The Electoral College Primer (Yale Fastback Series)

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9780300070101: The Electoral College Primer (Yale Fastback Series)

Most Americans remain only dimly aware of the operations of the electoral college and feel little concern over a system that seems to be working. Yet our archaic electoral college has the potential to thwart popular will, warn Lawrence Longley and Neal Peirce, two leading national authorities on the subject. In this complete guide to the electoral college, Longley and Peirce explain how the U.S. electoral college was created, how it has evolved, how it has influenced various "crisis" elections (including 1992), how it works today, and how it might affect future elections.The electoral college is a "system of disastrous failings", the authors say, and it could lead to a political and constitutional crisis. To highlight the shortcomings of the system, they create a fictitious, but not impossible, 1996 election scenario in which neither Senator Robert Dole nor President Bill Clinton can claim a victory in the electoral college. A surprising chain of events set off by a strong third party eventually confers the presidency on the Speaker of the House -- a man who received not a single vote in the popular election. This useful handbook will provide all the information a citizen needs to understand our baffling electoral college.

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Review:

"One man, one vote" may be a familiar democratic motto, but it hardly applies to American presidential elections. That's because of the United States' bizarre electoral college system, which makes it possible for candidates who finish second in the popular vote to triumph in the electoral count. In fact, this has happened at least twice (1876 and 1888). On two other occasions (1800 and 1824), the House of Representatives picked the president when nobody won an electoral-college majority. Thomas Jefferson once described this circumstance as "the most dangerous blot on our Constitution." In the brief but comprehensive Electoral College Primer 2000, Lawrence D. Longley and Neal R. Peirce show why Jefferson's assessment was right on target. They have a keen understanding of the electoral college's vulnerabilities. Through a few simple calculations, for example, they show that Californians have more than two-and-a-half times the voting power of Montana residents. More alarming, however, they describe how a small shift in the popular vote can enact a huge change in the electoral college outcome. They count 22 "hairbreadth elections" in American history, including the 1960 race between John F. Kennedy and Richard Nixon--if 8,971 votes in Illinois and Missouri had switched from Kennedy to Nixon that year, the result would have been an electoral college deadlock. It's amazing the system has held up as well as it has over the years; Longley and Peirce persuasively argue that it's only a matter of time before it breaks down completely. --John J. Miller

From Library Journal:

Part of the Yale "Fastback" series, which is dedicated to publishing topics of current interest as soon as possible, this primer in this election year fits right in with that theme. Longley (government, Lawrence Univ.) and Peirce, a poltical journalist, offer a detailed analysis of the electoral college system. The first chapter begins with a hypothetical account of this year's presidential election. Bob Dole has won the popular election but is short on the necessary 270 electoral votes. Ross Perot is the spoiler, and Bill Clinton is left scrambling for electoral votes. If he's successful, he becomes the fourth man to win the presidency without the popular vote. The authors then discuss how the electoral college has changed with the passage of time and how little it resembles the Founding Fathers' original intent. Including tabular data on all previous presidential elections, this thorough examination of past and potential electoral college pitfalls is recommended for academic collections.?Alan Schroeder, Southern California Univ. for Professional Studies, Santa Ana
Copyright 1996 Reed Business Information, Inc.

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