The Electoral College

America’s election system has operated smoothly for more than 200 years because the Electoral College accomplishes its intended purpose.  It preserves federalism, prevents chaos, grants definitive electoral outcomes and prevents tyrannical rule.

As students of ancient history, our Founding Fathers feared the destructive passions of direct democracy as much as they feared the rule of the elite, separate from and unresponsive to the will of the people.  Believing that the citizenry could be duped by promises or “shenanigans,” or become beholden to special local interest, the Electoral College, proposed by James Wilson, was the compromise that the Constitutional Convention reached guaranteeing yet another safeguard against mob rule.

Though the term is never used in the Constitution itself, the electors that choose the President at each election are traditionally called a College. In the context of the Constitution, the meaning of college is not that of a school, but of a group of people organized toward a common goal.

Since our founding, the function and details of how the Electoral College meets and how they vote has changed via Amendments to the Constitution.  The 12th Amendment to the Constitution allowed Electors to be chosen by popular election, even though the Constitution does not mandate a popular election.  The 14th Amendment does mention the choosing of Electors, but is relevant only when Electors are elected by popular vote. There is similar mention in the 24th Amendment. In other words, Electors could be appointed by a state’s legislature, or the legislature could empower the governor to choose electors.

Today, the day of selecting  the electors is set at the first Tuesday after the first Monday in November, and the date the Electors meet is set at the first Monday following the second Wednesday in December.  These dates are set in the US Code, at 3 USC 7.  Electors are mostly chosen by political parties in each state, though the governing laws do differ when it comes to selection.

In most states, the winner of election gets all of the state’s electoral votes, although it can vary by state.  That’s the process.  Electors are chosen by the states and the Electors elect the President and Vice-President.

The important thing to remember about the Founders is that they were not trying to create a pure democracy.  While American has democratic principles, we live in a Republic.  In a pure democracy, 51% of the people can rule over the other 49% all the time, without question, no matter how ridiculous their demands.  

The election of our President and Vice President under the Electoral College protects America’s freedom.   Made up of 538 electors, presidential contenders need to amass 270 electoral votes to win an election. The determination of electors for each state is based on how many members of Congress represent the state , a combination of the total of House members plus two Senators for each.

Those who oppose the Electoral College system argue that it gives small states too much power. But the fact that small states have the same amount of power as large states to elect our president is the very reason the Electoral College exists.   The United States Constitution was made by the states, for the states. It is designed to not only create a more efficient federal government, but to also protect the interest of the states

As Alexander Hamilton wrote in The Federalist Papers:  “The point of the Electoral College is to preserve “the sense of the people,” while at the same time ensuring that a president is chosen “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.” 

Beware the Tyranny of the Majority

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