Thursday, August 28, 2008

Know Your Rights and Exercise Them

We just got done watching Obama's Acceptance Speech. It was quite inspiring. The key thing I took from it though is how important it is to exercise our right to matter what our political affiliation is. We are blessed with many important rights in this country and I believe we take them for granted. Myself included. I have to admit that I do not vote in every election and especially for local elections. But to have the privilege to help choose our leadership and the direction of our government is one to not take lightly. I can't tell you how many times I have heard, "Why should I vote - it doesn't even count." So Jav, Nate and I were discussing if any of us really knew what the electoral college was and how do our votes get they even really count? Sadly, between the three of us, with a serious amount of education amassed, we could not with sound confidence declare we knew what the Electoral College really is or what its purpose is.
Well, you know me and my friend Google, we went right to work. I understand now the origin and it's intentions...not sure I necessarily agree with it...but that's a whole other post.

I'm sure that you all already know this, but here is a simplified explanation on how/what the electoral college is and why we do things this way. In case anyone is interested! :-)

How the Electoral College Works
Instead of voting directly for a presidential candidate (and his or her vice-presidential running mate), voters in the fifty states and the District of Columbia vote for a slate of "electors" who are pledged to vote for a particular presidential ticket (president/vice-president team). The political parties in each state select a slate of electors. The electors selected by the party of the candidate winning the most popular votes in a state become the electors for that state. Instead of just tallying the total number of votes cast across the nation in presidential elections, votes are counted state-by-state. The winner of the popular vote in each state is awarded the electoral votes for that state. The candidate winning the majority of electoral votes wins.
Given this arrangement, it is possible to win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote.

One additional feature of the process that worries people every time a viable third-party candidate runs for President is that when no candidate wins a majority of electoral votes, the election is decided by the House of Representatives. In such a case, the House delegations from each state would have one vote each. The candidate with the support of the most House delegations would be declared the winner. Thomas Jefferson was elected not by popular vote or by winning a majority of electoral votes--he was selected by the House of Representatives.

Why Do We Elect Presidents This Way?
There are two primary reasons the Founders chose to select presidents via the electoral college instead of by direct, popular voting. The first reason was their lack of trust in the judgment of the people. They were fearful that a well-spoken but not well-intentioned individual could flatter the people and win their support. They hoped that a secondary body, such as the Electoral College, would not be susceptible to such attempts at manipulation. This reason for the Electoral College is virtually meaningless with changes that have "bound" electors to cast their votes for the candidate who wins the majority of the popular vote in each state.
The second reason for choosing presidents by electoral votes instead of by popular vote is to give the states a voice in the presidential election. The principle of federalism was and is a critical feature of the American political system. By placing states in this important position in the selection of the country's leader, the Framers sought to maintain the position of states as important entities in the American political system.
Imagine that presidential elections were not decided state-by-state, but rather by a nationwide popular vote. The significance of states and the candidates' competition for support in key, "swing" states would disappear. Candidates would be inclined to simply run nationwide ad campaigns and visit large population centers.

So...we continued our discussion feeling a bit more enlightened...and then Javier brought up, what he thought was a benign point, but had a profound affect on me. He asked if people feel complacent in their need to vote because they do not understand the electoral college and how it affects the outcomes of our Presidential elections and therefore feel that their vote does not count, so why stand in the line to do so? He went further on to say that in many countries, especially the Third World Countries, that have been afforded the right to vote, come out in droves, they are so desperate for change and excited that they have a voice.

So take that for whatever it may mean to you personally. This country is great for so many reasons and we need to exercise our right to participate. Stand up for what you believe in.

Gandhi said, "Be the change you want to see in the world."

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