Civil Discourse Now

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GOP candidate Niederberger doesn't understand the "Electoral College" or the Constitution

Danny Niederberger is one of my opponents in the GOP primary for United States House of Representatives in Indiana’s Fifth Congressional District. I have addressed some of his positions on issues before. I have addressed the stands of others, and shall in the coming weeks continue to examine the issues and how they are embraced by my opponents.
The “Election Reporter” interview of Mr. Niederberger dated 10/8/19 is available online. His answer to one question is troublesome as it displays ignorance of the history of our Constitution and how it functions. The question “Do you believe the electoral college should be abolished?”
Answer: “Absolutely not. The Electoral College is essential in the foundation of the United States. The United States is a republic, not a democracy. The difference in a republic is the citizens elect representatives who in turn vote on legislation. In a pure democracy, 51% of the population can overrule the other 49%. The Electoral College ensures that every part of the United States, including the flyover states, has a voice.”
1) Danny gives no rationale for why the 49% should over-rule the 51%. Republics function on democratic principles. The idea is that the majority rules. There were no “flyover” States in 1787. If the notion is that the hypothetical 49% minority is better qualified or wiser than its counterpart 51% majority, Danny neither makes, nor can make, such a claim. The minority never has been shown to be wiser, inherently.
Instead what happens is that the 51% becomes disenfranchised in favor of the 49%. Danny’s challenge is to rationalize this concept. Actually, in a Republic, that 51% is supposed to win over the 49%.
2) Danny’s claim that our system of electors “ensures that every part of the United States, including the flyover states, has a voice” is not true. As the system has developed, with winner-take-all and electors required to vote for a specific candidate, the votes of nearly one-half of the voters in a given State do NOT have a voice.
Winner-take-all was not established as the predominant means of apportioning electors until after the election of 1824, when the winner of the popular vote - the slave-holding, genocidal populist Andrew Jackson - won the popular vote, but no candidate had a majority of electors.
The House of Representatives elected John Quincy Adams in a situation where, some felt, deals were cut. Jefferson had given the opinion that individual States had greater impact on the process through winner-take-all.
3) Implicit in Danny’s statement is that electors meet as a group and exercise discretion in their votes. That never has been the case. The Constitution does not mention “Electoral College.” That is not a semantic nicety. There is no specific body chosen to select a president. Each State determines the way in which its “Electors” are selected. U.S. Const., Art. II, sec. 1.
“The Electors shall meet in their respective states, and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President...” Amend. XII.
Indiana, like most States, requires that an elector named by a political party must take an oath that she or he will vote for that party’s Pres/VP candidates: “(a) Each presidential elector nominee and each alternate presidential elector nominee of a political party shall execute the following pledge: "If selected for the office of presidential elector, I agree to serve and to mark my ballots for President and Vice President for the nominees for those offices of the party that nominated me." Ind. Code § 3-10-4-1.7
In U.S. history only eight electors, from what I could find, voted for someone other than the candidates to whom that person was pledged. The electors do not act in a deliberative way. Danny needs to read the history of the Constitution and, for that matter, the Constitution itself. If he advocates that the loser of the popular vote always should name the Pres/VP, he’s out of step with the principles upon which the Constitution was written and the reasons for this particular mechanism.

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