote the way they are “supposed” to vote (most states do have a law) Small states proportionately overrepresented (Wyoming – 3 electoral votes – 1 vote per 166,666 people, California – 55 electoral votes – 1 vote per 600,000 people) Small states overrepresented (if election goes to the House, Wyoming has same voting power as California) Inhibits development of third parties (Perot won 19% popular vote but no electoral votes)
Alternatives Direct election: each person’s vote would count as much as every other person’s vote District system (candidate who wins a congressional district wins that district’s electoral vote). Overall winner in a state would get the two “bonus” electoral votes by virtue of its Senate seats Proportional system (candidate gets same % of electoral votes as popular votes)
Why has the Electoral College system not been abolished? Tradition/reluctance to tamper with the Constitution Difficulties in amending the Constitution Opposition from the overrepresented small states
How does the process of selecting a president work today? The Path to the Presidency today• Invisible primary: unofficial campaigning done by unofficial candidates• Declaration of candidacy• Nomination phase• Fall campaign• Election day• Meeting of electors• Formal election• Inauguration day
Nomination Phase• Some states use a caucus to determine the party candidate for president – Local caucuses – district convention – state convention – national convention. Each level selects delegates to attend higher level – Importance of Iowa: 1st state to hold caucuses each presidential election year – chance for candidate to build momentum for future caucuses and primaries – The State of Washington uses a caucus system
• Other states use presidential primaries as method of selecting a nominee. Increased use of primaries in last 30 years. – Voters vote for candidates and state parties select delegates to attend convention either on proportional basis (Democratic Party) or winner-take-all (Republican Party). – Importance of New Hampshire: the first state to hold primary each presidential election year – chance for candidate to build momentum for future caucuses and primaries. – Front-loading trend: primaries are held earlier and earlier. The idea of Super Tuesday where many southern states held their primaries early in the election season, has morphed into a situation where more and more non-southern states are moving up the dates of their primaries (Super Tuesday not as significant).
• National Convention – Selection of presidential nominee: a mere formality since the winner is known well ahead of time – emphasis on “image” instead of “scrimmage” – ratification rather than nomination – Selection of v.p. nominee • Chosen by presidential nominee and rubber stamped by convention • Balancing the ticket – Use of superdelegates by Democrats – Party platform – Reconciliation and unification of party by end of the convention • Inspiring speeches by prominent politicians and videos promoting the candidates and their families, speeches by v-p nominee and presidential nominee
• Analysis of presidential nominating system – Pro • Highly participatory: caucuses, primaries, conventions • Potential to be more representative • A testing ground for candidates. Weeds out weaker candidates. – Con • Low rates of turnout • Too lengthy • Does not test candidates for qualities they need as president. Too much emphasis on media game. • Front-loading has adversely affected states with later primaries. In essence, these states have no say in who is nominated • Voters in primaries tend to be better educated and more affluent than those in general elections • Delegates at caucuses and conventions tend to be unrepresentative: more ideological, more activist, more educated, less moderate, much more wealthy. (“Selectorate” replaces the “electorate.”)
Key Dates in this year’s presidential election• Republican convention week of August 27 (Tampa)• Democratic convention week of September 3 (Charlotte)• November 6 – election day!• Meeting of Electors – Monday, December 17• Inauguration day – January 20, 2013
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