USA - U.S. Electoral System

History of the electoral system, Criticism at the electoral system, Changes since the establishment of the electoral system, Reasons for the existing of the complex system, Referat, Hausaufgabe, USA - U.S. Electoral System
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U.S. Electoral System

Clifford Beul
Jan Niklas Michel


  1. History of the electoral system
    1. Reasons for the existing of the complex system
    2. Changes since the establishment of the electoral system
  2. The U.S. Electoral System
    1. Franchise
    2. Electoral System
  3. Criticism at the electoral system
    1. Advantages and disadvantages of the electoral system
    2. The election in 2000 as an example 
  4. List of Literature


1 History of the electoral system

1.1 Reasons for the existing of the complex system
In the beginning of the United States of America at the end of the 18th century, important communication systems were diligences and letters. It was nearly impossible to organize a democratic vote in a country with such a dimension. That’s why communities decided to send out reliable persons, who will represent their interests in Washington. This case let to an
indirect vote of the president. [1]

1.2 Changes since the establishment of the electoral system
The Electoral System was established with the conclusion of the USA on the 17th September 1787. Until today the System has only been changed for two times through conclusion modifications in the years 1803 and 1961. The conclusion modification in the year 1803 was caused by election problems in 1800. Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr got the same number of votes and both were in the Republican Party. Every electoral delegate had to cast two votes but couldn’t give one person both of his votes. The candidate with the highest count of votes becomes president and the one with the second highest number becomes vice president. To solve the problem of equality votes, the representative chamber had to give its vote. The next problem was that the representative chamber was constituted by federalists, who didn’t want to have anyone of them as president. Finally, they needed 36 elections to get an absolute majority. So the election committee decided to vote the president and the vice president separately. This is written in the 12th amendment.

In 1961 they changed the system again with the 23rd amendment. The District of Columbia wasn’t allowed to entitle electoral delegates, because the District was not a residential area. It was original seen as a seat of government, but in 1960 the District had a higher amount of inhabitants than thirteen other states in the USA. Due to that fact, they decided that the District should be allowed to entitle electoral delegates. The number of electoral delegates has been appointed on four, which is the same number of electoral delegates as the state with the fewest inhabitants. [2]

2 The U.S. Electoral System

2.1 Franchise
Every U.S. citizen with an age over 18 is entitled to vote. To be eligible for election, a person has to be born in the states, lives there since 14 years and must be at least 35 years old. [3]

2.2 Electoral System
The American people vote for their president indirectly. Every four years at the first Tuesday after Monday in November, they mark their favourite presidential candidate with a cross on a ballot or by pushing a button in one of the famous voting machines. In reality, the American people vote for electoral delegates, not directly for their wished president. These electoral delegates represent either the Republican or the Democratic Party. The result of a vote in a state is determined by the rule “the winner takes it all”. If one candidate gets the majority of votes in a state, he will also get the entire amount of electoral delegates of this state.

The electoral delegates constitute the Electoral College. It has the same number of members like the delegates in the congress.. All states together, including the District of Columbia, count 538 electoral delegates, who will vote for the president in December. These Electoral College as a caucus will never sit together, but the delegates of one state will meet among themselves in each capitol of a state to cast their vote for the president and the vice president.

At the 6th January, the congress counts the electoral votes from the different states and announces the result. Finally, the president and the vice president of the U.S.A. will be inaugurated. [3] [4]

3 Criticism at the electoral system

3.1 Advantages and disadvantages of the electoral system
There are many detractors who say that the election campaign is only made for the states which have no clear opinion. These states are called switch states. An example for a switch state is Florida. The two presidential candidates Barack Obama and John McCain had spent this year a long time, during their election campaign in Florida. Both have promised to enlarge the space program, because the NASA headquarter in Florida has more than 10000 employees, but the candidates didn’t even talk with experts before, so that could be a rant assurance.

Another point of criticism is that the votes, which were given to the minority, fall away. “The winner takes it all” rule leads up to a result, that doesn’t represent the opinion of the whole inhabitants of a state or in the worst case of the nation. The Advantage of such as system is, that there’s a straight political course. For example decisions don’t need a long range of discussions. People and the economic can adjust oneself to the new administration.

The electoral delegates are spreaded after the number of inhabitants of the state, but the Spreading of the electoral delegates is not constant. Wyoming has three electoral delegates for 174.000 inhabitants (one delegate represents 58.000 people), in Ohio in contrast has 20 electoral delegates for 573.000 inhabitants (28.650 people) and Florida has 34 electoral delegates for 703.000 inhabitants (20.676 people). That’s why a candidate with the most votes from the nation can maybe loose the election. [5]

3.2 The election in 2000 as an example
The candidate of the Democratic Party was Al Gore, who was the vice president before. The republicans chose George W. Bush as rival candidate. Due to the old election machines in
Florida, the count of the votes took over one month. The Supreme Court interdicted the state Florida to count the votes a second time. Because of that fact, George W. Bush won with a difference of 537 votes in the state Florida. The action of the Supreme Court was discussed a lot concerning the biggest part of the Court was appointed by a republican President. Overall Al Gore had 532.994 votes more than George W. Bush but Bush had 5 electoral delegates more, which means that he won the election. The problems in Florida were essential. When Al Gore had won in this state he had become president. After the problem in Florida they decided to go back to normal ballot paper. [5]

4 List of Literature

  1. UHL, Anna: Besonderheiten des US-Wahlsystems.
    Stand: 04.11.2008
  2. WIKIPEDIA: Verfassung der Vereinigten Staaten.
    Stand: 27.11.2008
  3. FEHNDRICH, Martin: Die Wahl des Präsidenten der USA.
    Stand: 06.11.2008
  4. STERN.DE: Der steinige Weg ins Weiße Haus.
    Stand: 11.01.2008
  5. WIKIPEDIA: Electoral College.
    Stand: 27.11.2008


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