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April 14, 2016

Electing the President

Patricia A. Kelly

We, the people, don’t. Donald Trump’s campaign’s naiveté regarding the workings of the presidential election system, and his surprise that winning the popular vote doesn’t directly give him delegate votes, can serve as a reminder to all of us that our say in the presidential election is quite limited.


Those who really decide the presidential election, with some input from the voters, are the two main parties in the contest, the Republicans and Democrats. The parties in each state have different rules, and those rules decide delegate allocation.


The United States is a “democratic republic,” rather than a pure democracy, and that’s a good thing. What that means is that our group decisions, either as leaders, or as voters, are limited by the rule of law, in our case, the Constitution.


This is good because, if we had a pure democracy, we could vote for any crazy thing, and the majority would rule.


We need the constitution, and the rule of law, to protect the rights of all.


Because we are in many ways controlled by political parties, we are more limited than we should be in having our voices heard, not only in the presidential election, but in others as well.


The first problem that comes to mind is gerrymandering. Every time the census is taken, election district boundaries are changed. Wherever did we get the idea that political parties should be the ones to decide the new boundaries?


To empower the actual people, redistricting should be non-partisan, with district changes reflecting population changes, rather than partisan wishes.


Second is the state parties’ rules regarding the Electoral College. In some states, including Maryland, all delegates go to the majority party in the presidential primaries. That means, for us in Maryland during the presidential election, that, even if Republicans get 49% of the vote, the state delegates are all democrats. That means 49% of the votes cast in our state don’t count at all.


In Colorado, the subject of Trump’s most recent shock and upset, the Republican Party had a meeting and allocated the delegates without even a vote of the people.


It’s good that we have a democratic republic, and a constitution.


Our government has built in safeguards among the three branches – executive, legislative and judicial.


The Supreme Court’s job is to check the rule book; that is, interpret the Constitution, when making decisions regarding everything from lawsuits to legislation.


Interpretation has changed over time, and sometimes been incorrect. The Dred Scott decision comes to mind as a bad one, ruling that Scott could not sue, as his color prevented any possibility of his being a citizen. Brown V. Board of Education comes to mind as a good decision, mandating equality of education among different races.


Our executive and judicial branches have built in checks. For most programs desired by the president, legislation is required. That explains the uproar over some of President Barack Obama’s executive orders, and the questions regarding the constitutionality of his actions.


Now back to elections of leaders, and the two party control over them.


There is nothing in the Constitution providing for rule by any political party. I’m sure the development of such power for the two major parties was not foreseen by our founders.


Who “elected” these party leaders? Who decided they should run the country?


For once, I agree with “the Donald,” even if he made the mistake of thinking he was above the system, and, thus, failed to check the details of the electoral process ahead of time.


It is time for us to take a stand for fairness for voters, and for better opportunity to participate in the election of our leaders. Our future should not be in the hands of the Republican Party or the Democratic Party. It should be in ours, restricted only by our Constitution, and the protections that are built into our system of government.


The success of a “democratic republic,” unlike a dictatorship, requires educated, participating citizens, which can take some work. We’ve been tricked, and we are the only ones who can take a stand for us, demanding openness, transparency in governing, and fair elections. Now we can do it by email, without even having to buy a stamp. It’s our duty, if we don’t want the best of the American way of life to disappear.


Our votes should count. Let’s insist on it.


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