Tiffany HutchinsProfessor AslanianPLS201December4, 2017Three Branches are Betterthan OneOur forefathers were veryinsightful when framing the Constitution and choosing the set of principles to governthe United States. They wanted a strong but fair national government that wouldnot abuse its power. They believed the best form of government would be separationof powers. Our federal government is made up of three different branches asestablished in the first three articles of the Constitution and power is sharedbetween them. They all have checks and balances which allow for one branch tochallenge the power of another branch.
The three branches include the legislativebranch, judicial branch, and executive branch. All three have main headquarterslocated in Washington, D.C.
1The legislative branchmakes the laws and is made up of Congress and several agencies. Congressincludes the Senate and the House of Representatives, who are elected by the votersfrom each state. There are two Senators from each state, for a total of 100. Theirterm is six years and there is no limit on the number of terms they can serve.
The Vice President of the United States is considered Headof the Senate, but does not vote unless there is a tie. The number ofRepresentatives is determined by the population of each state and there are atotal of 435 Representatives. Their term is two years and there is also nolimit on the number of terms they can serve. TheSpeaker of the House is considered the head of the House and is elected by therepresentatives. Congress has the power to declare war,enact taxes and allocate funds. There is a self-checking system built into Congress, because billsmust be passed by both houses and neither house may adjourn for more than threedays without the consent of the other house. The Senate approves departmentalappointments, treaties and ambassadors.2 Theyhave checks on the executive branch, which include impeachment power and theability to override a presidential veto.
They also have checks on the judicialbranch, which include the Senate’s approval of federal judges and the power toinitiate constitutional amendments, set jurisdiction of courts, and alter thesize of the Supreme Court.The judicial branch is madeup of the Supreme Court and other federal courts. The Supreme Court is thehighest court in our country and has the power to interpret the laws accordingto the Constitution. There is a Chief Justice and eight Associate Justices. Aminimum of six justices is required to decide a case. They are nominated by thePresident and approved by the Senate.
There is no fixed term and they only hearcases with issues related to the Constitution. The federal judicial system alsohas lower courts in each state who hear cases related to federal issues.3 The judicialbranch has checks on the legislative branch with the power to declare a lawunconstitutional. They also have checks on the executive branch, which includethe power to rule that a presidential action is unconstitutional. Supreme CourtJustices cannot be fired by the President.The executive branch includes the President,Vice President and Cabinet. The President enforces or carries out the laws andis elected by the United States citizens who are eligible to vote in theirstate.
The votes are tallied and compiled in the Electoral College system whichallows for each state to have the number of electoral votes equal to the numberof Senators and Representatives assigned to that state. With the ElectoralCollege, it is possible and it has happened that a candidate wins the popularvote and loses the electoral vote. The President’s term is four years with alimit of two terms. The President is Head of State and Commander in Chief ofthe military, while the Vice President is President of the Senate. The VicePresident can serve an unlimited number of four-year terms, which can be underdifferent Presidents. The cabinet members head executive departments and serve asadvisors to the President.
They are appointed by the President and approved bythe Senate.4The executive branch has checks on the legislative branch with the power toveto and the ability to call an emergency session of Congress. The executivebranch also has checks on the judicial branch, which include appointing judgesand the power to pardon.These three branches ofgovernment have the power to make decisions that deal with many controversialissues. One recent issue they had to address was the Presidential electionresults from 2016.
Numerous people had concerns with the outcome and werequestioning if the Electoral College is fair. The twelfth amendment of theConstitution establishes the Electoral College as the method for the indirectelection of the President and the Vice President. Voters in each state at ageneral election, choose a slate of “electors” pledged to vote for a party’scandidate. Each branch of government has discussed the issues concerning theElectoral College.For the legislative branchto change the Electoral College, it wouldrequire an amendment to the Constitution. This would need the support oftwo-thirds majority in the House and Senate, followed by ratification bythree-fourths of the states. In the recent 2016 election, DemocratHillary Clinton, won 2.
8 million more votes than Republican Donald Trump nationally, but when theelectors gathered to cast their ballots in state capitals, Trump was namedPresident. After Clinton’s loss, California’s Democratic Senator, Barbara Boxer,was enraged by the outcome and introduced a proposal to abolish the ElectoralCollege. She said, “The time has come, to get rid of the outdated, undemocraticsystem that does not reflect our modern society.” Clinton is not the onlyrecent candidate to win the popular vote but lose the election due to the ElectoralCollege. In 2000, Al Gore also won the popular vote, but lost to George W. Bush.
5 Amending theConstitution is a challenge, so it’s not surprising that movements have triedto work around it. So far, the strategy most likely to succeed is the National Popular Vote InterstateCompact,in which several states with control of at least 270 electoral votes wouldcommit to voting for the popular vote winner, regardless of the result in theirown states. According to Article 1, Section 10 of the Constitution,Congress must approve interstate compacts, but it could do so by a simplemajority vote. However, the popular vote compact does not do away withfaithless electors and most recently we are seeing an unprecedented effort topersuade electors to switch. One concern with the compact is that only thosestates who signed it would be voting with the popular vote winner.
This meansthat different states would be following different rules. Also, in all but twostates, electoral votes are allocated winner-take-all, meaning that some statesare ignoring the preferences of almost as many as half of their own voters.Therefore, the voters backing the other candidate are being ignored.6 Thelegislative branch is not the only one who has had to address this issue.
Due to thecurrent attention given to the Electoral College, the Supreme Court has beeninvolved as well. Until recently, there were very few opinions written about it.In Bush v. Gore, the main majorityopinion discussed the Electoral College in light of the McPherson v. Blacker decisionfrom 1892. The Bush v. Gore majorityfound that states could allow voters to choose electors and if they did so, theprocess needed to be fair with “equal weight accorded to each vote and theequal dignity owed to each voter.
” The court also said that states retained theability to “take back the power to appoint electors” from voters and return itto the legislatures, as happened in the early days of our republic.7 Another issuethe federal courts had to address during the 2000 election was concerning ahabitation clause which arose because it wasalleged that Bush and Cheney were both inhabitants of Texas and that the Texas electors thereforeviolated the Twelfth Amendment by casting their ballots for two candidates fromthe same state. Bush was declared to be a resident of Texas. A few monthsbefore the election, Cheney switched his voter registration and driver’slicense to Wyoming and put his home in Dallas upfor sale. Three Texas voters challenged the election in a federal court andthen appealed the decision to the United States Court of Appeals, but it wasdismissed.8Althoughthe legislative branch and judicial branch have had to deal with the concerns ofthe Electoral College, the most affected branch is the executive one. TheElectoral College, does after all, determine who is elected to serve asPresident.
Most candidates and members of a political party tend to support oragree with whatever benefits them most. Donald Trump, who won the 2016 presidential election,has made several comments about the Electoral College system. During theelection of 2012,between Mitt Romney and President Obama, Trump tweeted that the ElectoralCollege is a “disaster” for a democracy. On November 8, 2016, eventhough he lost the popular vote, he won the presidential election.
So then, on November 15, 2016, he tweeted, “The ElectoralCollege is actually genius in that it brings all states, including the smallerones, into play. Campaigning is much different!” In an interviewwith The New York Times onNovember 22, 2016, Trump elaborated further on his opinions of the ElectoralCollege. He stated, “I was never a fan of the electoral college until now. Whatit does do, is it gets you out to see states that you would never seeotherwise.”9Many voters do not agreewith the presidential election process and many Americans do not agree withPresident Trump, but for a democracy to work, it requires respecting the electedofficial’s legitimacy.
Those who support the Electoral College, emphasize thefact that the United States was designed as a representative democracy and notas a popular democracy.10 We must alsoremember that the Electoral College was a compromise and although it may not beperfect, it does nicely position the election of the presidency into our systemof separation of power as well as checks and balances. Bibliography Blake, Aaron. “Abolish theElectoral College? Dream On, Democrats.” The Washington Post. November 16,2016. https://www.washingtonpost.
com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/09/getting-rid-of-the-electoral-college-dream-on-democrats/ (accessedDecember 04, 2017). Bravin, Jess. “Obscure Texas CaseOffers Peek Into Role Of Court Nominee.” The Wall Street Journal.
October07, 2005. https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB112864645334762361 (accessedDecember 04, 2017). “Electoral College a Rare Topic ofDiscussion at Supreme Court.
” National Constitution Center –Constitutioncenter.org. https://constitutioncenter.org/blog/electoral-college-a-rare-topic-of-discussion-at-supreme-court (accessedDecember 04, 2017). Lee, Kurtis. “In 1969, Democratsand Republicans United to Get Rid of the Electoral College.
Here’s WhatHappened.” Los Angeles Times. December 19, 2016. http://www.latimes.com/nation/la-na-electoral-college-history-20161219-story.html (accessedDecember 04, 2017).
Patterson, Thomas E. We the People. New York, NY:McGraw-Hill Education, 2017. Rudalevige, Andrew. “The ElectoralCollege Has Serious Problems. So Do Any Alternatives.” The WashingtonPost.
November 15, 2016. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/11/15/should-the-u-s-keep-or-get-rid-of-the-electoral-college/ (accessedDecember 04, 2017). Times, The New York. “DonaldTrump’s New York Times Interview: Full Transcript.” The New York Times.
November 23, 2016. https://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/23/us/politics/trump-new-york-times-interview-transcript.html (accessedDecember 04, 2017).1 Thomas E. Patterson, We the People (New York, NY:McGraw-Hill Education, 2017).2 Patterson.
3 Ibid. 4 Patterson.5 Kurtis Lee, “In1969, Democrats and Republicans United to Get Rid of the Electoral College.Here’s What Happened,” Los Angeles Times, December 19, 2016, http://www.
latimes.com/nation/la-na-electoral-college-history-20161219-story.html (accessed December 04, 2017).
6 Aaron Blake, “Abolish theElectoral College? Dream On, Democrats.” The Washington Post, November 16,2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/11/09/getting-rid-of-the-electoral-college-dream-on-democrats/ (accessed December 04, 2017).7 “Electoral College a RareTopic of Discussion at Supreme Court,” National Constitution Center –Constitutioncenter.org, https://constitutioncenter.
org/blog/electoral-college-a-rare-topic-of-discussion-at-supreme-court (accessed December 04, 2017). 8 Jess Bravin, “Obscure TexasCase Offers Peek Into Role Of Court Nominee,” The Wall Street Journal,October 07, 2005, https://www.wsj.com/articles/SB112864645334762361(accessed December 04, 2017). 9 The New York Times, “DonaldTrump’s New York Times Interview: Full Transcript,” The New York Times,November 23, 2016, https://www.
nytimes.com/2016/11/23/us/politics/trump-new-york-times-interview-transcript.html (accessed December 04, 2017). 10 Andrew Rudalevige, “TheElectoral College Has Serious Problems. So Do Any Alternatives.” TheWashington Post, November 15, 2016, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/11/15/should-the-u-s-keep-or-get-rid-of-the-electoral-college (accessed December 04, 2017).