Why the Electoral College

The Democrats are once again crowing about abolishing the electoral college.  After all, they cry, Hillary won the popular vote.

Critics have long derided the Electoral College as an antiquated relic of a bygone era; they contend the fair way to elect the President of the United States is by way of the popular vote.

Such critics couldn’t be more flat-out wrong.
The wording of our law is clear: the winner in the Electoral College takes office as president. James Madison’s famous Federalist No. 10 paper makes it clear that the Founders fashioned a unique republic, not a pure democracy.

Pure democracy is akin to mob rule. If we elected the president based on the popular vote, our commander in chief would mostly be selected by the immediate west coast, most of the northeastern states, and northern Illinois. The Electoral College places a check on such gross imbalance and power.

Recall the ways our constitution puts limits on any unchecked power. Power at the national level is divided among the three branches—executive, legislative, and judicial—each reflecting a different constituency. Power is divided yet again between the federal government and the states. Madison noted that these twofold divisions — the separation of powers and federalism — provided a “double security” for the rights of the people.

What about the democratic principle of one person, one vote? Hold on—the Founders say otherwise. Neither the Senate, nor the Supreme Court, nor the president is elected on the basis of one person, one vote. That’s why a state like North Dakota, with about 800,000 residents, gets the same number of Senators as California, with 39-million people. Consistency would require that if we abolish the Electoral College, we rid ourselves of the senatorial system as well.  Are we ready to go there?

If the Founders had wished to create a pure democracy, they would have done so. Those who now wish to do away with the Electoral College are welcome to amend the Constitution, but if they succeed, they will be taking America down a dangerous course.

Comments

  1. Kraig Whiting says:

    I agree. Changing the election of the President to a simple popular vote would cause future candidates to focus their attention exclusively on a handful of highly populated areas. Smaller cities and rural areas would simply not make economic sense to represent in any meaningful way.

    In a similar vein, I feel the 17th amendment (changing the election of senators to a simple popular vote) has resulted in a great weakening of the power of individual states. Our checks and balances were skewed by this amendment.

  2. Actually the Electoral College does need to be retuned, certainly not abolished.

    I say retuned because its aim has been thwarted in part because of the very states you cite, CA vs ND – California currently has as many or more votes than the bottom 13 (THIRTEEN!) states. This is an unconscionable disparity of power vested in one state beyond the one chamber that its warranted in (the House of Representatives).

    There are 50 states, that is an average of 2% each. Meanwhile, California currently has 10%!!! of the total electoral votes. Now, to be fair to both the less er states, and CA, NY etc, it should be retuned so that this ratio of 10% to 2% is the maximum allowable.

    Thus, “Nor more than 25 electoral votes per state and no less than 5 electoral votes per state”.

    This strikes a more perfect balance between the democratic and republican aspects of our government, confining the large states to equate no more than 5 of the smaller in population. This lessens the effect of the entire nation being run by a few population centers – the kind of centralized power the Founders specifically did not want.

    This too, would take an Amendment.

  3. Rian Sommerfield says:

    Extremely enlightening piece, Brian. Thanks. The founding fathers were wise beyond compare. No one or group of people should ever try to tweak the Constitution. Period.

  4. Peter from Concord says:

    I would think that the College is beneficial for the smaller states since is gives them a bit more clout. There are more than 12 small states (regarding population of the state). That’s enough to block a Constitutional amendment to abolish the College, if the small states know what’s good for them. Maryland is considering forcing the Electors of that state to vote the way the entire national voters vote. That would be amusing, because if this were to be the case back in, say, 1980, then Maryland would cast all its votes for Reagan. That would have horrified this Democrat state. They, voting for Reagan; even Baltimore citizens being forced have their Elector vote for Reagan??? Wow!! Have the bigwigs in Maryland thought this concept through?? I guess not.

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