The American presidential electoral system consists of five different stages, the main two being the primaries and the Electoral College. Although the Electoral College has been used since the founding fathers wrote the constitution, meaning there are many strengths in the system, the weaknesses of the system outweigh substantially the strengths. Some of these being, the candidate without the popular vote can be elected as president. For example in the 2000 presidential elections, George Bush won against Al Gore with no popular vote. This is just one of the many reasons as to why the weaknesses outweigh the strengths.
The Electoral College is the system used in the US to vote on a candidate for the presidency. Voters from each state cast their votes for presidential electors who are representatives for the actual presidential candidates. These electors then cast their votes for the presidential candidate that won the majority of popular votes within that state. Each state has a different amount of Electoral College votes dependent on their population size, for example New York has 35 votes. However there are some weaknesses of this system, these including unequal representation from state to state. Smaller states tend to be over represented and larger states such as Florida tend to be massively under represented.
For example, California with a population of almost 38 million, only has 55 Electoral College votes, this in comparison to Wyoming’s population of 500,000 and 3 Electoral college votes means that per Electoral College vote California has 617,000 people compared to Wyoming having 165,000. This enables the smaller states to make each individual in the state better heard meaning that minority voices are regarded more. Some may say that this is more democratic, however it is unfair and most defiantly undemocratic as some voices are heard “louder” than others. Meaning that the result of the Electoral College is under representative of the true population’s views. Therefore the system used to elect the American president is massively unequal in the sense that it under represents the majority and over represents the minority. This being just one reason as to why the weaknesses of the presidential election system outweigh the strengths.
Another weakness with the Electoral College process is, the concept of winner takes all. This means that no matter what percentage of the vote the winner gets, whether it is 50.1% or 98% they will both be elected as president. This is seen as undemocratic as the other candidate may only have 0.2% of the popular vote less than them meaning that there is almost equal support for both candidates. This means that half the population of the US will be under represented and will not agree with the policies of the currently elected president. This also means that they cannot express their view easily and most of the population is not made happy by the decisions of the president. A major example of this is in the presidential election of 2000; George Bush stole Al Gore of the presidency. Al gore won 48.4% of the vote to Bush’s 48%, however Bush got 271 Electoral college votes to Al Gores’s 266 meaning that he was announced president without the popular vote. This is massively undemocratic, as the true winner, in this case Al Gore, did not win the election. Thus this weakness adding to the amount they outweigh the strengths in the presidential election system.
Primaries are another main part of the Presidential election system in the US, there is the invisible stage which is the very first stage of the presidential campaign, in the year proceeding the election candidates show their intention to run. Primaries however are the more significant type, they are held around February or March of the year of the presidential elections. This year in 2012 Super Tuesday, which is the date that the majority of states hold their primaries, was held on the 6th March. Although some states take part in front loading which is where they bring the date forward, this is an act in order to make smaller less significant states have more influence on the results meaning candidates campaign more in these states. An example of these early states in 2012 is Iowa.
Seeming like a fair and simple way to elect a candidate, this system has its weaknesses. A main one being intra-party disputes that it creates. As the candidates that are fighting against each other are from the same party this can cause a split within the party and can cause trouble and tension, meaning that they find it difficult to function in unison and to the best of their ability in order to win the election. An example of when this occurred was in the 2008 primary elections, Clinton and Obama both from the democrats party where the two favorite candidates and this caused a divide within the party as some supported Obama and some supported Clinton, making it extremely difficult for the party to function sufficiently. This meaning that the weaknesses of the Primary section of the presidential election outweigh the strengths, proving once again that the system has many faults.
On the other hand, the founding fathers seemed to do a successful job with the way they wanted their president to be elected, there are many strengths of the system. The NPC’s, National Party Convention, are held by each of the major parties. They are held in the summer time usually around the end of August and start of September and last around four days. The main parties hold them in large cities all over the states, for example in this current 2012 election the Democrats held their convention in Charlotte, North Carolina and the Republicans held theirs in Tampa, Florida. The National Committee decides the venue in which the party holds their convention and it is attended by delegates and the media. It has formal functions and informal functions, the most important formal function being the choosing of the presidential candidate and the vice presidential candidate.
Although some say that it is more the confirming of the candidate rather than the choosing of, as the parties tend to be certain from the primaries which candidate they will be picking. These conventions seem to have much strength, an example being the fact that they promote serious party unity as there are no more intraparty disputes and the party is all now backing the same candidate. It tends to be the only time in the whole four-year process that the whole of the party is in the same place and is backing the same candidate. Conventions heal the wounds that the primaries create, they give the defeated candidate a chance to support the chosen candidate and show the greater public that they believe they will make a good president. For example when Clinton lost to Obama, she showed that she supported him in this time and this could have been a reason that he won the election, as they were showing party unity.
The Electoral College, although having many weaknesses there is sign that the system has its strengths and that it works well for the task it is undertaking. A main strength is that it ensures that the States even with the smallest populations can have significant impact on the outcome of the election. Meaning that while it is important to campaign and concentrate on the states with the most Electoral college votes, such as Texas and Florida, in a close neck race between two candidates, as the 2012 election is proving to be, the smaller states still carry Electoral College votes which could become mandatory for the candidate who hopes to win to gain. This means that the smaller states are not neglected and it is more representative of every state rather than the just the larger states views being voiced. This gives the president more legitimacy due to the fact that he way in which they campaigned and won their votes was more democratic and proportional across the whole of the States, instead of it being concentrated greatly in one area. This means that in the upcoming 2012 election states lying Wyoming and Alaska will have equal chance of being represented, as California or Texas will. Therefore the democratic and representative factors of this system show there are many strengths to the system presidential elections.
Although the Primary system creates intra-party disputes and bitter personality battles, it does have some strength, for example it has shown that actually campaigning and winning a primary is a very demanding task. This meaning that whatever candidate decides to run they will be tested a great deal in all different situations and if they fall at any point during this process it could loose them the chance of becoming the candidate for their party. Thus any candidate that makes it through this vigorous system is said to be tried and tested and ready to run the US. If they can deal with the primary system then they are fit to be a president and can handle almost everything if not everything that comes their way. For example in the fight between Obama and Clinton in 2008 Obama proved to be a strong candidate and then in turn went on to win the presidential elections. This system gives the citizens who are voting for the candidate faith and is therefore a great strength of the system that elects the American president.
Although there are many strengths to the system that is used to elect the US President, these being the demanding test the president are put through in the primaries or the way that the Electoral College preserves the voice of smaller states, there is many more weaknesses, such as Primaries being a bitter personality contest causing intra-party conflict or the unequal representation that the way the Electoral College votes are distributed creates, proving that the weaknesses of the system used to elect the President of the USA in fact outweigh the strengths.