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    Does the US Electoral College Stand in the Way of American Democracy?

    © AFP 2019 / BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI
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    Emotions have run high throughout the US election, with Americans drawing hard lines about who they’re voting for -- or, perhaps, against. Though millions will turn out to cast their ballot, will they be voting for candidates, or for people who will vote regardless of popular sentiment?

    Radio Sputnik’s Loud and Clear spoke with Richard Winger of Ballot Access News  about the electoral college and how it can impede true democracy in America.

    ​Winger explained that, contrary to popular belief, when Americans vote in this presidential election, they won’t actually vote for their desired candidate. "We will be voting for slates of candidates for presidential elector. These are people nobody ever heard of. They’re ordinary people, chosen by the parties. They are really who we’re voting for." 

    He said the reason the electoral college is in place instead of a popular vote is the difficulty in amending the constitution. Several attempts have been made to abolish the electoral college, the last being in 1950, but to no avail. 

    "This system was last amended in 1804," Winger noted, "so we’ve been living under a system that’s over 200 years old and it’s a shame that we’ve never had the guts to settle down and fix it. There’s no other country in the world with a system like this."

    Winger cited four instances in US history where the person who won the popular vote did not assume the presidency — most recently in the hotly contested 2000 election where Democratic nominee Al Gore won the popular but a conservative-led Congress stopped a recount before this could be revealed. 

    Loud and Clear host Brian Becker pointed out, "When you look at this highly convoluted system, third parties are essentially never a major factor in the electoral operations at the presidential level. They have a hard time getting on the ballot, they have a hard time competing for money because it’s a winner take all system."

    He added, "When you look at it it’s a twisted, tortured kind of democracy."

    Becker brought up a quote by James Madison that spoke to how the concept of electors was constructed to disenfranchise African-Americans and keep political power amongst the wealthy, landed elites:

    "There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the northern than the southern states and the latter would have no influence on the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty, and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections."

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    democratic elections, democracy, vote, US Electoral College, United States
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