It was Abraham Lincoln who once said that elections belong to the people. “It's their decision. If they decide to turn their back on the fire and burn their behinds, then they will just have to sit on their blisters,” the US 16th president had asserted at the time.
The truism and paradox of Lincoln’s 1960 maxim remains global. Except in most tyrannical states where the issue of national leadership is often settled by brute force, most developed and evolving democracies offer the people the option to decide who leads them for a given period. But then again, one has to look seriously at the issue of the electoral college in the American voting system to fully understand how US elections are run and how the Americans expect other “lesser” democratic systems like Liberia to conduct their own elections. So while we clamor about the perfectness of the American democracy that is supposed to give power to the people by deciding who runs the country, let’s take a keen look into the real inner working of how the Americans elect their president through the convoluted Electoral College. From the beginning, the crafters of the US Constitution agreed that the Electoral College was the best compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens. So they opted for the Electoral College where a group of electors would vote for President and Vice President. In this arrangement, the counting of the electoral votes was delegated to the US Congress. The US Electoral College actually consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Each US state has an entitled allotment of electors that equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two for each Senator. The paradox of the US electoral system is funny but scary. Citizens are encouraged to turn out to vote their respective presidential preferences, but in the end, it is the Electoral College that really decides who sits in the Oval Office. Al Gore won the popular vote in 2000 but George W. Bush was elected as president because of the Electoral College system which allowed him to win won 271 votes against Gore’s 266. On the other hand, Gore had really won Bush by a popular vote margin of 540,000. Besides the Gore vs Bush electoral saga, Andrew Jackson lost to John Q. Adam in 1824 despite Jackson winning 38,000 more votes than Adams. But Adam had flogged Jackson 99 to 84 in the electoral vote. The cases of Rutherford B. Hayes who won the election against Samuel J. Tilden; and Benjamin Harrison against Grover Cleveland are all the same. With the 2017 presidential and legislative elections just hovering over us, what can we learn from the convoluted US electoral system, since in fact, we go to pains to copycat everything American? Already, Hilary Clinton and Donald Trump are running neck to neck in opinion polls and vote counting. But Trump has already signaled dissatisfaction about the electoral process, even though there’s likelihood that he might…that he could just win. Perhaps his distraught about the system might be based on the Electoral College system. Who knows? In any case, whoever wins the US presidential elections today will definitely have a deciding effect on our own elections slated for 2017, in terms of logistical, financial and moral support. But whatever the US elections outcome may be, it is left with us Liberians to turn our chapter around. We may not have the constitutional constrictions or luxuries of an electoral college that handpicks our national leaders, but we have the free will to decide whom we want to lead us for the next six year into the Executive Mansion and other areas of governance. If we allow a select few to guide our choice at the ballot box come 2017 because they control the string to our livelihood, we might just be justifying the spoils of the US electoral systems where the mighty minority can decide the destiny of powerful majority.