How are members of the Electoral College chosen by each state?
The American founding fathers came up with the Electoral College in the constitution as a bridge of the election of the President in the Congress and the election of the President by the majority or with regard to the will of qualified citizens. However, Article II of the constitution together with the 12th Amendment refers to "electors" and not the "electoral college".
The electors are selected with reference to the constitution across the different states. The political parties are charged with the mandate of nominating Electors during their State party conventions or via a vote by the particular party's central committee across each state. Therefore, each candidate is entitled to a unique numbers of the potential Electors with regard to the selection process. The Electors are always selected with regard to service, dedication and loyalty they have shown to their political parties and vary from State-elected officials, people with strong party or political affiliations or even the party leaders. On the day of election, the voters from each state exercise their constitutional right by casting a vote for a presidential candidate of their preference.
Under Article III of the U.S. Constitution, federal judges are appointed for life. What is the reason behind this provision?
Article III of the Constitution gives the provision of federal judges to serve for life. However, this is possible if "good behavior" is upheld by following the ethical standards lay out in the Code of Conduct for United States Judges; this requires of them not to preside over any case where he/ she has any reason to favor anyone party to the case.
The reason behind these judges enjoying life tenure is so that they don't fear making any unpopular decisions. This extends inability to reduce their salaries during their tenure in office. In Gregg v. Georgia, the Supreme Court ruled that it is constitutional for both the federal and the state governments to enforce the death penalty if the statute is drafted with care despite the rejection from the general public. However, these judges shy away from a steady flow of cases at 70 years (on average) despite being on the payroll still and might actively involve themselves in some cases if called upon by their fellows.
Explain the President's pardon power and whether there are any checks on that power.
The presidential power to pardon happens to be one of the least limited established in the Constitution. A pardon has the ability of wiping out all the legal effects of any conviction. The President can issue a pardon from the time of the occurrence of an offense or even after one serving his/ her full sentence.
This pardon traces its roots from the royal English Prerogative of Kings. The royal power was presumed to be absolute and the King in most occasions issued pardons in exchange for military/ money favors. There are several occasions when parliament tried to reduce/ constrain the pardon powers by the King. This was achieved in 1701.
However, there are limitations to this Presidential power. The pardon does not cover the scope of impeachment (U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 1). This is because of the fact that the president can also be impeached and the framers of the constitution saw it good to take these powers away from the presidency so that this office does not hold absolute power. This pardon cannot also be issued for a crime yet to be committed. They also have no effect on civil/ state cases as well as local cases. Moreover, the pardon in no way relieves the defendant from paying restitution from a civil case of criminal sentence. It is also important to note that pardons are void unless the person being granted the pardon accepts it. However, prisoners were considered to lack choice if the president made a decision of changing a prisoner's sentence from the death penalty to life in prison.
Explain the Senate's advice and consent power with regard appointments.
Article II, Section 2 of the U.S Constitution gives the President the right to negotiate foreign treaties as well as nominate individuals to high-ranking positions in government e.g. members of the cabinet, federal judges and ambassadors. However, this is only possible vis-à-vis the advice and consent of the US senate. Section 2 further requires of the senators to approve any of these treaties by a 2/3 majority while any presidential appointment sails through by having the backing of the majority. These are some of the checks and balances enshrined in the constitution to limit the presidential powers.
The Senate in some occasions has flexed its muscles by extracting changes in treaties already negotiated via the treaty ratification authority and going to the extent of rejecting some of these international treaties. A famous case of rejection is President Woodrow Wilson idea of America joining the League of Nations after the end of World War I. The Senate was against this idea and in 1919 refused to ratify this treaty but later ratifying the United Nations charter of 1945. Moreover, the Senate in some occasions rejected presidential nominations for positions in the cabinet and federal judgeships. In 1987, Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork by then President Ronal Reagan was rejected by the Senate amidst claims of the process being highly politicized. Clarence Thomas was confirmed as a justice of the Supreme Court despite a strong objection that was televised nationally.
What is the function of the Electoral College, should it be abolished, and why?
The Electoral College
The Electoral College is a method/ process of indirectly electing a president in the US hence acting as a compromise between a vote in the Congress and the president's election via a majority of votes registered from majority of the registered voters. This was established in the U.S. constitution by Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 and later altered by the 12th and 23rd Amendments. This process is constituted of 538 members; one standing in for each and every US Senator and Representative and three more representative electors for the District of Columbia (23rd Amendment). Each state is assigned a certain number of electoral votes that's equivalent to its combined total of delegates in the Congress; and each state legislature has the liberty of choosing the method they feel best fits them in choosing their state electors. Hitherto, all states use the popular vote system in selecting their electors despite this not being the norm in American history. A majority of 270 of the electoral votes is required for the president to be elected. However, most states uphold the winner-takes-all system where the winning presidential candidate is awarded all the electors.
Who selects the electors?
This process varies with the variation of states across the US. Each political party nominates its electors at the State party conventions or by a vote cast by the party's central committee conducted at their individual states. They are chosen as a sign of loyalty and recognition of the good service and dedication to the party.
Functions of the Electoral College
The function of the Electoral College was to ensure that a scenario whereby a candidate perceived to be popular in a certain populated region while not getting the backing of the nation becomes president. Loopholes were noted in the election of 1800 where despite Thomas Jefferson defeating John Adams in the Electoral College, the electors were unable to create a distinction between Jefferson and his running mate, Aaron Burr, who both received 73 votes. To avoid this, the Congress came up with the 12th Amendment creating the provision of independent election of the President and the Vice president. However, wrangles have been documented arising from one winning the popular vote and losing the Electoral College and vice versa.
Should it be abolished, and why?
There is enough reason to support the abolishment of the Electoral College.
This is because there is a great possibility of a minority president being elected to office. This is a case whereby a president without an absolute majority of popular votes takes up office. The first scenario is in the instance of a country being divided politically such that the three candidates contesting for the presidential seat divide the Electoral College votes hence not meeting the minimum majority requirement. This was documented in 1824 with repetitions noted in 1948 and 1968. Hence, one of the aspirants would bow out of the race throwing support to either still in the race before meeting the Electors or, in the absence of absolute majority in the Electoral College, the House of Representatives in accordance with the 12th Amendment will select the president. This has a greater potential further plunging the country into a political divide and a possibility of an election rerun. The second scenario of a minority president taking office is like 1888 where a candidate concentrated on a few states while his opponent majored on a few of the popular states and this saw him win the majority requirement of the Electoral College.
The second reason for the abolishment is the risk posed by the "faithless" Electors. A faithless Elector is an Elector who has pledged allegiance to his party's presidential candidate and ideally is to cast him a vote but in turn cast his vote in favor of the opponent. An example is in 1988 where a Democrat Elector from the State of west Virginia cast a vote in favor of Lloyd Bensen for president and Michael Dukakis for vice president and not the reverse. History has proved that faithless Electors are not always out to make a difference but just make a statement. There is also higher possibility of them being swayed around by a popular candidate rather than their party candidate.
The Electoral College plays a major role in suppressing the voter turnout. This is due to the fact each state has the same number of votes entitled to them despite the voter turnout, hence no form of any incentives that would encourage voters to participate in the electoral process. Finally, the Electoral College fails to accurately depict the national popular will in two ways. First, the general distribution of the College Electoral votes tends to over-represent the figures of the people in rural States. This is because the number of members a State has in the House and the Senate determines the number of Electors assigned to it. The second one traces its roots from the winner-takes-all mechanism which dictates that the presidential candidate who gunners majority of the popular vote automatically takes the Electoral College hence a false reflection of the national popular. This therefore denies any third party or independent candidates the chance to flex their muscles in the Electoral College.
U.S. Senators were not elected by direct popular vote until 1914. How were U.S. Senators chosen prior to that date and what was the reason for that method?
Article I-3, Clause 1 and 2 of the U.S. Constitution stated that each state legislature had the mandate of electing its state's senators to serve for a six-year time. Each of these States, despite of their sizes, were entitled to two senators in accordance to the Connecticut Compromise. However, this was parallel to the House of Representatives that instead were elected to office via a popular vote with reference to it being a decision surrounded with little controversy. During this period, James Wilson served as the sole advocate supporting an idea, which was defeated 10-1, of having the Senate to be popularly elected as the House of Representatives. With the anti-federalist fear of the central government stealthily and steadily tightening their grip on states hence swallowing them, the election of senators was left for the individual states.
Several issues arose with the original provisions being in place. This was first highlighted by Judge Jay Bybee, United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, who shared a school of thought that the original provisions bred electoral deadlocks and legislative corruption. There were claims that the Senatorial position was awarded in return for favors or money turning a blind eye on the qualifications and the candidate's competence. In 1857-1900, several investigations were conducted to investigate the election corruption allegations. In 1900, William A. Clark's election was nullified after the Senate came to a conclusion that the persona had bribed voters in Montana legislature.
Calls for reform
The early 19th century marked the beginning of the endless call for reforms (constitutional amendment) of the Senate's elections. In 1826, Henry R. Storrs tabled a proposal pushing for an amendment to create provision for popular election. Moreover, a similar gospel for amendments was brought to light in 1829 and 1855 with Andrew Johnson being at the helm for the push for this change in 1868. However, in July 1866 the Congress passed a bill that required of the state legislatures to elect the Senators via an absolute majority. Towards the end of the 1890s, this campaign had gained considerable momentum and its pioneers changed tact and concentrated more on pushing for lobbying the Populist Party into incorporating direct election of senators into the Omaha Platform and the Nebraska proponent that pushed for senators to be voted for by the majority from the general public.
Proposed by the congress awaiting ratification
1911 saw the House of Representatives pass a House Joint Resolution 39 containing proposals of constitutional amendments providing for the direct election of senators. However, there were barriers of racial discrimination as the black southerners and the poor whites were not allowed to vote hence lacking a political representation. With several reviews made, the Seventeenth Amendment passed the floor of the Senate getting approval, 42 to 36, in the dawn of 12th April, 1912 and by a vote of 238 to 39 (with 110 not casting their votes) on the floor of the House on the 13th of May, 1912.