As we trudge through the tabloid-worthy debates between our two Presidential candidates, we must stay focused on the main issue (as Anderson Cooper would say): We, as a country, are about to elect the President of the United States. You may want to stay home on November 8th. You may want to scream. You may be on a one-way flight to Kazakhstan. Whatever your position, please remember that the right to participate in political elections is one that was (and is still) fought for and does count, in one way or another. “Count,” in the instance of the Presidential election, may mean directly or indirectly or really indirectly – that’s a great topic served over tapas and wine. But the fact of the matter is the basic right to participate in the Presidential election should be respected and guarded, regardless of how the candidates may have degraded and disrespected during this campaign.
Suffrage, or the right to vote in a political election, was first introduced to the Federal Constitution in 1870, shortly after the abolition of slavery. There are two simple sections to the Fifteenth Amendment. Section 1 states: “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” Section 2 simply affords Congress the right to enforce legislation relating to the Amendment. That’s all she wrote, folks! There is no other language.
And therein lies the problem… The language is clear as mud or clear as day, depending on your interpretation. Does it afford us, individual citizens, the right to vote? Or does it merely restrict Congress from infringing on that right? Most would say the latter, and that the former is implied, at least with respect to a Federally-protected constitutional right. The complex voting process for the Presidential election certainly doesn’t clarify things; it keeps an individual citizen’s vote at arm’s-length with the final decision-making process. As we are all aware, the outcome of the election is decided by a majority of the Electoral Votes, which are cast by Electoral Colleges. There are currently 538 Electoral Colleges, therefore there are 538 Electoral Votes to be cast. Winner must take a majority, which is 270 Electoral Votes. Every state a certain number of Electoral Colleges; this number is equal to the number of Congressional representatives that state is entitled to in order to accomplish a proportional vote.
But how does each individual’s vote affect the Electoral College vote? Well my friends, let that veil of fog settle in over your brow, because there is no easy (or correct) answer, but here’s food for thought: when you vote for the President, you are voting in a state election. The state elections are the popular votes – the individual citizens’ votes – which then determine who gets to sit in the Electoral Colleges. So essentially, you are determining who gets to determine who gets the Presidency. It’s a daisy chain of lovely complexities that even 32,432 pages written by a slew of experts couldn’t clarify. However – and this is a big however – there are checks and balances, and this brings us back full circle. The Electoral College process is outlined in Article II, Section 1 of the U.S. Constitution, and is a reflection of a primary intent of the Founding Fathers: to maintain state power by allowing each state to determine the process by which it voted in Electors, who in turn vote for the President. Up for debate is whether the current process is anachronistic and in need of modification, or whether the checks and balances are sufficiently applicable to afford everyone their proportional vote. So stay tuned, general population, because you may have more of a say in the near future. And with decision making power comes accountability… Worth it? That’s for you to decide.
***Fun fact! Voting was traditionally on Tuesday because it did not interfere with the Biblical Sabbath or market day, which was held on Wednesday.