CBS 2 School: Dancing With The 12th Amendment

Bristol Palin, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr might share something in common after this season’s “Dancing with the Stars.”

While her dancing skills have improved during the course of the show, Palin has never been considered a top celebrity dancer at any point during this DWTS season. But the show’s online voting system has helped Palin land in the final round despite consistently poor scores from the judges.

According to Sun-Times columnist Bill Zwecker, Dancing with the Stars sources have been stunned by the degree of public support for Palin. Some online speculators even indicate that this season’s results have made ABC consider significant changes to its DWTS voting system.

The fate of DWTS contestants is based on a merger of scores from the judges plus votes from the public. If ABC overhauls this selection method, it could be the biggest electoral system overhaul since the 12th amendment in 1804.

The Constitution was written in 1787, well before the invention of reality TV. But when determining how the President of our new republic would be selected, the Framers preferred the Survivor method over the American Idol method.

Many of the Framers did not trust the masses and feared that the direct popular vote would lead to uneducated choices by uneducated citizens. American Idol has employed this direct voting method from the beginning, but its system of winnowing down candidates each week guarantees the winner can secure a majority of support when it comes down to the final two contestants.

Originally, our Electoral College was supposed to resemble Survivor’s tribal council. In Survivor, the final 10 contestants get to determine the winner of the $1 million prize. This tribal council constitutes a panel of experts who have spent the most time with the final two contestants and can theoretically make the most educated vote for the most deserving candidate.

This is how the Electoral College worked the first two times it selected George Washington unanimously. But in our third and fourth presidential elections, Electors started voting based on partisan backing rather than selecting the most qualified candidate. In 1796, this system created chaos with the election of President John Adams with his archrival, Thomas Jefferson, as vice president. Then in 1800, Aaron Burr nearly stole the presidential election when the House of Representatives had to select the winner between him and Thomas Jefferson.

By 1804, the Constitution was changed to address this partisan nature of Electoral voting. The 12th Amendment created the Electoral College system that we use today allowing for electoral votes to be cast for a slate of Presidential and Vice Presidential candidates. The 12th Amendment still stands as the only change that has had to be made to the Constitution due to the development of political parties.

If Bristol Palin’s success brings changes to Dancing with the Stars, we can place her name along with Jefferson and Burr as Americans who caused some of this country’s most significant changes to its electoral systems.

  • Zach Blumy

    If Bristol Palin wins DWTS, several things will happen.
    1. The show will lose all credibility. I don’t watch the show, but my mom does, and she says that Bristol is not deserving of the final. For the show to continue, it will need to re-establish credibility with its viewer base by dramatically reducing the popular component of the vote. However, reducing it too much could cause an outrage, as the public could feel detached from the show.
    2. Sarah Palin will take Bristol’s victory as a positive sign for her inevitable presidential campaign. I’m no expert, but the woman seems set on a run for the presidency, and if she doesn’t win the Republican primary, I could see her running on a Tea Party ticket and stealing enough votes to either hand Obama an easy victory or (unlikely) throw the election to the House of Representatives. She is such a polarizing figure that it will be tough for her to win outright.

  • kohler

    The National Popular Vote bill could be the cause of the country’s most significant change to its electoral system.

    The National Popular Vote bill could guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in presidential elections. Elections wouldn’t be about winning states. Every vote, everywhere would be counted for and directly assist the candidate for whom it was cast. Candidates would need to care about voters across the nation, not just undecided voters in a handful of swing states.

    Now 2/3rds of the states and voters are ignored — 19 of the 22 smallest and medium-small states, and big states like California, Georgia, New York, and Texas. The current winner-take-all laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) used by 48 of the 50 states, and not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution, ensure that the candidates do not reach out to all of the states and their voters. Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. Voter turnout in the “battleground” states has been 67%, while turnout in the “spectator” states was 61%. Policies important to the citizens of `flyover’ states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to `battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

    The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes–that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill comes into effect, all the electoral votes from those states would be awarded to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The Electoral College that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers but, instead, is the product of decades of evolutionary change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by 48 states of winner-take-all laws.

    The bill uses the power given to each state by the Founding Fathers in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for president.

    The bill has been endorsed or voted for by 1,922 state legislators (in 50 states) who have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the bill.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). The recent Washington Post, Kaiser Family Foundation, and Harvard University poll shows 72% support for direct nationwide election of the President. Support for a national popular vote is strong in virtually every state, partisan, and demographic group surveyed in recent polls in closely divided battleground states: CO– 68%, IA –75%, MI– 73%, MO– 70%, NH– 69%, NV– 72%, NM– 76%, NC– 74%, OH– 70%, PA — 78%, VA — 74%, and WI — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE –75%, ME — 77%, NE — 74%, NH –69%, NV — 72%, NM — 76%, RI — 74%, and VT — 75%; in Southern and border states: AR –80%, KY — 80%, MS –77%, MO — 70%, NC — 74%, and VA — 74%; and in other states polled: CA — 70%, CT — 74% , MA — 73%, MN – 75%, NY — 79%, WA — 77%, and WV- 81%.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers, in 21 small, medium-small, medium, and large states, including one house in AR (6), CT (7), DE (3), DC (3), ME (4), MI (17), NV (5), NM (5), NY (31), NC (15), and OR (7), and both houses in CA (55), CO (9), HI (4), IL (21), NJ (15), MD (10), MA(12), RI (4), VT (3), and WA (11). The bill has been enacted by DC, Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, and Washington. These seven states possess 76 electoral votes — 28% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.


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