Speaker urges end of electoral college

By the

March 22, 2001

John Feerick, dean and professor of law at Fordham University School of Law, advocated the abolishment of the electoral college at a speech Monday night.

“The electoral college is an impediment to the smooth function of American democracy,” Feerick said.

Feerick is the first holder of the Peter P. Mullen Visiting Professorship of Law in the Government department. With this grant, Feerick taught a class in the fall of 2000 entitled “Law, Legal Reform and Legal Institutions.” The class was centered around legal issues such as the history of law and methods of settling legal disputes.

Feerick listed historical examples when the existence of the electoral college increased the likelihood of error, causing a change in the election result.

According to Feerick, the electoral college is fundamentally defective in that small states are advantaged because three electoral votes are granted to each state, regardless of size. Each citizen in larger states has on average more electoral votes.

Feerick also spoke against the “winner-take-all” system, where all electoral votes go to the candidate with the plurality of votes.

“This system leads to the disenfranchisement of voters for the loser because their votes are not reflected,” Feerick said.

Feerick said these problems produce great inequities when compared to the precedent that every voter should have an equal vote.

Feerick advocated the implementation of a direct popular vote in order to equalize voting practices.

“There is no reason why America cannot have an accurate, rapid and final vote count with a direct [popular] vote,” he said.

Feerick raised several objections to the direct popular vote, the most important being that some states would lose influence in the voting procedure.

“No citizens’ influence on the president should depend on their geographical location,” Feerick said. “This system plants hate, discord and distrust when it could have goodwill support.”

Doug Britt (CAS ‘01), a student in Feerick’s class, said Feerick’s career in the law allowed him to bring practical experience to the class. Feerick was able to bring the class to speak with prominent individuals such as Senator Birch Bayh (D-IN) and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Ginsberg.

Georgetown government professor Stephen Wayne said he also believes that the electoral college should be replaced with a direct popular vote.

“I think that a direct popular vote would be a stimulant to increase voter turnout and to make the parties more vibrant,” Wayne said.

According to Wayne, many political systems support the electoral college.

“There is a wide body of disagreement among scholars and among politicians. Most democrats oppose the current system, and most republicans support it,” Wayne said.

Two of the central objections to the abolishment of the electoral college are that a direct popular vote will favor candidates who have the most money and it will increase the expense of the election. Wayne said the expense could be a problem, but that campaign finance shouldn’t affect how people vote.

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