The American Labor Reform Movement

November 5, 2012

How Should We Elect a U.S. President?
By Popular Vote? Or the Elector College?

Politicians Expect Many Challenges to the Winner


One day before the actual election, there is still considerable debate between those who favor the Electoral College 270 vote system to elect a U.S. president and those who feel that the White House should go to the candidate who receives the most votes.

Under the U.S. Constitution, Congress allots each state the number of Electors to which it is entitled. The 12th Amendment provides that each Elector cast one vote for President and one for Vice President. Since there are 535 members of Congress, a candidate who receives half that number — 270 votes — is elected U.S. President.

The Electoral College Can Thwart the Popular Will

Critics argue that the Electoral College is inherently undemocratic and gives swing states disproportionate influence in electing the President. Numerous amendments have been introduced in Congress seeking to alter the Electoral College or replace it with a direct popular vote.

Proponents of the Electoral College say it is an important distinguishing feature of federalism in the United States and that it protects the rights of smaller states. Yet, in the more than 200-year history of the United States, several candidates who lost the popular vote managed to win the White House by manipulating some states' Electors.

Remember that at the climax of the 2008 presidential election, the U.S. Supreme Court's decision gave the presidency to George W. Bush over Al Gore.

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With the exception of state affiliates, AFL-CIO leaders have played a minimal role in the national effort to control the ravages of Hurricane Sandy. Tens of thousands of workers — union and non-union — need shelter, food, clothing, water, light and heat to survive their present plight.

What can the AFL-CIO do to demonstrate that organized labor is a reliable friend and resource for workers facing an overwhelming crisis in their lives?