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.
Nice try - Poindexter ...
Let us suppose that there are enough states [10, 15, whatever] that participate in the NPV - totalling EXACTLY 270 electoral votes and that the NPV is in effect for a particular election.
Let us FURTHER suppose that one candidate actually WINS the popular vote INTERNALLY in all of these states, so that he WILL win the ENTIRE 270 electoral vote slate IF he wins the popular vote nationally.
AND let us further suppose that there are 100,000,001 votes cast nationally. 50,000,000 for the candidate that won the NPV states INTERNALLY and 50,000,001 for the other candidate [who is then awarded the 270 electoral votes of the NPV states].
FINALLY, let us suppose that JUST 2 of the 50,000,001 votes cast for the other candidate were fraudulent [but unknown to be fraudulent by the national electorate].
WHAT is the effect?
The 270 electoral votes of the NPV states are ERRONOUSLY awarded to the other cadidate and, thus, the Presidency. A MERE 2 fraudulent votes, in the right scenario, can cost the LEGITIMATE winner the election ...
I pointed the same thing out to mvymvy on another thread ...
Even states that voted 99%-1% would have to recount since each and every vote counts to the NPV and, thus, the Presidency ...
ALSO, who would pay for the recounts? Currently, the states pay for their own IF the vote differential is BELOW a certain percentage [1%-2%]. How would states with 99%-1% vote count feel if they had to pony up bucks for what is essentially a USELESS recount within their states?
First, please review what I posted and point out where anything in my post suggested that that the framers came up with the concept of the electoral college was derived in an afternoon.
As a matter of fact, the Founders spent a LOT of time going back and forth over each concept, word and phrase that was eventually included in the final document. That’s one of the aspects that makes the Constitution one of the most brilliantly conceived and executed frameworks for a government known to mankind.
Second, most of the folks on FR are quite familiar with the Constitution and the kind of extensive discourse the Founders had in creating the different elements that eventually went into our Constitution.
In my case, I was actually there!
(at least, I’m old enough to have BEEN there!)
Had Florida adopted proposed legislation to allot electoral votes by district, Al Gore would have won the presidential election even though he lost most of Florida's congressional districts. The only votes that would have been in doubt prior to a recount would have been the two allotted at large per state. They would have been irrelevant.
Had the Congressional Distict Method [CDM] been in effect nation-wide, Bush woulda won 288-250.
He won the popular vote remember? it was the electoral college that gave Bush the win with Florida!
You are welcome. Thanks for reading before posting.
Most here think we have an electoral college to keep Presidential candidates from ignoring small States. It just isn't true.
Yes, Freepers are generally a cut above average, but I'd bet not one in a hundred knew that our Framers considered a President for life, electors chosen by lottery, or $100 grand net wealth as another qualification.
As for your first point . . . chill out.
Not so much the post you made was ignorant, but the constant harping by those who wish to destroy the electorial college method of choosing our president is ignorant.
The use of the popular vote would be the destruction of our country because it would give all the power of choosing our president to the most populated, and liberal, cities. This would mean that the rest of the country would be subjects and not citizens. That would lead to a civil war. But that’s coming soon enough already anyway.
Your whole problem (embeded in all your arguments in your latest NPV rant/response) is the assumption, erroneous assumption, that for the good of the nation, any methodology employing the electoral college votes should be rigged so that the outcome of the electoral college vote will default to the same as the outcome of “national popular vote”.
But, it is neither the purpose of the electoral college, nor is it necessarily a good purpose that “national popular vote”, independently or by rigging the electoral college vote to mirror it, determine the election of the President of the United States.
The very essence, the Constitutional intent, of the electoral college is to prevent “national popular vote” on its own, all by itself, from determining the outcome. The history of the writing of the electoral college into the Constitution is very clear that one of it’s purposes is so that “popular election”, nationally, is not the method we have that determines the selection of the President.
Pure democracy (which we are not) is all about your beloved “one man one vote”, but our republic (government by representatives/representation), any study of our congressional districts and their varying sizes of population will show you, does not enshrine that concept. The “one man one vote” concept, in our nation, is manifested ONLY (1) within your own voting district (your vote IN YOUR DISTRICT is as great as any other vote IN YOUR DISTRICT), (2) at the level of the represenatives in the House of Representatives (which amounts to “one vote” for each district) and in an equal number of votes for each state in the Senate (with “equal votes” at least not giving greater advantage than “one vote”). So our REPRESENTATIVES in government, whether they represent a small district or a large district (they are not all equal in size or in population) or whether they represent a small state or a large state, the weight of their own individual vote (the House) or their state (in the Senate) is equal. That is your representives vote, not your vote. Your vote may be equal to all other votes, in your district, but when your representative sits in congress, their one vote may be the “representative” vote of a more populous, or a less populous district, state than the next representative, but they each only have only “one vote”.
And, the electoral college system enshrines that recognition that we are not a pure democracy (”O.K., everyone hold up your hands”), we are a republic, and the selection of the chief executive is not a method of pure democracy (one man one vote), it is the method of a republic, representing the voting selection of the places (districts or states) of the nation; regardless of what “national popular” vote count it represents.
The electoral college votes, whether awarded by the state as “winner take all” or proportionally allocated, is in it’s summation, the places that represent “the nation”, and the winner, by whichever of those two methodologies is acceptable (I prefer the later) has collected a win in more places of the country, and that is always a better, a clearer represenation of a majority of “the nation” whether or not it happens to sum to “national popular vote” majority.
This system cannot, Constitutionally, be rigged, by state’s legislative fiat, to defeat its own Constitutional purpose.
In order for the nation to adopt “national popular vote” as the methodology by which the chief executive is chosen, the Constitution would have to be amended to mandate it and abolish the electoral college system. The NPV agenda promoters know that is an unattainable goal, so they have attempted an end run around it. It will not succeed in the courts.
The National Popular Vote bill preserves the constitutionally mandated Electoral College and state control of elections. It changes the way electoral votes are awarded by states in the Electoral College, instead of the current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all system (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states).
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.
The current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method 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.
In 1789, in the nation’s first election, only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.
With National Popular Vote, the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC would get the 270+ ELECTORAL COLLEGE votes from the enacting states.
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 Ohio.
And elections could no longer be won with just 26% of the country’s votes, from winning the bare plurality in the 11 biggest states.
“It is too bad our State legislators were not bound to elect the President.”
If they had been, then with the concurrent sense of federalism that implies, we could maybe expect at least the following:
(1)Most likely “popular vote” of the federal senators may not have been adopted;
and if so, then
(2)National direct personal income tax most likely would not have neen adopted (depriving one source of the fuel needed for massive growth of federal spending);
(3)The massive growth of the size, power, national breadth and depth of the federal government into the national private economy and our private lives would have been blunted.
But Conservatives need to be fully aware there can always be unintended consequences in the things we wish for. Greater federalism would be no insurance against many states adopting, for themselves, some of the worst “statist” and Marxist abuses that the federal government has obtained. And, a stronger sense of federalism might also cause the judiciary to NOT see the extension of federal Constitutional rights (with the post civil war amendments) as among the rights that could prevent the states becoming as “statist” and Marxist as the federal government has become.
“Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was directly and equally counted and mattered to their candidate.”
The only place that exists, the only place it is intended to exist, in OUR REPUBLIC, is within one’s own voting district, for one’s own representative.
Beyond that, it is our representives (or electors) who vote and they each, indiviudally, DO NOT REPRESENT an equal number of citizens.
The electoral college system enshrines that fact - a republic, representative government, not pure democracy, not national popular vote.
States cannot make a legislative end run around the Constitutuonal purpose of the electoral college to rig how it is used to subvert it’s own purpose - avoiding “popular” vote as the means of selecting the chief executive.
Now - go away; go move to maybe Greece, where even today you can see the results of “one man one vote” pure democracy - chaos and national political dysfunction.
For those who believe a picture is worth a thousand words I offer these two views of the 2000 and 2004 Presidential Election. The USA Today County by County voting map illustrates the founder's wisdom more than mere words can.
I know that, but Florida DemocRATS had considered enacting legislation prior to the 1996 election that would have split the electoral vote in Florida by congressional district. Had it been in effect in 2000, Gore would have won, because none of the other sates would have enacted similar legislation.
Please do me the honor of reading my research.
But the proposed legislation that Florida DemocRATS seriously considered passing in 1996 would have split up Florida's electoral vote by congressional district with just the 2 bonus votes going to the overall popular vote winner in the state. Nebraska and Maine do the same thing, but I think 2008 was that only time either state actually split its electoral vote.
And, this is a problem because . . . . . ??
Most here think we have an electoral college to keep Presidential candidates from ignoring small States. It just isn't true.
No, most people here know that a primary purpose of the Electoral College is to level the playing field between large and small states. Look at the election results from the past two presidential elections. Where did the Dem candidates get the most votes? Large, metropolitan cities. The Republican candidate usually won the smaller cities and towns and the rural areas.
Given that, were it not for the Electoral College, people in thos smaller urban and rural areas might never see a Dem presidential candidate. That's why the Dem Party keeps trying to con Americans into getting rid of the Electoral College. They don't like having a level playing field.
S, what part of your post did I miss by not wading through stuff I already know? It may be new or interesting to you, and that's great. But, when I was in school, they still taught about the Constitution and American government.
Not a problem for me. I read Madison's record.
No, most people here know that a primary purpose of the Electoral College is to level the playing field between large and small states.
Urban legend. Not true. Enjoy your ignorance.