'Who Will Be the Next President?': A guide to how America decides

December 13, 2012

On November 6, a majority of voters favored Barack Obama as President for another four years. On December 17, the Electoral College is expected to confirm the people's choice. However, only on January 7, 2013, when Congress is to count the electoral votes cast, will the 2012 election result become official. As with each election, this process leaves many asking, "Is the Electoral College really the best system for choosing a President?" In a new book, Who Will Be the Next President? (Springer, 2013), author A.S. Belenky addresses the peculiarities of the current presidential election system, while proposing a new way of choosing who sits in the Oval Office.

Belenky argues that any rules for electing a President that might replace the current process should provide a fair representation of both the states, as equal members of the Union, and the nation as a whole. The current election system gives the states two attempts to decide the outcome--via the Electoral College and, if unsuccessful, in Congress--and generally ignores the will of the nation as a whole. Further, replacing this system with a direct popular election which ignores the will of the states would hardly be acceptable to a sizable part of the electorate, and to three-fourths of the states.

Belenky analyzes the National Popular Vote plan and submits that it may violate the Supreme Court decisions on the equality of votes cast in statewide popular elections to choose state electors. This may in fact violate the Equal Protection Clause from the Fourteenth Amendment. Who Will Be the Next President? addresses the "Achilles' Heel" of this popular vote plan, showing that states which oppose it can undermine the plan's legitimacy by choosing a method for awarding their electoral votes other than "winner-take-all.''

Also, Who Will Be the Next President? discusses what the Founding Fathers might have overlooked, and addresses a logical mistake embedded in the text of the Constitution. Belenky separates the Electoral College problems from those of the "winner-take-all" method, and analyzes what may happen if both the Electoral College and Congress fail to elect a President and a Vice President by Inauguration Day.

Finally, Belenky describes a "double-majority" plan to improve the current election system, under which no state loses its Electoral College benefits and every voter gains. The proposed plan would accomplish three things that make it a viable alternative to the current system. It would a) elect President a candidate who is the choice of both the nation as a whole and of the states as equal members of the Union, b) let the current system elect a President only if no such candidate exists, and c) encourage the candidates to campaign nationwide. In addition, it proposes an approach to change the manner of appointing state electors that can turn almost every "safe" state into a "battleground."
Who Will Be the Next President? can be found at www.springer.com/law/book/978-3-642-32635-6. For additional information on Belenky's other book, Understanding the Fundamentals of the U.S. Presidential Election System, visit www.springer.com/law/international/book/978-3-642-23818-5.

Springer Science+Business Media

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