Skip to comments.Why the Electoral College?
Posted on 02/02/2012 12:11:30 PM PST by Jacquerie
Why the Electoral College?
In 1789 our elected Executive, the President, was unique among nations.
We recently won a costly revolution against a King who was armed with extensive executive powers. They were not unlimited, but enough to take his country to war. Most of our Declaration of Independence consisted of accusations against the British King. Beginning largely with He has . . . , the Declaration specified twenty-seven charges. The Framers generation was understandably cautious and suspicious of executive power.
Peruse Revolutionary era State Constitutions and youll find the people dominated their governments through elected, representative Assemblies. Given the executive abuses by George III, our first State Governors were understandably kept weak.
It was against this background our Framers came to the conclusion that a national executive was needed for a country that would rather do without one. Yes, national executive, for it would be some time before the delegates were brave enough to use the term President. No other topic demanded so much time at the Constitutional Convention of 1787, as evidenced by more than sixty votes necessary to define the method of Presidential election. From near the beginning of the Convention on May 25th and almost to the end, September 17th, they wrestled with Presidential powers, the balance of those powers with Congress, and how a free people could design an office that precluded the trappings of monarchy, minimized internal and external corruption and prevented foreign influence.
Check out the timeline of electoral ideas below. There were many blind alleys on the way to a President. I hope some of the read only the title tribe take their time and read a little before commenting.
Chronology of Electoral Considerations at the Constitutional Convention of 1787:
1 June. A single executive. Heads explode at the thought of an elected monarch.
Multiple executives. Single or multiple terms?
Elected by the House of Reps.
Elected by entire Congress.
Popular election? Too difficult, too much democracy.
2 June. First Electoral College, with electors chosen by the people. Defeated by 7-2 vote.
Election by state legislatures.
Election by House of Reps for a single seven year term passed 8-2.
Multiple executives to reduce sectional jealousies.
4 June. A single executive by 7-3 vote.
Would he evolve into an elected monarch?
9 June. Election by State Governors. Small States oppose. Defeated 10-0.
Election by House invited corruption.
17 July. If appointed by Congress expect a corrupted creature of Congress.
Back to popular election.
Congressional appointment retained by 9-1 vote.
State legislatures to appoint electors, defeated 8-2.
Unanimous vote for Congressional appointment.
Unlimited number of terms passed 6-4.
One election, Executive-for-life. Defeated 6-4.
19 July. Two year, multiple terms, popularly elected.
Popular election of Executive electors.
Fear of direct, popular elections.
State Governors to appoint electors.
State legislatures to appoint electors by the ratio of State populations.
Shall the Executive be appointed by electors? Yes, 6-3.
Shall electors by chosen by State Legislatures? Yes, 8-3.
Limit the Executive to one term? No, 8-2.
Seven year terms rejected. Six year terms passed 9-1.
20 July. How many electors per State?
Legislators, Civil Officers precluded from being electors.
24 July. Return to Congressional electors?
Divide the nation into three electoral districts to select three executives.
Fear the elected Monarch.
Electors equal in number to the States Congressional delegation resoundingly defeated.
Return to Congressional appointment by 7-4 vote.
Executive must be independent of Congress after the election. A single twenty year term?
To prevent intrigue, draw fifteen Congressmen by lot to immediately vote and elect an Executive.
25 July. First election by Congress, subsequent elections by State Legislatures to prevent intrigue.
Four choices: By National or State authorities, electors chose by the people, or direct popular election.
Fear of foreign influence.
Each State to have an equal number of electoral votes.
Fear the Order of Cincinnati.
Popular election was radically vicious.
26 July. Summary of proposed methods.
Popular election by the people.
By the State legislatures.
By State Governors.
Electors chosen by the people.
Freeholders to each vote for several candidates.
By the people, with proviso to not vote for a favorite State son.
By Congressional lottery.
Back to square one, Congress elects a single executive to one seven year term, passed 6-3.
10 Aug. A motion to require a clear and unencumbered net worth of $100,000 for the President, and lesser amounts for Senators and Judges was defeated.
24 Aug. First formal use of President.
Single seven year term.
Elected by Congress, by joint session or by each house separately?
By joint sessions, which threw dominance to large States, passed 7-4.
One vote per State? No, by 6-5 vote.
Corruption & intrigue w/Congressional election.
Popular vote to appoint electors failed narrowly, 6-5.
4 Sep. Unlimited four year terms.
5 Sep. Electors equal in number to Congressional delegation and chosen in such manner as State legislatures may direct.
Each elector to vote for two persons.
Votes counted in Senate. Majority to win.
If no majority, Senate to elect President from five highest votes getters.
Second highest became Vice-President.
Fear that most elections would be decided by Senate intrigue.
6 Sep. Remove election from Senate and send to House. One vote per State passed 10-1.
Chronology Source: The Debates in the Federal Convention of 1787, by James Madison.
Yep, Kalifornia is a great example of how the popular vote works. Thus, we can blame L.A. and S.F. for those elected to the statehouse for the past 30+ years and point DIRECTLY at that being the reason Kalifornia is known as the welfare state run by fruits and nuts. The only people in Kalifornia held to social restriction are those of us who WORK and PAY TAXES. All of the druggies, criminals, homeless etc.......... are considered to be the victims of some other person’s success. It used to be as Kalifornia goes, so goes the nation. I pray that is no longer the case.
The proposal to apportion Electoral votes by Congressional District looks appealing as it would break the power of the Democratic cities to consistently deliver the entire state’s votes under the current system.
There are many convoluted reasons why Popular Vote proponents will gladly try to deceive you with. Much based on fears of state redistricting, state electoral vote assignments, etc. Some of the arguments </i>sound</i> so convincing. But they are based on supposition, fear, and recent events and fears. I’m perfectly happy with it as it is. It stopped Al Gore. Finally, there is NO way in Cowboy Hell I am willing to let the direction of this country be decided by the roaches in Los Angeles, New York City and Chicago. I want to know what Utah thinks, I want to know what the Dakotas think, and, yes, I even care what the hell Rhode Island thinks (even if I think they’re batshit crazy)....I am not interested about LA, NYC and ShyTown whatsoever!
I’m amazed at how many electoral modes the Framers considered, rejected, reconsidered . . .
I would consider any mode other than direct, popular election. Electors by Congressional district works for me.
How many times are we going to discuss this here??
The electopral college evens the playing field and the left hates it. Makes it tougher to cheat on elections!!
And if it weren’t for the electoral college the president would be chosed by California and NY every 4 years. There’s a thought.
Look to the in state elections themselves for why the popular vote is a bad idea.
While we are turning things around in Michigan due to tougher voting laws and fleeing liberals, Detroit, Ann Arbor, and Kalamazoo have a great deal of influence in statewide elections. This is why we have two democrat senators and a liberal republican governor but a wide mix of representatives from very conservative Tim Walberg to radical democrat socialist John Conyers.
Statewide we go liberal but at the district level we lean republican.
In researching and writing this post I educated myself.
The Framers did not come up with what we call the electoral college in an afternoon. The back and forth proposals went on all summer long.
Near the end, they got it right. I was hoping that more posters would actually read a little of what the Framers went through.
(1) throughout the chronology, direct popular election of the executive is defeated,
(2) selection of the electors for each state - given with the understaning that the expectation is that the state is actively chosing the electors who are selected to presumably actually MAKE a choice - with language that the methodology for that selection will be set “by the state legislatures”, and then
(3) the “national popular vote” agenda uses that provision to attempt to say that the “state legislatures” can do away with the essence and purpose of the electoral college by, through mere legislation, ending the responsibility of states from exercising an actual choice of their electors, and demanding, by previous legislative fiat, that the “national popular vote”, not any actual will of their state, will chose their electors for them.
Our NPV troll here on FreeRep often trots out the excuse that the “winner take all” assignment of electors by most states is at the heart of the problem, yet he denies that to the extent that there is any truth to that, a state’s assignment of electoral votes proportionately, instead of winner take all (something I believe a few states do) is a remedy the states can enact, without accepting the “national popular vote” agenda.
As far as the issue of the really big states, due to their very big populations in our time, possibly achieving an electoral vote majority out of some combination of those big states alone, with that victory accounting NOT for a popular vote close to a majority, there is a remedy and “national popular vote” is not it.
The number of states and the population distribution of the states has changed considerably since we allocated two federal senators for each state and set the number of electors from each state, for the electoral college, to the number of their legislative seats in the House and Senate combined.
If necessary, for preventing a tiny portion of very large states from acquiring an electoral college majority on their own, without adding additional federal senators, we could change the number of electors from each state, for the electoral college. as equal to their number of seats in House of Representatives plus three (or whatever is needed over time). By that method a balance might be restored between “most of the states” and “the states with the most”.
Its detractors say that it's too complicated, unfair and still corrupt.
Nonetheless it still stands, thankfully, as the mightiest hedge ever devised against total socialism.
Bookmark for later digestion, Thank you.
In 1969, The U.S. House of Representatives voted for a national popular vote by a 33870 margin. It was endorsed by Richard Nixon, Gerald Ford, George H.W. Bush, and Bob Dole.
Jason Cabel Roe, a lifelong conservative activist and professional political consultant wrote in National Popular Vote is Good for Republicans: “I strongly support National Popular Vote. It is good for Republicans, it is good for conservatives . . . , and it is good for America. National Popular Vote is not a grand conspiracy hatched by the Left to manipulate the election outcome.
It is a bipartisan effort of Republicans, Democrats, and Independents to allow every state and every voter to have a say in the selection of our President, and not just the 15 Battle Ground States.
National Popular Vote is not a change that can be easily explained, nor the ramifications thought through in sound bites. It takes a keen political mind to understand just how much it can help . . . Republicans. . . . Opponents either have a knee-jerk reaction to the idea or dont fully understand it. . . . We believe that the more exposure and discussion the reform has the more support that will build for it.”
Former Tennessee U.S. Senator and 2008 presidential candidate Fred Thompson(R), former Illinois Governor Jim Edgar (R), and former U.S. Representative Tom Tancredo (R-CO) are co-champions of National Popular Vote.
2,110 state legislators (in 50 states) have sponsored and/or cast recorded votes in favor of the National Popular Vote bill.
National Popular Vote’s National Advisory Board includes former Senators Jake Garn (RUT), and David Durenberger (RMN) and former congressmen John Anderson (RIL, I), John Buchanan (RAL), and Tom Campbell (RCA).
Saul Anuzis, former Chairman of the Michigan Republican Party for five years and a former candidate for chairman of the Republican National Committee, supports the National Popular Vote plan as the fairest way to make sure every vote matters, and also as a way to help Conservative Republican candidates. This is not a partisan issue and the NPV plan would not help either party over the other.
Rich Bolen, a Constitutional scholar, attorney at law, and Republican Party Chairman for Lexington County, South Carolina, wrote:”A Conservative Case for National Popular Vote: Why I support a state-based plan to reform the Electoral College.”
Some other supporters who wrote forewords to “Every Vote Equal: A State-Based Plan for Electing the President by National Popular Vote “ http://www.every-vote-equal.com/ include:
Laura Brod served in the Minnesota House of Representatives from 2003 to 2010 and was the ranking Republican member of the Tax Committee. She is the Minnesota Public Sector Chair for ALEC (American Legislative Exchange Council) and active in the Council of State Governments.
James Brulte served as Republican Leader of the California State Assembly from 1992 to 1996, California State Senator from 1996 to 2004, and Senate Republican leader from 2000 to 2004.
Ray Haynes served as the National Chairman of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) in 2000. He served in the California State Senate from 1994 to 2002 and was elected to the Assembly in 1992 and 2002
Dean Murray is a member of the New York State Assembly. He was a Tea Party organizer before being elected to the Assembly as a Republican, Conservative Party member in February 2010. He was described by Fox News as the first Tea Party candidate elected to office in the United States.
Thomas L. Pearce served as a Michigan State Representative from 20052010 and was appointed Dean of the Republican Caucus. He has led several faith-based initiatives in Lansing.
In a recent Gallup poll, support for a national popular vote, by political affiliation, is now:
53% among Republicans, 61% among Independents, and 71% among Democrats.
With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency — that is, a mere 26% of the nation’s votes.
The Founding Fathers in the Constitution did not require states to allow their citizens to vote for president, much less award all their electoral votes based upon the vote of their citizens.
The presidential election system we have today is not in the Constitution. State-by-state winner-take-all laws to award Electoral College votes, were eventually enacted by states, using their exclusive power to do so, AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution. Now our current system can be changed by state laws again.
Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution— “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . .” The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”
The constitution does not prohibit any of the methods that were debated and rejected. Indeed, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors using two of the rejected methods in the nation’s first presidential election in 1789 (i.e., appointment by the legislature and by the governor and his cabinet). Presidential electors were appointed by state legislatures for almost a century.
Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.
In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.
The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in a particular state) is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. It is not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, the debates of the Constitutional Convention, or the Federalist Papers. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method.
The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding the state’s electoral votes.
As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. States can, and frequently have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years.
Why? Here’s why...
Value of an individual vote under the Electoral College relative to a vote using Direct Election:
State | ECV/DEV
New Hampshire 166%
New Jersey 95%
New Mexico 132%
New York 90%
North Carolina 97%
North Dakota 236%
Rhode Island 210%
South Carolina 105%
South Dakota 197%
West Virginia 144%
Example: a vote in Wyoming is worth 3.3x that of one in Texas ... reducing Texas’ overwhelming 45-to-1 voter advantage over Wyoming to 14-to-1.
The current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes maximizes the incentive and opportunity for fraud. A very few people can change the national outcome by changing a small number of votes in one closely divided battleground state. With the current system all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who receives a bare plurality of the votes in each state. The sheer magnitude of the national popular vote number, compared to individual state vote totals, is much more robust against manipulation.
National Popular Vote would limit the benefits to be gained by fraud. One fraudulent vote would only win one vote in the return. In the current electoral system, one fraudulent vote could mean 55 electoral votes, or just enough electoral votes to win the presidency without having the most popular votes in the country.
Hendrik Hertzberg wrote: “To steal the closest popular-vote election in American history, you’d have to steal more than a hundred thousand votes . . .To steal the closest electoral-vote election in American history, you’d have to steal around 500 votes, all in one state. . . .
For a national popular vote election to be as easy to switch as 2000, it would have to be two hundred times closer than the 1960 election—and, in popular-vote terms, forty times closer than 2000 itself.
Which, I ask you, is an easier mark for vote-stealers, the status quo or N.P.V.[National Popular Vote]? Which offers thieves a better shot at success for a smaller effort?”
With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates attention, much less control the outcome.
The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States and the population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 19% of the population of the United States. Suburbs and exurbs often vote Republican.
If big cities controlled the outcome of elections, the governors and U.S. Senators would be Democratic in virtually every state with a significant city.
A nationwide presidential campaign, with every vote equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida.
The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every vote is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.
Even in California state-wide elections, candidates for governor or U.S. Senate dont campaign just in Los Angeles and San Francisco, and those places dont control the outcome (otherwise California wouldnt have recently had Republican governors Reagan, Dukemejian, Wilson, and Schwarzenegger). A vote in rural Alpine county is just an important as a vote in Los Angeles. If Los Angeles cannot control statewide elections in California, it can hardly control a nationwide election.
In fact, Los Angeles, San Francisco, San Jose, and Oakland together cannot control a statewide election in California.
Similarly, Republicans dominate Texas politics without carrying big cities such as Dallas and Houston.
There are numerous other examples of Republicans who won races for governor and U.S. Senator in other states that have big cities (e.g., New York, Illinois, Michigan, Pennsylvania, and Massachusetts) without ever carrying the big cities of their respective states.
The National Popular Vote bill would not change the need for candidates to build a winning coalition across demographics. Candidates would have to appeal to a broad range of demographics, and perhaps even more so, because the election wouldnt be capable of coming down to just one demographic, such as voters in Florida.
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