HUNTINGTON – A recent Marshall University contest asked authors to make pro and con arguments about the value of the Electoral College.
The contest, the Dan O’Hanlon Essay Contest, is sponsored by the school’s Simon Perry Center for Democracy, based on the Huntington campus.
“The topic was chosen after careful consideration of what Constitutional issue was likely to inspire students to focus on the serious and intensive work of researching and writing an essay,” Patricia Proctor, the center’s director, told The West Virginia Record.
It was the first time since the contest started in 2009 that two graduate students took first and second place.
The $1,000 first-place prize went to Gregory S. Ward, who wrote “Defending The Fence: The Electoral College’s Vital Role Within Madison’s Republican Model.”
Cindy Krepps was awarded a $500 prize for her second place essay titled “Dissolving the Electoral College: America’s Cry for Change.”
Ward is seeking his Master of Arts in Teaching and plans to teach high school history. Krepps earned her Regents Bachelor of Arts and is now seeking her Master of Business Administration degree.
The contest is named after retired circuit court Judge Dan O’Hanlon, who served as the chair of the university’s criminal justice department prior to his judgeship.
Proctor said the value of the Electoral College has been “a continuing source of controversy since the Constitution was ratified.”
She said the debate intensifies each election cycle.
“Our society has changed in many ways that impact the reasons the framers had for creating the Electoral College,” she said. “In an election year, people are interested in why we don’t directly vote for president of the United States as we do for other offices and why we have the Electoral College.”
The center’s website says its mission is to “inspire students to focus on how our Constitutional tradition has been shaped by individuals in American history as well as by various social, economic and cultural forces, and to examine its importance in contemporary legal, political and cultural matters.”
Proctor said the winners were not judged on their essay conclusion, which was a response to the question, “The Electoral College: Should We Keep It, Abolish It, or Reform It?”
“These essays won because they were well-written and the arguments were well-supported and well-researched,” she said. “Five professors judge the contest, three from the department of political science and two from the department of history.”
Proctor said this year’s topic produced a record number of entries.
“Many of them mentioned as a concern the election of 2000, when Al Gore won the popular vote, but lost in the Electoral College,” she said. “They also focused on the fact that if one lives in a reliably red or blue state, but votes the opposite way, they feel disenfranchised and as if their voices do not matter and that this problem because of the way in which the Electoral College functions.”