8 months ago

Will Sellers: In defense of the Electoral College

I came of age politically with the 1968 presidential election. Alabama Governor George Wallace was running as an independent against Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey. My parents were Nixon supporters, and I, their five-year-old son, hopped on the Nixon bandwagon with gusto. The dinnertime conversations in the month preceding the election were all about whether Wallace’s third-party candidacy could work.

This all fascinated me, so I asked my mother to let me watch her vote on Election Day. She agreed, but to my dismay, when I joined her in the voting booth, I did not see Nixon, Humphrey or Wallace listed on the ballot. This made no sense to me; I thought we were here to vote for Richard Nixon? My mother then explained that we didn’t vote for the presidential candidate directly. Instead, we voted for men and women called presidential electors. These people were well-regarded and appointed for the special privilege of casting the deciding votes in presidential elections. This system seemed out of place to me, because in every other election the candidates were listed by name on the ballot. Why not for president? Why should my mother vote for nine people, who would then vote later for president, instead of voting directly for the president? This was my first encounter with the Electoral College. It would not be my last.

The first electoral college was a medieval construct dating back at least to the 12th century, when specific princes were chosen to elect the Holy Roman Emperor. They were influential noblemen, who, because of the importance of their respective kingdoms, were given the hereditary title of “elector.” After the death of the emperor, they met, much like the College of Cardinals, to choose a successor. Whether this idea influenced the deliberations of the Constitutional Convention is speculation, but, like most of the other aspects of the Constitution, the mechanics of the new government were based on historical facets of self-government. The new American nation was built on traditions of representative government expressed in the English parliamentary system, the organization of Protestant church government, and the colonial experience with various local governments in the New World.

Important questions necessarily arose during the Constitutional Convention concerning the process of electing the president. How exactly would a president be chosen, and to whom or what would he owe allegiance? Some advocated for election to take place in the House of Representatives, or in the Senate, or even in the several states. The obvious problem with these proposals is that they would create an axis between the president and the electing body. If the states elected the president, then the larger, wealthier, and more populous states would receive greater attention and more favorable treatment by the executive branch than would the smaller, less populous states. A similar imbalance of power would occur were the president chosen by the House or the Senate. Thus, the mechanics of electing the chief executive required balancing various interests to give the executive branch the requisite independence from other political bodies, while maintaining co-equality.

According to the chosen scheme, each state would appoint “electors” based on the number of House and Senate members comprising the state’s congressional delegation. These electors were appointed for the sole purpose of electing the president, and a simple majority of their votes would decide the election. This created another means by which the spheres of Congress and the federal government were balanced and divided from that of the states. The Constitutional Convention viewed electors as not necessarily aligned with a faction, but as citizens of honesty, integrity, and political acumen.

Originally, electors voted for two people; the person with the most electoral votes became president, and the runner-up became vice-president. Flaws in this system became evident with the presidential election of 1796, when John Adams was elected as president and his archrival, if not nemesis, Thomas Jefferson, was elected vice president. Four years later, Jefferson and Aaron Burr received the same number of electoral votes— neither had the required majority. This unworkable situation was remedied by the 12th Amendment to the Constitution, which prescribed that electors would separately vote for a president and vice president on the same ballot. Later, state legislatures, as they were constitutionally permitted and as the two-party system grew, allowed electors to run as proxies for the presidential and vice presidential party nominee.

For at least the first 100 years, the system worked well, and, other than the 12th Amendment, no major attempts were made to alter the process of electing the president and vice president. Several times, the election was submitted to the House of Representatives after the electors failed to achieve a majority vote for president. For example, in 1824, the election was submitted to the House, where power plays resulted in the election of John Quincy Adams, though Andrew Jackson won significantly more of the popular and the electoral vote. Rutherford B. Hayes, a Republican, lost the 1876 popular vote to Samuel Tilden, a Democrat, but became president because he had prevailed in the electoral vote, though voter fraud in some jurisdictions seemed certain.

Many Democratic candidates running for federal office embraced the idea of abolishing the Electoral College, not least Sam Rayburn, who, in his first congressional election in 1912, advocated electing the president by popular vote. If there was any momentum for this aspect of the Progressive movement, it lost steam as other, more critical issues advanced.

Today, the constitutional method for electing the president is under siege. The result of the 2016 election — with Donald Trump winning the presidency despite losing the popular vote — led pundits and politicians to call for the presidential election to be based on the popular, not electoral, vote. But lamenting results that saw two presidents in recent memory fail to win the popular vote obscures the effect that abolishing the Electoral College would have on a national campaign. A presidential campaign aimed at achieving a popular vote majority would completely ignore most states and focus, instead, on a few populous states containing the nation’s largest cities. This urban-centric strategy would silence the political voice of most regions of the country.

The Electoral College guarantees that successful presidential candidates will appeal to large swaths of the American landscape, and that the president himself will reflect the diversity of various regional ideas. It orchestrates the American chorus so that every section of the country will be heard by a serious presidential candidate. We might not always like the outcome; it is always frustrating when your candidate loses, especially if he or she won the popular vote. Nevertheless, the remedy is not to change the rules, but rather to master the nuances of the rules in order to organize a presidential campaign so that it attracts supporters — and votes — from all portions of the country.

My personal quest to understand the Electoral College better led to my service as an alternate elector in 2000 for George W. Bush. The controversial nature of that election focused national attention on each state’s canvas of presidential electors. The practice of scrutinizing each elector and the attempts made to shake loose a few electors in order to change the outcome caused the question to be asked again: Is the Electoral College the right system for modern America?

I served as a presidential elector in 2004, 2008, 2012 and 2016. My initial experience as an elector was that no one, certainly not the media, cared about the Electoral College. Perhaps some cub reporter was sent to cover the meeting of the electors, but that was about all the publicity we garnered.

That changed dramatically in 2016. Starting about two weeks before the electors met, I received thousands of letters from people across the country asking me, if not begging me, to change my vote. It did not matter to them that I had pledged to support my party’s nominee. I was even lectured by legal scholars about how my pledge was not actually binding. Several people sent me copies of the Federalist Papers, the Constitution, and even local petitions. Others left voicemails that, looking back, I wish I had saved. Few, if any, of these communications expressed any mature understanding of the American electoral system. But, in a way, the volume of communication, at least as compared with other years, showed that the role of an elector now seemed to matter again to the American people.

In 2020, if there was one issue each of the initial contenders for the Democratic nomination agreed upon, it was the necessity of abolishing the Electoral College and replacing it with election by popular vote. But the consequences of this change are largely ignored. Candidates calling for the end of the Electoral College, to be consistent, ought also to call for the end of primary elections, too. Since the election of president is the only national election, eliminating the Electoral College would change each party’s strategy for victory. It is akin to amending the rules of football so that a score is obtained not by touchdowns or field goals but by first downs.

Again, a popular election of the president would reduce the need for a diversified platform; the candidates would favor metropolises and ignore the heartland of America. Minority voters would get pushed aside, since the votes of the majority are all that matter. The executive branch would be weakened as the center of federal political power shifted toward Congress. While the president’s agenda would reflect only the interests of the 51% who elected him, Congress would continue to appeal, at least in theory, to the entire nation. And who’s to say that the president would need to win a majority of the popular vote? Would we have runoffs, ranked-choice voting, or just “first past the post,” where the top vote-getter in a crowded field takes the prize?

While the Electoral College can sometimes appear to achieve a skewed result, we must remember that it has served America well by providing a political balance to the three branches of government. Directly electing a president by popular vote sounds great, but a deeper examination reveals the toll that it would exact upon American republicanism. Instead of the “winner take all” system that most states use, perhaps adopting the Maine and Nebraska models would be an effective compromise. Two electoral votes reflect the majority vote of the state’s presidential ballots, but the rest of the electors are chosen by congressional district preference. This method diffuses power and is perhaps something the Framers might applaud, though the change would have to be accomplished one state at a time, as the selection of electors is still very much a state and not a federal function.

The Electoral College has weathered many storms, but the nation is still together and is still debating the limits of self-government. All told, it’s a pretty good track record.

Will Sellers is an Associate Justice on the Supreme Court of Alabama.

Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared in City Journal.

3 hours ago

Huntsville City Schools will go on with its vaccination clinic for minors without parental consent

Americans have been bombarded with requests, pleas, shaming and excoriations about how you must get vaccinated.

I bought in, and I think I may have even jumped the line accidentally. I also have a three-year-old, and I don’t envision a scenario where I rush him out to get a vaccine. If he were 14, 18 or 24, I wouldn’t pressure him to get vaccinated. If he were over 18, what could I do?

But if he were 14? That’s a no from me.

Schools in Alabama disagree, and at least one school system doesn’t care what you think.

Madison, Birmingham and Huntsville schools have all taken up the task of vaccinating your kids even though doctors, pharmacies and Wal-Mart have vaccines readily available.

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In the coverage of the Huntsville vaccinations, the Alabama Media Group article specifically states that Huntsville City Schools will not require parental consent for those over 14.

Students under 14 must have a parent or guardian accompany them for the vaccine, according to the announcement on the Huntsville schools website. Everyone receiving the vaccine must present a legal form of identification including a driver’s license, passport, non-drivers ID, or a birth certificate. Participants must sign a consent form prior to receiving the vaccine and must register online in advance to receive the vaccine.

To put it simply — your 14-year-old can decide to take an experimental vaccine without your knowledge.

This is a betrayal of parents by Alabama schools.

They don’t care.

Keep in mind that this is happening as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is still looking at the impact of the vaccine on young people.

Even the World Health Organization thinks this is a bad idea.

Some Alabama lawmakers are taking note.

State Senator Sam Givhan appeared on WVNN’s “The Dale Jackson Show” and suggested the school systems should hit pause.

Explaining that just vaccinating everyone who shows up without parental consent is just a bad practice, Givhan said, “They don’t have everyone’s full medical history, and they don’t know the unique situations from certain kids. … And I just don’t think the high school should be giving these shots when, you know, you could actually cause someone to have medical problems from this, and then they’ll hide behind their state immunity shield and say you can’t sue them.”

Obviously, it is entirely possible that no children have been vaccinated without parental consent, but how would we know?

Huntsville City Schools seems hell-bent on continuing this. Attempts to speak to the school board we unsuccessful.

The board said in a statement, “We appreciate the invitation. Please see the information below surrounding the vaccine clinic. We have nothing more to add at this time.”

The gist is this: “Sorry, not sorry. We will vaccinate your kids without your permission. What are you going to do about it?”

The answer is people with means are going to either change these schools or flee American schools more than they already have.

Listen:

Dale Jackson is a contributing writer to Yellowhammer News and hosts a talk show from 7-11 AM weekdays on WVNN and on Talk 99.5 from 10AM to noon.

5 hours ago

Guest opinion: ‘For the People Act’ was always a bad idea

For months, we have been inundated with stories of a federal proposal named by the Democrat Party as the “For the People Act.” Upon closer examination of this mammoth piece of legislation, it should be renamed the “From the People Act” because this legislation clearly seeks to take the election process out of the hands of the American people. As a former probate judge, I see this for what it is – a federal attempt to take over our elections in violation of the United States Constitution.

The number of things wrong with this “Act” could fill a novel, but the most troubling aspects of this historical attempt to alter our elections and change the fabric of our nation include:

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Automatic voter registration — The bill mandates that individuals who have interaction with certain government offices would be automatically registered to vote, but there is no mandate in the bill to only limit that registration to American citizens with the right to vote. Therefore, an individual who goes to the DMV for a driver’s license is automatically registered to vote, even if a felony has eliminated their right to vote or if they are not a citizen of the United States. The same holds true for those interacting with other government offices for assistance with a variety of services. Democrats argue that is not the intent of the provision but still refuse to establish any voter eligibility verification requirements in their proposal.

Funding of political campaigns — This act would divert money collected from fines of corporations from the nation’s general budget to a fund that would be specifically earmarked for the funding of political campaigns. This newly created “Freedom From Influence Fund” will serve as the exclusive source of funds for all federal public financing programs of political candidates. The idea that this bill increases funding for political campaigns from our government’s coffers is sickening. Our government has a gargantuan debt but this bill seeks to collect fines and, rather, than devote them to paying down that debt, diverts them to the accounts of political candidates. Absolutely mindboggling.

The list of problems with this proposal goes on and on and, although the proposal appears to be at a dead end now, it will rear its ugly head again. “We the People” must remain aware of attempts, such as these, to undermine our Democracy and we must oppose such measures at every turn.

Wes Allen currently represents Pike and Dale Counties in the State House of Representatives.

9 hours ago

Joia M. Johnson appointed to Regions board of directors

Regions has added Joia M. Johnson to its board of directors, according to a release from the company.

Johnson will serve on the boards of Regions Financial Corp. and its subsidiary, Regions Bank, beginning on July 20.

She arrives at her new responsibilities having recently retired as chief administrative officer, general counsel and corporate secretary for Hanesbrands Inc., a leading apparel manufacturer and marketer.

Charles McCrary, chairman of the Regions Financial Corp. and Regions Bank Boards, believes Johnson’s experience will be a valuable addition to the board.

“Joia’s leadership experience, both at the corporate level and in various board roles, will add greater depth and insights to the Regions Board of Directors as we advance policies and strategies to benefit our customers, associates, communities, and shareholders,” McCrary explained.

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Johnson added that she sees that experience as an asset in assisting the company achieve its vision for growth.

“I believe the breadth of my corporate experience and civic engagement will complement the additional experience and skills reflected throughout Regions’ current directors,” she stated. “As the company focuses not just on continuous improvement but also on long-term, sustainable growth, I am thrilled to become a part of building on Regions’ history of success – while also defining a very bright future for the organization and the people and communities we serve.”

McCrary also noted the alignment between Johnson’s unique skill set and the company’s mission.

“The Regions mission is to make life better for the people we serve, and we accomplish that mission by creating shared value for all of our stakeholders,” he remarked. “With her passion for strong governance and strategic community engagement, Joia will help us build on our progress and reach new heights in the years to come.”

After receiving an undergraduate degree from Duke University, Johnson earned a Master of Business Administration from the Wharton School of Business at the University of Pennsylvania and a law degree from the University of Pennsylvania School of Law.

Johnson’s financial services experience includes on the board of Global Payments Inc., a Fortune 500 payments technology company and eight years as a board member for Crawford & Company, which specializes in insurance claims administration.

Upon her installment, Johnson will serve on Regions’ 13-member board which will consist of 12 independent outside directors.

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia

9 hours ago

State Rep. Oliver: Combatting Critical Race Theory in Alabama is ‘the way we stand up to woke-ism’

Republicans have made taking on so-called Critical Race Theory a priority in recent weeks claiming such philosophies are an effort to undermine cultural norms and indoctrinate in a way that benefits the Democratic Party.

Florida, Arkansas, Idaho and Oklahoma have banned the theory from their public school classrooms. Many would like to see Alabama follow suit, and there have been bills filed for the legislature’s 2022 regular session to do as much. One of those bills is being brought by State Rep. Ed Oliver (R-Dadeville), who takes it beyond the classroom and applies restrictions throughout state government.

Oliver discussed the bill during Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Jeff Poor Show” on Mobile radio’s FM Talk 106.5.

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“[I]’ve got a bill that’s fairly unique, and we expect it to go through the state government committee,” he said. “My bill actually covers any state agency, its contractors and subcontractors, to include schools. We felt like it was important to address this issue with a holistic approach.”

“The first thing is deciding what you don’t want taught,” Oliver continued. “That’s the most important piece. And I would like to say, this bill, it absolutely describes what we don’t want taught — it doesn’t mean that you can’t teach inclusion or diversity. It means you can’t teach some things as fact and then we’re not going to teach our kids that one sex or race is better than another. And in a nutshell, that is the crux of it.”

The Tallapoosa County lawmaker said his effort could serve as a bulwark against a creeping effort to indoctrinate.

“[I]t’s the way we stand up to woke-ism,” Oliver declared. “If we’re ever going to draw a line in the sand, Critical Race Theory is it. I say that not because I’m the smartest guy in the world or this is something I’ve thought all my life, but I’ve got a child that goes to a major university in the state. And I am absolutely appalled by what I’ve witnessed there the last three years with my child. If you don’t think universities are indoctrinating your kids, everybody needs to wake up.”

@Jeff_Poor is a graduate of Auburn University and the University of South Alabama, the editor of Breitbart TV, a columnist for Mobile’s Lagniappe Weekly, and host of Mobile’s “The Jeff Poor Show” from 9 a.m.-12 p.m. on FM Talk 106.5.

10 hours ago

Manufacture Alabama backs Ainsworth for reelection

As Alabama maintains its status among the top states in the nation for manufacturing, the industry’s dedicated trade association has made its choice for lieutenant governor.

Manufacture Alabama has given its full support to Will Ainsworth in his bid for reelection to the office, according to a release from the group.

George Clark, president of Manufacture Alabama, cited Ainsworth’s background in manufacturing and knowledge of its key issues in announcing the endorsement.

“Manufacture Alabama is endorsing Lieutenant Governor Will Ainsworth for reelection due to his commitment to maintaining a business-friendly environment in Alabama,” Clark said. “Lieutenant Governor Ainsworth grew up in the manufacturing industry and understands firsthand that our members are the backbone of the state and nation’s economy. He is a friend to our association and a tireless advocate for manufacturers across Alabama. In his leadership role, it is clear that he is dedicated to serving his home state with enthusiasm and integrity. We are proud to give him our full endorsement for the reelection of Lieutenant Governor.”

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Ainsworth, who has now picked up a string of endorsements from trade associations, believes the state’s successes in manufacturing are something that can continue.

“I am proud to have the endorsement of Manufacture Alabama,” he stated. “Our tremendous manufacturers are sources of good-paying 21st century jobs for hardworking Alabamians, and the goods and materials they produce are integral across a broad range of sectors. Alabama is open for business, and I’m firmly committed to making our state the workforce engine of the Southeast so we can continue to grow jobs through expansion and recruitment. Working together, I am confident we will build an even stronger Alabama for our children and our children’s children.”

The manufacturing industry employs more than 250,000 people in Alabama, a figure which makes up a double-digit percentage of the state’s workforce.

Ainsworth announced his reelection campaign earlier this month.

Since that time, he has received the endorsement of the Alabama Forestry Association, the Petroleum and Convenience Marketers Association and U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).

RELATED: Lt. Gov. Ainsworth: Huntsville preferred location for Space Command ‘based on merit and based on policies’

Tim Howe is an owner of Yellowhammer Multimedia