The Electoral College

12 pt. Times New Roman, with reasonable margins

Briefly, in your first paragraph, explain the basics of the Electoral College system: What is the formula that determines how many electors each state gets? What is the role of the voters in determining the outcome of the election? How is it determined which candidate wins each state’s electoral votes? What does a candidate for President have to achieve in order to win the election? What if no candidate wins a majority of the Electoral College vote? [Don’t go any deeper into the workings of the system here: these are the essentials.]

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Then, spend the bulk of the paper discussing the pro and con articles about the Electoral College. Describe and explain what you determine to be the key points from the articles we read: Judith Best’s argument for keeping the Electoral College, and Alexander Keyssar’s review of Prof. George Edwards’ book arguing for getting rid of it and having a direct popular vote to determine who becomes president. To “explain” a point is to explain HOW the Electoral College system results in the effects claimed by the authors. See note below for more about this.

Conclude by assessing the validity of the pro and con arguments and by explaining which author you believe is right and why. Provide strong reasoning for your conclusion. DO NOT BASE YOUR CONCLUSION ON STYLE – don’t agree with one author or the other because you prefer the way one side’s article is written. TOO MANY STUDENTS IGNORE THIS PART OF THE PAPER OR TREAT IT AS AN AFTERTHOUGHT: NO! IT IS THE THINKING PART, WHERE YOU GET TO REACH A WELL-REASONED CONCLUSION. DON’T IGNORE IT OR GIVE IT SHORT SHRIFT.

An important note:

The debate between these two articles doesn’t merely consist of arguments as to why the EC system is good and other arguments as to why the EC system is bad: the authors disagree with each others’ claims of fact. For example, Edwards disagrees with Best’s premise that the EC system really helps people in smaller states, or that it really results in candidates who reflect a “cross-national consensus.” So you can make the discussion partly about disagreements over facts.

Another note: Keyssar states explicitly that “faithless electors” are a minor concern with the Electoral College system, and then moves on to what he regards as much more important issues. Thus, don’t write about the issue of faithless electors unless you think it may be a particularly important issue in this election (which, if you’ve kept well up with the news, it might be).

Explain how the system works in your own words. Also, do not base your discussion of pros and cons on outside articles: the pro and con discussion must be based on the authors’ arguments.)

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