Some call it undemocratic, while others claim it is vital, but tonight a UCSB professor will examine the effectiveness and purpose of the U.S. Electoral College and whether it needs to be reformed.
The event, sponsored by the UCSB Affiliates, will be held from 7:30 to 9:30 p.m. at First Presbyterian Church Fellowship Hall at 21 E. Constance Ave. in Santa Barbara. At the lecture, political science professor and dept. chair John Woolley will discuss the arguments and ideas for reforming the Electoral College. Reservations are suggested for those wishing to attend, and can be made through the UCSB Office of Community Relations at (805) 893-4388. Members of the UCSB Affiliates and Chancellors Council can attend the event for $8, admission is $10 for the general public, and students get in for free.
In the Electoral College, each state has the same number of appointed electors as it has Representatives and Senators in Congress; the District of Columbia[[ok]] receives three electors. These electors typically cast their vote for the winner of the popular vote in their respective state. The president is selected according to how many votes he or she receives from the Electoral College.
“There’s a bunch of interesting and disturbing concepts in American politics,” Woolley said. “The most disturbing is that someone can win the popular vote and lose the electoral vote or the other way around. A lot of people were worried that John Kerry would lose the popular vote, but win the electoral vote.”
Woolley said his lecture would touch on the latest attempt to reform the Electoral College, launched by a group of former Congressional members, called the “Campaign for a National Popular Vote.” The initiative seeks to change the election laws in individual states rather than amend the Constitution, he said.
“The current proposition is to have states join an inter-state compact to ensure the winner of the popular vote always wins in the Electoral College,” Woolley said.
As the flier for the event reads, the Electoral College is perceived by some as an “antidemocratic relic.” Woolley said many citizens favor eliminating the process altogether.
“This would be the simplest way, but it seems not to be possible,” Woolley said.
Ben Sheldon-Tarzynski, president of the UCSB Campus Democrats, said he feels the Electoral College has become obsolete.
“I think the spirit of the Electoral College is right, but that a Western government is not supposed to cater to the majority,” Sheldon-Tarzynski said. “The political evolution of the Electoral College is not democratic.”
Although he feels there is a problem with the current system, Sheldon-Tarzynski said he has different ideas on how to reform or eliminate it.
“We need a national compromise,” Sheldon-Tarzynski said. “It needs to be settled in Congress because it’s too difficult to coordinate the states because they’re so split. The majority party in states are not going to throw away votes to the other party.”
However, Tim Cully, president of the UCSB College Republicans, said he believes the Electoral College is crucial to the nation’s history.
“If Article II is ‘reformed,’ why shouldn’t we reform Amendment II or Amendment I in our Bill of Rights?” Cully said. “The Electoral College may be obsolete and a bureaucratic technicality, but our founding fathers wrote the Constitution in a certain manner for a particular reason.”
Paddy Moriarty, UCSB director of community of relations, said the UCSB Affiliates host about two dozen town forums each year, featuring various topics relevant to the community.
“We try to find things that are timely and sometimes controversial,” Moriarty said. “We’re looking for important issues where we can share faculty expertise with members of the community. We don’t take a political position – we explore all topics.”
Woolley said the idea behind the town forums is to bring community members together with the faculty to talk about current hot topics in academia and the community.
“When I give this talk, there’ll be a lot of people with political experience looking for ways to get involved,” Woolley said.