Skip to comments.FReeper Book Club: The Debate over the Constitution, Federalist #68
Posted on 12/06/2010 6:53:49 AM PST by Publius
Hamilton takes a look at the procedure for electing the President and justifies the Electoral College.
1 To the People of the State of New York:
2 The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system of any consequence which has escaped without severe censure or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents.
3 The most plausible of these who has appeared in print has even deigned to admit that the election of the President is pretty well guarded.*
4 I venture somewhat further and hesitate not to affirm that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.
5 It unites in an eminent degree all the advantages, the union of which was to be wished for.
6 It was desirable that the sense of the people should operate in the choice of the person to whom so important a trust was to be confided.
7 This end will be answered by committing the right of making it, not to any preestablished body, but to men chosen by the people for the special purpose and at the particular conjuncture.
8 It was equally desirable that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.
9 A small number of persons selected by their fellow citizens from the general mass will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.
10 It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder.
11 This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States.
12 But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration promise an effectual security against this mischief.
13 The choice of several to form an intermediate body of electors will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements than the choice of one who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes.
14 And as the electors chosen in each state are to assemble and vote in the state in which they are chosen, this detached and divided situation will expose them much less to heats and ferments which might be communicated from them to the people than if they were all to be convened at one time, in one place.
15 Nothing was more to be desired than that every practicable obstacle should be opposed to cabal, intrigue and corruption.
16 These most deadly adversaries of republican government might naturally have been expected to make their approaches from more than one quarter, but chiefly from the desire in foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils.
17 How could they better gratify this than by raising a creature of their own to the Chief Magistracy of the Union?
18 But the Convention have guarded against all danger of this sort with the most provident and judicious attention.
19 They have not made the appointment of the President to depend on any pre-existing bodies of men who might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes, but they have referred it in the first instance to an immediate act of the people of America, to be exerted in the choice of persons for the temporary and sole purpose of making the appointment.
20 And they have excluded from eligibility to this trust all those who from situation might be suspected of too great devotion to the President in office.
21 No senator, representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States can be of the numbers of the electors.
22 Thus without corrupting the body of the people, the immediate agents in the election will at least enter upon the task free from any sinister bias.
23 Their transient existence and their detached situation, already taken notice of, afford a satisfactory prospect of their continuing so to the conclusion of it.
24 The business of corruption, when it is to embrace so considerable a number of men, requires time as well as means.
25 Nor would it be found easy suddenly to embark them, dispersed as they would be over thirteen states, in any combinations founded upon motives, which though they could not properly be denominated corrupt, might yet be of a nature to mislead them from their duty.
26 Another and no less important desideratum was that the Executive should be independent for his continuance in office on all but the people themselves.
27 He might otherwise be tempted to sacrifice his duty to his complaisance for those whose favor was necessary to the duration of his official consequence.
28 This advantage will also be secured by making his re-election to depend on a special body of representatives deputed by the society for the single purpose of making the important choice.
29 All these advantages will happily combine in the plan devised by the Convention, which is that the people of each state shall choose a number of persons as electors equal to the number of senators and representatives of such state in the national government, who shall assemble within the state and vote for some fit person as President.
30 Their votes, thus given, are to be transmitted to the seat of the national government, and the person who may happen to have a majority of the whole number of votes will be the President.
31 But as a majority of the votes might not always happen to center in one man, and as it might be unsafe to permit less than a majority to be conclusive, it is provided that in such a contingency the House of Representatives shall select out of the candidates who shall have the five highest number of votes the man who in their opinion may be best qualified for the office.
32 The process of election affords a moral certainty that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.
33 Talents for low intrigue and the little arts of popularity may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single state, but it will require other talents and a different kind of merit to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States.
34 It will not be too strong to say that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue.
35 And this will be thought no inconsiderable recommendation of the Constitution by those who are able to estimate the share which the executive in every government must necessarily have in its good or ill administration.
36 Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of the poet who says: For forms of government let fools contest/That which is best administered is best, yet we may safely pronounce that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.
37 The Vice President is to be chosen in the same manner with the President with this difference: that the Senate is to do, in respect to the former, what is to be done by the House of Representatives in respect to the latter.
38 The appointment of an extraordinary person as Vice President has been objected to as superfluous, if not mischievous.
39 It has been alleged that it would have been preferable to have authorized the Senate to elect out of their own body an officer answering that description.
40 But two considerations seem to justify the ideas of the Convention in this respect.
41 One is that to secure at all times the possibility of a definite resolution of the body, it is necessary that the President should have only a casting vote.
42 And to take the senator of any state from his seat as senator to place him in that of President of the Senate would be to exchange in regard to the state from which he came a constant for a contingent vote.
43 The other consideration is that as the Vice President may occasionally become a substitute for the President in the supreme executive magistracy, all the reasons which recommend the mode of election prescribed for the one apply with great, if not with equal, force to the manner of appointing the other.
44 It is remarkable that in this, as in most other instances, the objection which is made would lie against the constitution of this state.
45 We have a lieutenant governor chosen by the people at large who presides in the Senate and is the constitutional substitute for the governor in casualties similar to those which would authorize the Vice President to exercise the authorities and discharge the duties of the President.
[*] Vide Federal Farmer.
It strikes the modern reader as oddly as it did Hamilton that the topic of the Electoral College was not of any particular controversy at the time of the writing of this essay. The modern American voter is, after all, accustomed to a more direct participation in the election of the office of Chief Magistrate than Hamilton conceived, so much so that the Electoral College has been unfairly categorized as a useless affectation, ripe for replacement by direct popular election. It is partly due to a broad misunderstanding of the character of the office of President that it is treated popularly as omnipotent and, in effect, the only election mattering to a public enamored of a winner-take-all, one-leader psychology. A great number of American voters find themselves the victims of disappointment on this score when reality sets in.
The office of the Chief Executive the term Chief Magistrate holds a certain nostalgic amusement is, to be sure, the most important in the federal government. It was intended from the start to be insulated from transient political passions by the interposition of a body of sober, educated electors who would possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations (9). So far, so good the President was very much to be selected, not elected, in order to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder (10).
The clear intent on the part of Hamilton is that the Electoral College would provide an expression of federalism in the empowerment of the state legislatures to select the electors, derivatively to select the means of selecting the electors. The electors themselves, under the original plan, were to vote and transmit their votes to a central federal repository.
30 Their votes, thus given, are to be transmitted to the seat of the national government, and the person who may happen to have a majority of the whole number of votes will be the President.
It was a clean system from the point of theory but contained some inherent complications, notably that all such votes were for the office of the Presidency and that the Vice Presidency would be awarded to the individual receiving the second highest tally. The unlikely event of a tie would throw the decision into the House (30), but beyond that, the criteria through which the House might decide were not specified. Such an unlikely thing took little time to eventuate, the results proving interesting both for the government in particular and American history in general. For the tie in the election of 1800 was between two men of the same political party, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. After no fewer than 35 ballots it was still deadlocked until Hamilton himself, the leader of the opposition party, stated that he preferred Jefferson over Burr, the former elected President on the 36th ballot and the latter taking Hamiltons life four years later in 1804, a year that also saw the advent of the 12th Amendment which sought to clarify the matter. The reader might be forgiven the suspicion that a little more controversy might better have served Hamiltons long term interests.
But the theory behind the Electoral College was sound enough not to excite the sort of discussion that might at least have served not to deepen the rift between Burr and Hamilton. First, it was designed to prevent the intervention of cabal, intrigue, and corruption (15), those most deadly adversaries of republican government (16), those being the tools used by foreign adversaries to effect their own policies within the American government. Second, in order to do so, the Electoral College was an entirely evanescent body (23), being called into existence for a specific purpose and whose membership would be unknown until just before it was called upon to act. Third, in order to avoid domestic faction from dominating the College,
21 No senator, representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States can be of the numbers of the electors.
Lastly, the geographic distribution of the electors (14) must also serve as a barrier against any cabal, intrigue, and corruption by diffusion and a simple economy of scale.
According to the original plan, the Vice Presidency was to be awarded to the person receiving the second most electoral votes, a circumstance that might result in the President and Vice President being of different political parties. In 1788 this seemed a reasonable risk, those parties scarcely yet existing, but by 1796 it placed the Republican Jefferson as the Federalist John Adams Vice President. By then party alignments were already strong enough to place the issue in doubt, and in 1804 the 12th Amendment specified that the two offices are to be voted separately.
Elimination of the Electoral College carries with it the very same issues discussed in this essay with respect to the diminution of state power within a federated union, and the realignment of power along the lines of popular democracy in a consolidated union. This is the converse of the issues attendant to the early plan, in which the state legislatures were actually capable of disempowering their own voters by naming the electors themselves purely along lines of their choosing. It was a plan that did, in fact, lead to the sort of controversy Hamilton is happy to have avoided in this essay. In 1800 the majority of the states had the electors chosen by their respective legislatures, by 1812 it was down to half, and by 1828 only two states retained the original plan, the rest having gone to several systems that incorporated the popular vote for the selection of electors.
Here there is a clear instance of Hamiltons lingering distrust of the vagaries of the mob and an attempt to elevate the selection of the President beyond it, beyond the influence of foreign powers, and beyond the influence of cabal, intrigue and corruption, of tumult and disorder. It could not be, as he had originally intended, an office for life in pursuit of that goal, but it could be, and was, anything but popular election.
FReeper Book Club: The Debate over the Constitution
5 Oct 1787, Centinel #1
6 Oct 1787, James Wilsons Speech at the State House
8 Oct 1787, Federal Farmer #1
9 Oct 1787, Federal Farmer #2
18 Oct 1787, Brutus #1
22 Oct 1787, John DeWitt #1
27 Oct 1787, John DeWitt #2
27 Oct 1787, Federalist #1
31 Oct 1787, Federalist #2
3 Nov 1787, Federalist #3
5 Nov 1787, John DeWitt #3
7 Nov 1787, Federalist #4
10 Nov 1787, Federalist #5
14 Nov 1787, Federalist #6
15 Nov 1787, Federalist #7
20 Nov 1787, Federalist #8
21 Nov 1787, Federalist #9
23 Nov 1787, Federalist #10
24 Nov 1787, Federalist #11
27 Nov 1787, Federalist #12
27 Nov 1787, Cato #5
28 Nov 1787, Federalist #13
29 Nov 1787, Brutus #4
30 Nov 1787, Federalist #14
1 Dec 1787, Federalist #15
4 Dec 1787, Federalist #16
5 Dec 1787, Federalist #17
7 Dec 1787, Federalist #18
8 Dec 1787, Federalist #19
11 Dec 1787, Federalist #20
12 Dec 1787, Federalist #21
14 Dec 1787, Federalist #22
18 Dec 1787, Federalist #23
18 Dec 1787, Address of the Pennsylvania Minority
19 Dec 1787, Federalist #24
21 Dec 1787, Federalist #25
22 Dec 1787, Federalist #26
25 Dec 1787, Federalist #27
26 Dec 1787, Federalist #28
27 Dec 1787, Brutus #6
28 Dec 1787, Federalist #30
1 Jan 1788, Federalist #31
3 Jan 1788, Federalist #32
3 Jan 1788, Federalist #33
3 Jan 1788, Cato #7
4 Jan 1788, Federalist #34
5 Jan 1788, Federalist #35
8 Jan 1788, Federalist #36
10 Jan 1788, Federalist #29
11 Jan 1788, Federalist #37
15 Jan 1788, Federalist #38
16 Jan 1788, Federalist #39
18 Jan 1788, Federalist #40
19 Jan 1788, Federalist #41
22 Jan 1788, Federalist #42
23 Jan 1788, Federalist #43
24 Jan 1788, Brutus #10
25 Jan 1788, Federalist #44
26 Jan 1788, Federalist #45
29 Jan 1788, Federalist #46
31 Jan 1788, Brutus #11
1 Feb 1788, Federalist #47
1 Feb 1788, Federalist #48
5 Feb 1788, Federalist #49
5 Feb 1788, Federalist #50
7 Feb 1788, Brutus #12, Part 1
8 Feb 1788, Federalist #51
8 Feb 1788, Federalist #52
12 Feb 1788, Federalist #53
12 Feb 1788, Federalist #54
14 Feb 1788, Brutus #12, Part 2
15 Feb 1788, Federalist #55
19 Feb 1788, Federalist #56
19 Feb 1788, Federalist #57
20 Feb 1788, Federalist #58
22 Feb 1788, Federalist #59
26 Feb 1788, Federalist #60
26 Feb 1788, Federalist #61
27 Feb 1788, Federalist #62
1 Mar 1788, Federalist #63
7 Mar 1788, Federalist #64
7 Mar 1788, Federalist #65
11 Mar 1788, Federalist #66
11 Mar 1788, Federalist #67
Interesting and topical given the calls for dissolution of the electoral college.
It won't fly, however - enough people are not serious enough yet about reducing the size and scope of the federal government to offset the resistance of the parties just named as well as the horror of the general public at the loss of their own nominal participation in the grandest horse race in the world. It is possible that the current republican form of government is actually held together by the illusion of democracy. I'll have to give that some thought.
That would, however, serve to thrust a good deal of practical political power out of the currently centralized (and unelected, and unaccountable) hands back to the states. The electors themselves number the same as the Senators and Representatives at the federal level, and so it might be accomplished without a major dislocation, or redistribution, of actual political power. It is difficult to picture how it could be challenged on the basis of constitutionality inasmuch as it is the Constitution. I'm sure an army of attorneys will prove me wrong.
One wonders, as well, if it would serve to weaken the powers of the Presidency or merely return them to their factual state. A good deal of the current President's adherents appear dissatisfied with him for not being able to wave his hand and have largesse fall from the sky into their waiting pockets. That is, after all, what they apparently voted for, which brings up a fair suspicion that perhaps they ought not to be voting at all if they don't understand the actual issues and powers of the office for which they are voting. That is, unfortunately, another potentially fatal flaw in this little plan - a public accustomed to voting itself largesse is highly likely to be convinced that it is being cheated of a birthright should that illusory ability be rescinded. I can dream, though.
* Before the establishment of the two-party system, electors were to be the best and brightest non-officeholders of a state, who would examine their consciences and vote for President. Once the party system came into being, electors became partisan hacks who held the position for reasons of loyalty.
Once the party system came into being? I’d like to see a reference that the electors were better and brighter before the party system came into being.
* Would there be merit in eliminating the Electoral College in favor of some other manner of choosing the President? Would there be merit in reinvigorating the Electoral College and returning to the original plan of the Framers? Would there be merit in ending the popular election of electors and returning the selection of electors exclusively to the state legislatures, something that could be done by the states without amending the Constitution? Make your case.
“original plan of the Framers”? The original compromise of the Framers. A compromise needed because the British had thirteen colonies.
* At 17, Hamilton raises the specter of a Manchurian Candidate, and at 22 he points out that the people would have to be corrupted first. It did not occur to Hamilton that one could corrupt the political parties and the press to effect the same end. How can this be corrected?
The electoral college is selected by the people and not the press nor the parties. We do it and we can choose not to be victims.
* At 33, Hamilton points out that talents for intrigue and pandering could raise a presidential candidate in one state, but not all. Has the presidential primary undermined this argument, and how could such a problem be fixed?
We can decide to fix it. There is still accountability. The result of Nov. 2010 is an example.
* Hamilton argues that the Vice President should be chosen with the President and not by the Senate the same way the House chooses its Speaker. Does his argument hold water? Why or why not?
Nah. It’s a silly argument. A vestigial organ from the arguments in the Constitutional convention. The VP does provide a nice Senate tie breaker but that’s about it.
* Vice President John Garner once characterized the office as not worth a pitcher of warm spit, although witnesses swore that the word he used only rhymed with spit. Should the Vice Presidency be abolished? What could replace the Vice Presidency in terms of succession?
If the House selects the speaker who is third in line, the Senate can select the VP who is second in line. Note that there would have to be some tie breaker for a 50-50 Senate. Possibly a vote from the President.
* There is a movement afoot to execute an end run around the Electoral College by having a states electoral votes cast for the winner of the national popular vote by way of an interstate compact, which is legal if the compact is approved by Congress. What are the pluses and minuses of this idea?
That idea will last until the day after it matters. If the Electoral College is divided 158 to 155 and one state voted 10 to 3 in favor of the loser of the popular vote but instead votes 0 to 13 for the winner, for a final tally of 168 to 155 for the winner instead of 161 to 165 for the loser then that state’s voters are going to ask “What the heck was our legislature thinking? We voted for the other guy!”
“But selecting the President at the level of state government once more might serve to diffuse this accretion of power, hence it would likely be an existential threat to the current king-makers in the national party organizations and, especially lately, the media.”
You’re trying to make the argument that the state representatives are less corrupt and more wise than the people that vote for them. That is why it will never take. In SC, for instance, our state government is as bad (at least) as the Federal Government. California’s is certainly no better.
“A good deal of the current President’s adherents appear dissatisfied with him for not being able to wave his hand and have largesse fall from the sky into their waiting pockets. That is, after all, what they apparently voted for, which brings up a fair suspicion that perhaps they ought not to be voting at all if they don’t understand the actual issues and powers of the office for which they are voting.”
It goes further than that, I think. The informed and uninformed all voted for him. He embodied everything they looked for in a person to become president. He was very well educated, had an excellent temperament, was biracial, multinational, etc. etc. Poor people saw a black person who was the son of a single mother in several bad marriages and eventually raised by his grandparents. Academics saw the editor of the Harvard Law Review. Activists saw a community organizer. McCain saw someone who “wasn’t a threat.” Etc. etc. Now they all will have the opportunity to look at themselves. It will make them better voters and harder for them to make similar bad arguments in the future.
In the first presidential election, one of Virginia's ten electors was Patrick Henry. The other nine were the leading lights of the state.
The electoral college is selected by the people...
It's elected by the people, but selected by the state party organizations.
If the House selects the speaker who is third in line, the Senate can select the VP who is second in line.
That's as of 1947 when the Succession Act was last amended. Originally, after the VP, the succession went to the cabinet officers in order of the date of department establishment. Taking the Speaker and a Senate-elected Presiding Officer of the Senate out of the line of succession might make more sense.
In the first presidential election, one of Virginia’s ten electors was Patrick Henry. The other nine were the leading lights of the state.
Okay. But we have the parties being created before the founding fathers went away. Moreover there were parties at the state level during the ratification of the constitution. I think that what you call “before the creation of the parties” (to paraphrase) was the founding fathers themselves full of their idealism and experiences and minus the culling of the Loyalists from the American political leadership. I don’t think the parties corrupted man. I think man’s corruption is made clear by parties. We blame parties for inherent faults in voters. Again, we chose to be victims.
“A dependence on the people is, no doubt, the primary control on the government; but experience has taught mankind the necessity of auxiliary precautions.”
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.
State-by-state winner-take-all laws to award electoral college votes were eventually enacted by 48 states AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution.
The Founding Fathers only said in the U.S. Constitution about presidential elections (only after debating among 60 ballots for choosing a method): “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.”
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.
In 1789 only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.
The 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. 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 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. Maine and Nebraska currently award electoral votes by congressional district — a reminder that an amendment to the U.S. Constitution is not required to change the way the President is elected.
The normal process of effecting change in the method of electing the President is specified in the U.S. Constitution, namely action by the state legislatures. This is how the current system was created, and this is the built-in method that the Constitution provides for making changes.
The National Popular Vote bill would 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. 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 states 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 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.Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have come about by state legislative action.
Congressional consent is not required for the National Popular Vote compact under prevailing U.S. Supreme Court rulings. However, because there would undoubtedly be time-consuming litigation about this aspect of the compact, National Popular Vote is working to introduce a bill in Congress for congressional consent.
The U.S. Constitution provides:
“No state shall, without the consent of Congress, enter into any agreement or compact with another state .”
Although this language may seem straight forward, the U.S. Supreme Court has methodd, in 1893 and again in 1978, that the Compacts Clause can “not be read literally.” In deciding the 1978 case of U.S. Steel Corporation v. Multistate Tax Commission, the Court wrote:
“Read literally, the Compact Clause would require the States to obtain congressional approval before entering into any agreement among themselves, irrespective of form, subject, duration, or interest to the United States.
“The difficulties with such an interpretation were identified by Mr. Justice Field in his opinion for the Court in [the 1893 case] Virginia v. Tennessee. His conclusion [was] that the Clause could not be read literally [and this 1893 conclusion has been] approved in subsequent dicta.”
Specifically, the Court’s 1893 ruling in Virginia v. Tennessee stated:
“Looking at the clause in which the terms ‘compact’ or ‘agreement’ appear, it is evident that the prohibition is directed to the formation of any combination tending to the increase of political power in the states, which may encroach upon or interfere with the just supremacy of the United States.”
The state power involved in the National Popular Vote compact is specified in Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 the U.S. Constitution:
“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors .”
In the 1892 case of McPherson v. Blacker (146 U.S. 1), the Court wrote:
“The appointment and mode of appointment of electors belong exclusively to the states under the constitution of the United States”
The National Popular Vote compact would not “encroach upon or interfere with the just supremacy of the United States” because there is simply no federal powermuch less federal supremacyin the area of awarding of electoral votes in the first place.
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: Colorado— 68%, Iowa —75%, Michigan— 73%, Missouri— 70%, New Hampshire— 69%, Nevada— 72%, New Mexico— 76%, North Carolina— 74%, Ohio— 70%, Pennsylvania — 78%, Virginia — 74%, and Wisconsin — 71%; in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): Alaska — 70%, DC — 76%, Delaware —75%, Maine — 77%, Nebraska — 74%, New Hampshire —69%, Nevada — 72%, New Mexico — 76%, Rhode Island — 74%, and Vermont — 75%; in Southern and border states: Arkansas —80%, Kentucky — 80%, Mississippi —77%, Missouri — 70%, North Carolina — 74%, and Virginia — 74%; and in other states polled: California — 70%, Connecticut — 74% , Massachusetts — 73%, Minnesota — 75%, New York — 79%, Washington — 77%, and West Virginia- 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 Arkansas (6), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), The District of Columbia (3), Maine (4), Michigan (17), Nevada (5), New Mexico (5), New York (31), North Carolina (15), and Oregon (7), and both houses in California (55), Colorado (9), Hawaii (4), Illinois (21), New Jersey (15), Maryland (10), Massachusetts (12), Rhode Island (4), Vermont (3), and Washington (11). The bill has been enacted by the District of Columbia, 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.
We saw an example of that when the Massachusetts faction under Kennedy threw its weight toward the Chicago faction (0bama) and away from the New York faction (Hillary) in 2008, with respect to their party's Presidential candidacy. That would have had to happen inside the legislative chambers or even the Electoral College prior to the advent of party politics. There was a case we mentioned last week where it did - within the Democratic-Republican party the 1800 Presidential candidacy wasn't decided until it actually hit the Electoral College, to Jefferson's benefit and away from Burr's.
But more broadly speaking, there is no real guard against corruption at any level except the integrity of the individuals involved. Truly, a republican form of government does depend on the virtue of elected and elector. Where that fails, as I believe it has, no plan, however air-tight, can prevent corruption.
I agree and my understanding of Madison’s intent was to have the government in natural harmony with the people. The government was designed to do the people’s will while protecting the people from the Government becoming its own special interest group, separate from the people.
On that score, it has largely failed, I think. Our elected representatives have become their own special interest group and find employment within and by government long after they have been turned out of office. The best example is Marjorie Margolies-Mezvinsky who was kicked out after one term having voted for Clinton’s budget.
After her term in Congress, she was the Chair of the National Womens Business Council, and the Director and Deputy Chair of the United States delegation to the United Nations Fourth World Conference on Women in 1995.
She currently serves as the founder and chair of Womens Campaign International (WCI).... She is also a professor at the Fels Institute of Government at the University of Pennsylvania.
Now she’s best known as Chelsea’s mother-in-law.
I’ll be interested to find out what happens to my own Bob Inglis who lost his Republican primary 30/70%.
I will take issue with the last portion of your commentary.
“Now they all will have the opportunity to look at themselves. It will make them better voters and harder for them to make similar bad arguments in the future”. I am not sure why you would conclude that just because the candidate they voted for turned out to be less than they expected that that in any way would make them a better voter, at least as it applies to the uninformed voter. There are way too many ignorant voters that should not have the right to vote, but since we will never see a return to the Hamiltonian approach to electing the president it seems that there is a greater need to educate all people on the concepts and ideals of Republicanism as well as the Free Market System. Social welfare and Progressivism needs to be dealt a death blow in this country. People need to know that you cannot just sit on your ass and expect a hand out.
So, no it does not make them a better voter. It may make them a more shrewd voter in the future unless they become more properly politically and economically educated. Why were we so surprised at Obama? He made it very clear that he is a Marxist-Socialist. The only part missing is that the left wing news media refused to expose this and most American voters were in blissful ignorance of this guys agenda. He was a corrupt community organizer in the corrupt Chicago political system. The same system known for losing some key votes in the Nixon-Kennedy race in Cook County. Obama stinks and his legacy should be thrown in the trash heap of historical events that need to be forgotten, but remembered only for the Draconoian damage rendered to this country and its lasting values.
SOME of the his voters are going to do some navel gazing over the next few years. SOME will realize that their socialist utopia simply isn’t possible, especially under the US constitution.
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