Electoral College Policy Brief to the Governor
OverviewSince ratification of the Constitution, the Electoral College has been the method used for electing the President and Vice President of the United States and is outlined in Article II of the Constitution. The Electoral College elects the President, not the citizens. However, the majority of the Electoral College process takes place at the state government level. The Governor is the main administrator for the Electoral College process. The Governor and state officials sign the Certificate of Ascertainment and Certificate of Vote.
In this activity, students will write policy briefs to the Virginia Governor on the following topics: the history and process of the Electoral College, the role of the Governor in the Electoral College, and the pros and cons of the Electoral College. After students have been introduced to the basics of the Electoral College, this lesson will use primary sources to deepen their understanding of the Electoral College Process, the role of the Virginia Governor in the Electoral College, and the debate over the current utility of the Electoral College.
Prior to the lesson, students should be taught the basics of the Electoral College process.
To review the Electoral College System, show students the video “Electing a President: The Electoral College” on www.howstuffworks.com. To access the video
- go to the website here
- click on History of the Electoral College video
- click on Electing a President: The Electoral College.
Divide student into groups of three. Distribute the Handout #1: Help Governor Kaine! to students and discuss the project overview. Explain to students that they have been hired by the Governor to explain his role in the Electoral College by preparing a brief.
Ask students to divide up the responsibilities for writing the brief among the members in their group. Students should divide the responsibilities according to the rubric requirements.
Explain to the students that they will be analyzing primary sources and finding answers to their policy brief’s questions.
Students will complete a source analysis using Handout #2: Primary Source Analysis and Handout #3: Primary Sources. The second primary source is 18 pages long and an excerpt is included in this lesson as a separate document (Handout #3A: The 2008 Presidential Election). Instead of printing the second source, the teacher might want to allow students to view the source online.
If the teacher desires, results of the source analysis can be discussed as a class to ensure a higher level of analysis.
Remaining in their groups from the previous class, students finish their source analysis.
Students begin drafting the brief, which will also include a Works Cited page. Each student is responsible for preparing his or her own chosen section.
Students will edit the draft of another member’s contribution to the brief.
Each student will write the final draft of their contribution to the brief. The group will put together the entire Electoral College Brief.
Use the information and questions provided in Handout #4: Group Discussion Questions to facilitate class discussion.
Since ratification of the Constitution, the Electoral College has been the method used for electing the President and Vice-President of the United States and is outlined in Article II of the Constitution. Unlike many other aspects of the Constitution, the Electoral College was not the source of much debate. In the Federalist No. 68, Alexander Hamilton said of the discussion, “The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure, or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents.”
The Founding Fathers saw the intellect and opinion of the American people as being too varied to attempt to elect the Chief Executive. In addition, the Founding Fathers were concerned with the Executive Branch gaining too much power for the national government. By using the Electoral College, which gives the states the power to select electors who in turn place votes for the President and Vice President, federalism is sustained.
Today, the Electoral College does not have such consistent support. According to the National Archives, the American public has favored abolishing [the Electoral College] by majorities of 58 percent in 1967; 81 percent in 1968; and 75 percent in 1981. The 2000 Presidential Election brought more attention to the debate when the majority of the popular vote went to Al Gore and the majority of the Electoral College vote went to the winner, George Bush. More than 700 attempts have been made to change or eliminate the Electoral College from the Constitution through bills that propose an amendment to the Constitution; however, none have been successful.
The Electoral College elects the President, not the citizens. However, the majority of the Electoral College process takes place at the state government level. The Governor is the main administrator for the Electoral College process. He or she and state officials sign the Certificate of Ascertainment and Certificate of Vote.
For classes that require additional support or for whom writing is a challenge, many adaptations can be made. For example, additional time can be given for writing and editing the draft. Also, students can be asked to make a list of “Ten Things a Governor Should Know about the Electoral College” to decrease the amount of writing necessary.