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Bully Pulpit

The term "bully pulpit" stems from President Theodore Roosevelt's reference to the White House as a "bully pulpit," meaning a terrific platform from which to persuasively advocate an agenda. Roosevelt often used the word "bully" as an adjective meaning superb/wonderful. The Bully Pulpit features news, reasoned discourse, opinion and some humor.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

New push for popular vote

(Charlotte Observer) - Advocates for electing the president by popular vote are seizing on the fresh memories of candidates fawning over North Carolina's primary to push changes to the way the commander in chief is elected.

A bill that passed the state Senate last year and is awaiting action in the House would add North Carolina to a coalition of states that pledge to elect the president by national popular vote instead of the current state-by-state system.

The legislation doesn't take effect until it is passed by enough states to total 270 electoral votes, the number needed to elect a president. Once they reach that number, all of those states will award their electors as a bloc to the winner of the national popular vote.



From the Winston-Salem Journal:

There are problems with the Electoral College that may need fixing. In 2000, the candidate elected did not win the popular vote. In 2004, it almost happened again.

But fixing the presidential election system should be done through the Constitution's amendment process, one that has served well for more than 200 years.

Maryland, Hawaii, New Jersey and Illinois have enacted laws that would require their electors to vote for the candidate who wins the national popular vote. The legislatures in California and Vermont have approved such bills, too, but California's governor vetoed it and Vermont's is likely to follow suit.

Now the North Carolina and Massachusetts legislatures are considering such bills. The new laws would apply only after states with a total of 270 electoral votes signed on.

The 50 states and the District of Columbia each have their own presidential elections to award their electoral votes. (Maine and Nebraska award the votes to congressional district winners; the rest are winners take all.)

The Electoral College was created in 1788 out of concerns about runaway democracy and the small states being overshadowed by big states.

Many Americans consider the Electoral College an anachronism that led to the 2000 result and excludes predictably one-party states from the fall campaign.

North Carolina, with its tendency to favor Republican presidential candidates, is one.

Massachusetts, which regularly votes Democratic, is another. Given the Electoral College's winner-take-all system, the candidates put their autumn efforts into battleground states and largely ignore those where the outcome is predictable.

This is a problem. Republicans in Massachusetts and Democrats here often feel that their presidential vote is wasted, unlikely to really count.

But the way to remedy this is not with some jury-rigged set of state laws that might only create new problems, confusion and inconsistency.

The constitutional method for changing the electoral system allows for two starting points. The Congress can pass an amendment and submit it to the states for ratification, or the states can call a constitutional convention.

If there is sufficient public dissatisfaction with the Electoral College, then political pressure will build to amend the Constitution in the method that has worked for two centuries. It is a long and arduous process that guarantees that the basic law of our land is not rewritten without serious consideration.

That is exactly the course the country should take if change to the presidential election system is warranted.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 2:34:00 PM  
Anonymous joreko said...

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

The proper way to change the winner-take-all rule is the way already specifically provided in the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislature.

Under the U.S. Constitution, the states already have the power to award their electoral votes "in such manner as the Legislature may direct."

The North Carolina Legislature has exercised its power to change the method of awarding the state’s electoral votes on four occasions. In 1792, the Legislature chose the presidential electors itself. Then, the people voted for electors from special presidential elector districts between 1796 and 1808. Then, the Legislature chose the electors in 1812. In 1816, the Legislature changed to the statewide winner-take-all rule.

The 2 recognized problems of the current system (i.e., states like North Carolina are totally ignored by presidential candidates and the election of second-place candidates) stem from the winner-take-all rule.

The winner-take-all rule is merely state law. It doesn't require a constitutional amendment to change a state law.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 2:44:00 PM  
Anonymous mvy said...

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

The “normal way” of changing the method of electing the President is not a federal constitutional amendment, but changes in state law.

Historically, virtually all of the previous major changes in the method of electing the President have come about by state legislative action. For example, the people had no vote for President in most states in the nation’s first election in 1789. However, nowadays, as a result of changes in the state laws governing the appointment of presidential electors, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states.

In 1789, only 3 states used the winner-take-all rule (awarding all of a state’s electoral vote to the candidate who gets the most votes in the state). However, as a result of changes in state laws, the winner-take-all rule is now currently used by 48 of the 50 states.

In other words, neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, that the voters may vote and the winner-take-all rule) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.

In 1789, it was necessary to own a substantial amount of property in order to vote; however, as a result of changes in state laws, there are now no property requirements for voting in any state .

The “normal process” of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes. The U.S. Constitution gives “exclusive” and “plenary” control to the states over the appointment of presidential electors.

The abnormal process is to go outside the Constitution, and amend it. You respect the U.S. Constitution by following the method provided by the Founders for changing the way a state awards its electoral votes, namely action by the state legislature.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 2:55:00 PM  
Anonymous Richard Winger said...

From the Winston-Salem Journal:

I know it is frequently said that the founders thought up the electoral college to protect the small states, but it isn't true. Read Law Professor Vikram Amar's "The American Constitution", which is very fair and scholarly and unbiased. He makes it clear that the electoral college was to protect the slave states. This is because of the US House rule that a slave counted as much as 3/5ths as a person, for US House apportionment. The Electoral College vote of each state, being based on the number of members of Congress from that state, thus gave the slave states protection against being outnumbered in the presidential choice.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008 3:13:00 PM  

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