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.
No state uses a proportional method now.
Any state that enacts the proportional approach on its own would reduce its own influence. This was the most telling argument that caused Colorado voters to agree with Republican Governor Owens and to reject this proposal in November 2004 by a two-to-one margin.
If the proportional approach were implemented by a state, on its own, it would have to allocate its electoral votes in whole numbers. If a current battleground state were to change its winner-take-all statute to a proportional method for awarding electoral votes, presidential candidates would pay less attention to that state because only one electoral vote would probably be at stake in the state.
The proportional method also could result in third party candidates winning electoral votes that would deny either major party candidate the necessary majority vote of electors and throw the process into Congress to decide.
If the whole-number proportional approach had been in use throughout the country in the nations closest recent presidential election (2000), it would not have awarded the most electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes nationwide. Instead, the result would have been a tie of 269269 in the electoral vote, even though Al Gore led by 537,179 popular votes across the nation. The presidential election would have been thrown into Congress to decide and resulted in the election of the second-place candidate in terms of the national popular vote.
A system in which electoral votes are divided proportionally by state would not accurately reflect the nationwide popular vote and would not make every vote equal.
It would penalize states, such as Montana, that have only one U.S. Representative even though it has almost three times more population than other small states with one congressman. It would penalize fast-growing states that do not receive any increase in their number of electoral votes until after the next federal census. It would penalize states with high voter turnout (e.g., Utah, Oregon).
Moreover, the fractional proportional allocation approach does not assure election of the winner of the nationwide popular vote. In 2000, for example, it would have resulted in the election of the second-place candidate.
A national popular vote is the way to make every person’s vote equal and matter to their candidate because it guarantees that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states and DC becomes President.
Except that under NPV, the voting value of those sparse-population impressions plummets. Cheaper in that case to ignore low-population states outright.
That guy/gal is a maroon. I had running battle with him/her in another thread until I was able to shut him/her up with some DEFINITIVE SCOTUS citations.
Specifically, in Reynolds v. Sims:
"When a State exercises power wholly within the domain of state interest, it is insulated from federal judicial review. But such insulation is not carried over when state power is used as an instrument for circumventing a federally protected right. [n42] [p567] To the extent that a citizen's right to vote is debased, he is that much less a citizen."
The NPV extends to the 50 states [plus DC] power over the states that participate in the NPV. Specifically, a state [in the NPV] that votes ONE WAY in popular vote WILL give it's electoral votes to that candidate BUT ONLY if the OTHER 49 states [plus DC] allow it to do so by having THAT candidate ALSO win THEIR popular votes [collectively].
OTHERWISE, the popular votes of THAT state will be ESSENTIALLY DISQUALIFIED and the state's electoral votes are awarded to the candidate that LOST the popular vote within the state.
The NPV runs counter to Reynolds v. Sims in that the OTHER states' powers ARE NOT insulated WITHIN their jurisdictions and are EXTENDED to influence states beyond their borders. THUS, the plenary right of a state [participating in the NPV] to choose the method of selecting it's electors IS subject to judicial review.
Since ALL of the states currently grant their citizens the right to vote for their electors, 14th Amendment Equal Protection rights apply:
Specifically, in Bush v. Gore:
The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College. U.S. Const., Art. II, §1. This is the source for the statement in McPherson v. Blacker, 146 U.S. 1, 35 (1892), that the State legislatures power to select the manner for appointing electors is plenary; it may, if it so chooses, select the electors itself, which indeed was the manner used by State legislatures in several States for many years after the Framing of our Constitution. Id., at 2833.
History has now favored the voter, and in each of the several States the citizens themselves vote for Presidential electors. When the state legislature vests the right to vote for President in its people, the right to vote as the legislature has prescribed is fundamental; and one source of its fundamental nature lies in the equal weight accorded to each vote and the equal dignity owed to each voter. The State, of course, after granting the franchise in the special context of Article II, can take back the power to appoint electors. See id., at 35 ([T]here is no doubt of the right of the legislature to resume the power at any time, for it can neither be taken away nor abdicated) (quoting S. Rep. No. 395, 43d Cong., 1st Sess.).
The right to vote is protected in more than the initial allocation of the franchise. Equal protection applies as well to the manner of its exercise. Having once granted the right to vote on equal terms, the State may not, by later arbitrary and disparate treatment, value one person's vote over that of another. See, e.g., Harper v. Virginia Bd. of Elections, 383 U.S. 663, 665 (1966) ([O]nce the franchise is granted to the electorate, lines may not be drawn which are inconsistent with the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment). It must be remembered that the right of suffrage can be denied by a debasement or dilution of the weight of a citizens vote just as effectively as by wholly prohibiting the free exercise of the franchise. Reynolds v. Sims, 377 U.S. 533, 555 (1964).
Again, from Reynolds v. Sims:
"Undeniably, the Constitution of the United States protects the right of all qualified citizens to vote, in state as well as in federal, elections. A consistent line of decisions by this Court in cases involving attempts to deny or restrict the right of suffrage has made this indelibly clear. It has been repeatedly recognized that all qualified voters have a constitutionally protected right to vote, Ex parte Yarbrough, 110 U.S. 651, and to have their votes counted, United States v. Mosley, 238 U.S. 383. In Mosley, the Court stated that it is "as equally unquestionable that the right to have one's vote counted is as open to protection ... as the right to put a ballot in a box." 238 U.S. [p555] at 386. The right to vote can neither be denied outright, Guinn v. United States, 238 U.S. 347, Lane v. Wilson, 307 U.S. 268, nor destroyed by alteration of ballots, see United States v. Classic, 313 U.S. 299, 315, nor diluted by ballot box stuffing, Ex parte Siebold, 100 U.S. 371, United States v. Saylor, 322 U.S. 385. As the Court stated in Classic,
"Obviously included within the right to choose, secured by the Constitution, is the right of qualified voters within a state to cast their ballots and have them counted."
"The idea that every voter is equal to every other voter in his State, when he casts his ballot in favor of one of several competing candidates, underlies many of our decisions."
"No right is more precious in a free country than that of having a voice in the election of those who make the laws under which, as good citizens, we must live. Other rights, even the most basic, are illusory if the right to vote is undermined. Our Constitution leaves no room for classification of people in a way that unnecessarily abridges this right. [n38]"
"We do not believe that the Framers of the Constitution intended to permit the same vote-diluting discrimination to be accomplished through the device of districts containing widely varied numbers of inhabitants. To say that a vote is worth [p564] more in one district than in another would ... run counter to our fundamental ideas of democratic government. [n41]"
The ESSENTIAL EFFECT of the NPV is to PROVISIONALLY grant a citizen [in a state participating in the NPV] the right to choose the state's electors, BUT ONLY IF the majority of the voters in the rest of the United States agrees with it. OTHERWISE, the state will DISENFRANCHISE the voter from making an independent choice.
This is where the NPV FAILS the 14th Amendment Equal Protection Clause test and WHY the NPV is likely to be ruled unconstitutional [if NPV ever goes into effect].
See, there's the problem: we are the United States. By equalizing all votes in a national election for one office, you render that division moot. 9 states alone could out-vote the other 49.
I value that we are the United States. The Late Unpleasantness was over one group of states bossing another set around; let's not go there again - respect that most states should not be ignored because a few out-populate them. (And yes, we're willing to go there again.)
Perhaps not. If we had no electoral college, why would Algore have even been the DemocRAT nominee? He had been the Vice-President under Clinton due to the need for the DemocRATS to crack the Republicans' electoral lock of southern states. The ran two southerners from adjacent states. After eight years of being VP and not being a US Senator from Tennessee, he seemed to be much different and had less appeal in the south than he had had in 1988 or 1992. He lost every single southern state including his home state.
Without the electoral college, the DemocRATS would have nominated someone with a much more leftist bent who would have mostly appealed to the various interest groups of the DemocRAT party and the campaign would have been much more urban oriented.
Called it. LOL
The trouble with the NPV [in states that have enacted NPV laws] is that it SOUNDS like a good idea - UNTIL it is put into practice.
Let us assume that the GOP wins the popular vote in 2012.
HOW do you THINK the citizens of the SOLID BLUE STATE of MD [which is in the NPV] are gonna FEEL KNOWING that their electoral votes would have been given to the GOP HAD NPV ACTUALLY BEEN IN EFFECT? Cuz MD is CERTAINLY gonna go for Obama in 2012.
MD residents are gonna REVOLT and DEMAND that the NPV law be repealed.
I don't mind - some posters at FR are just DUMB ...
Ain't gonna change ...
Television advertising (the largest component of presidential campaigns) is premium-priced in the major metropolitan areas.
Television time is far less expensive, on a per-impression basis, in small towns and rural media markets than in larger media markets. It is, for example, considerably more expensive to buy television or radio time to reach Ohios 11 million people than to buy television or radio time to reach the 11 million people who live in the 12 least populous non-competitive states (i.e., the six red states of Alaska, Montana, Idaho, Wyoming, North Dakota, and South Dakota and the six blue states of Hawaii, Maine, Vermont, Rhode Island, Delaware, and the District of Columbia).
These facts explain why some Republicans have argued that the National Popular Vote compact is good for the Republican Party because it is a tax on the Democrats. This argument, is consistent with the economic reality that television advertising is premium-priced in heavily Democratic big cities. Both parties will almost certainly avoid this tax by campaigning in the smaller media markets where the per-impression cost is lower and by campaigning nationwide on network television.
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, with a mere 26% of the nation’s votes.
On the other hand, once you've stuffed in enough fraudulent votes to steal a state, further fraudulent votes in that state do not count. Under a national popular vote, they would.
A better idea would be to allocate each state one electoral vote per congressional district, plus two more votes to the candidate winning the majority of the districts or, in the event of a tie in districts, the state's popular vote. That way, for example, stuffing the ballot box in Gary, Indiana would steal a maximum of one electoral vote, no matter how many fraudulent votes were cast. Under the current system, it would steal eleven.
I think the one thing that you fail to realize, or are just ignoring is the importance of down-ballot elections. You see, small or less populated states would be COMPLETELY IGNORED!
The presidential election would be about getting the most voters out to the booths in the most populated states thereby giving the candidates the best chance to pick up the popular vote AND the most number of down-ballot congress-critters.
The smaller states would simply be allowed to do whatever on the down-ballot because those with the most seats would be picking up control of both houses AND the Presidency!
This is like most Democrat laws and regulations - the unintended consequences of their cure are ALWAYS worse than the miniscule problem they were “attempting” to fix! With the key word being “FIX!”
Another problem with a national popular vote is disputes. With NPV, you’d have to recount the whole country. In 2000, we only needed to do Florida. If, as I suggested above, it went by congressional district, then the recount need would likely be limited to one or two districts.
Elimination of the electoral college would be a through disaster for conservatism.
I think you need to go play on a socialist page somewhere.
Statement #1: The NPV puts each and every vote nationally on an equal footing ...
Rebuttal #1: No it doesn't. It disenfranchises votes within a state if their majority does not agree with the national majority ...
Statement #2: Tough Noogies. Each state has a plenary right to choose its electors ...
Rebuttal #2: But, it violates 14th Amendment Equal Protection rights and SCOTUS has ruled that you cannot do that ...
Statement #3: No it doesn't because it puts each and every vote nationally on an equal footing. Go to Statement #1 ...
No. But ME AND NE both use the Congressional Disrtict Method [CDM]. One vote for the winner of one District, with the 2 remaining votes going to the overall winner of the state ...
And it works just FINE. It is the FAIREST method - but you would not like it since your precious DEMs in CA could NOT hog all of CA's 55 EVs for themselves. The GOP reliably wins about 20-25 Districts in CA.
Absent CDM, proportionality is the NEXT fairest. Winner-take-all on a state level or at a national level [as with the NPV] is LEAST fairest ...
“The downside is on occasion the Electoral College will give the Presidency to the candidate with less of the national popular vote...e.g. the 2000 election.”
This is exactly what it was designed to do, to keep the states with the largest population from deciding the vote.
It protects the minority from the tyranny of the majority.
On the surface the idea seems democratic to those uniformed. I stand by my position against it, regardless of DAKs, RI or combined. Many of these people voted for Obama.
Thank you for the history lesson! Very enlightening.
Disclaimer: Opinions posted on Free Republic are those of the individual posters and do not necessarily represent the opinion of Free Republic or its management. All materials posted herein are protected by copyright law and the exemption for fair use of copyrighted works.