The absolute fundamental requirement for democracy is majority rule. That end is obtained by voting. If this requirement and procedure are abridged, democracy does not exist. The electoral college method of choosing a president of the United States is a seriously undemocratic flaw that is a potential disaster for America. We need a constitutional amendment that eliminates the “elector” system and prescribes that, without exception, a president of the United States must be chosen by unrestricted majority vote—even if that requires a run-off election.
Presidents have attained office who did not receive a majority of the votes cast, and, where more than two candidates were involved, presidents have been installed who did not even receive the most votes. One president was chosen by the U.S. Supreme Court in a totally unconstitutional act that should never have been tolerated.
Election by a majority vote does not guarantee that the best qualified candidate will attain office, but, it is the only democratic method to choose a president or any public official. If we hold an election but fail to honor the result, then the election serves no useful purpose.
Two of the three most recent presidential elections violated the democratic election process. The first was a selection by the U.S. Supreme Court that had neither constitutional nor legal foundation. The second was an electoral college choice that installed a president who received 2.8 million fewer votes than the candidate they did not select. Some of us may be happy with those results, even if they were not in compliance with democratic process, but we need to think about the future. Professor of mathematics Timothy Prescott writes in a book on the electoral college system that, in an extreme case, a U.S. president who received only 25 percent of the votes could be seated by the electoral college. If the electoral college were to seat an unpopular candidate during a time of widespread dissatisfaction or national crisis, what would happen?
Correction of this threat to American stability requires a constitutional amendment. That will be difficult but not impossible. We have already amended the constitution 27 times. Currently, the constitution allows each of the 50 states to make their own rules regarding selection of electors and allows the states to give those electors voting instructions. A law written by the U.S. Congress cannot change that; it must be accomplished by constitutional amendment.
There are now 7.5 billion hungry people living around us and more on the way. If history is a reliable guide, serious problems are common: war, famine, economic depression, epidemic disease, natural disasters, and civic disorder among others. We need to get our house in order so that our children and grandchildren can effectively deal with whatever comes their way.
Early America was generously endowed with abundant natural resources, two oceans that provided protection while the country developed strength, an enlightened philosophy of government, and competent leaders. We have a moral obligation to maintain the momentum of this great development in human governance and way of life.
Jack Stevenson is retired, served two years in Vietnam as an infantry officer, retired from military service, and worked three years as a U.S. Civil Service employee. He also worked in Egypt as an employee of the former Radio Corporation of America (RCA). Currently, he reads history, follows issues important to Americans, and writes commentary for community newspapers.