Who holds the power to vote?

Political Engagement Project hosts discussion on American election

When it comes to the way in which we elect our Presidents in America, many voters are ignorant of how the process actually works. Many believe they vote for the president directly and the candidate with the most support wins the election. This, however, is not true.

As Dr. Richard Griffin, a professor in political science here at Ferris, said, “To all the international students who want to learn about how our system works, don’t worry, the American students don’t know either.”

The United States of America utilize the Electoral College system, which boils down to us not voting for a candidate but voting for a small group of voters who vote for president. Each state has a group of voters based on the state’s representation in Congress. What this means in practice is that the less popular candidate can win, such as George W. Bush in 2000 against Al Gore.

“The Founding Fathers worried that the masses would take over,” Griffin says. “They wanted to protect their property. To do this, they wanted to avoid a full-blown democracy and instead went for a representative system. The Electoral College is one of these systems that keeps the decisions in the hands of leaders for elections.”

Fran Rosen, a Ferris librarian, critiqued the idea of a perfect electoral system passed down by the Founding Fathers saying, “It didn’t work. When first set up you voted for both President and Vice President. The 12th Amendment was passed in 1804; the electoral system did need revision.”

“Why can’t we just have a direct election?” Griffin adds, “The Electoral College protects the interests of the Republican and Democratic politics.”

“It seems kind of dumb that one candidate can lose in popularity but still win the presidency,” Nicole Jablonski, Ferris second-year pharmacy student, said. “That defeats the entire point of democracy.”

“I’ve never really heard any concrete reasoning behind it as to why it should remain,” Matthew Holt, Ferris second-year pharmacy student, said. “I’ve only heard negative things about it. I can see why they would want to avoid popular elections though, or else all the states with the largest populations could control everything.”

It the minds of many voters, young and old alike, there does appear to be a level of antipathy toward the Electoral College system. While some may be skeptical if such change could occur in this country, radical change has already happened in many aspects.

As Griffin noted, “Up until 1960, nearly everyone who ran for president was a white male Protestant. Now in 2012 we have an African-American incumbent running against a Mormon with both having Roman Catholic vice-presidents.”

It seems to many, this is a country which is very much capable of change.