Why Does the United States Use the Electoral College Instead of a Simple Vote Count When Deciding the Next President?

Mike C. asks: Why don’t we use the popular vote to pick the president?

American-FlagOn December 13, 2000,  Vice President Al Gore conceded the presidential election to Governor Bush. A day earlier, a lengthy and expensive manual vote recount process in Florida was stopped by the United States Supreme Court despite Bush leading by only 537 votes. With Bush winning the state’s 25 electoral votes, it gave him 275 electoral votes and put him over the needed threshold.

This election result was highly unusual, not just because of Supreme Court decisions and hanging chads. It was also only the fourth time in United States history that a candidate had garnered a majority of the popular votes but lost the election- Gore received 50,996,582 votes and Bush 50,456,062. Bush won because of the Electoral College system – a much maligned and complex way of determining the future leader of America. How does it work? Why does America use the Electoral College? Why isn’t a simple vote count good enough to determine the president of the United States of America?

To begin with, contrary to popular belief, when Americans go to the polls to seemingly vote for the next president of the United States, they are, in fact, not actually voting for the president. Rather, they are casting a vote for a group of electors who will then vote for the president as they see fit. To reduce any chance of confusion, rather than having people explicitly vote for electors on the ballot, the presidential candidate a given group of electors is pledged to vote for is put on the ballot instead.

Another common misconception about presidential voting in the United States is that the president is elected once the general public’s votes are tallied up. Again, because the general public does not technically vote for a president, but rather on which Electoral College representatives will get to vote for president, the president isn’t officially elected until the following January. Specifically, on January 6th the current vice president opens voting during a Joint Session of Congress. It’s during this session that electoral votes are tallied, with the deadline for those to be submitted being in late December. This may seem to be something of a technicality, but there are many completely legal scenarios in which a different president may be chosen than the one who appears to have won after the general public has cast their ballots for electors. (More on a couple of these scenarios in a bit.)

So who are these voters that actually elect the president and how are they chosen? There are only two federal laws that pertain to who can be an elector. The first one comes from Article II of the Constitution, which states that “no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust… shall be appointed an Elector.” The second is a provision buried in the 14th amendment that says any state official that was involved in an insurrection or rebellion against America is also barred from being an elector. (You can thank the Civil War for that one.) Beyond those two restrictions, anyone can be an elector.

As for who ends up being an elector, that depends on the political parties and how a given state legislature sets the method of selection. But in a nutshell, each state’s political parties nominate a group of electors who are extremely loyal to their respective parties. Their number is equal to the number of electoral votes the state has, which in turn is equal to the number of senators (two per state) and number of representatives (determined by population) said state has, or in the case of the District of Columbia, a set three electors (thanks to the 23rd Amendment).

There is also potentially one additional minor caveat to consider when the party selects its groups of electors- an elector cannot vote for a vice president and president who both are from the elector’s home state. This rule was meant to ensure an elector could not vote for two of their state’s “favorite sons”. (More on why this was considered so important in a bit.) Today, this is obviously not an issue for anyone so long as the presidential candidate picks a vice presidential candidate from another state than their own.

On election day, whichever political party’s candidate, be it Republican, Democratic or a third party, wins the majority of the state’s votes, that slate of electors becomes the ones who get to vote for the president in their respective state. For example, in 2012, Californians voted for the 55 party-selected Democrats who in turn all cast their 55 votes for the Obama/Biden ticket.

(Note: there are currently two exceptions to this all-or-nothing approach- Maine and Nebraska; they both use a district system. In this system, the state’s popular majority is accounted for in some electors’ votes, but others vote based on congressional district’s popular majority within the state. This can potentially result in a splitting of the votes.  For instance, in 2008, Nebraska ended up with four Republican electors and one Democrat.)

However, as previously alluded to, to make this even more confusing and convoluted, there are no federal laws or Constitutional provisions that require electors to cast their vote in accordance with the state’s popular vote result. There are some state laws, however, pertaining to this; 29 states (and the District of Columbia) have laws that require the electors vote the way the popular vote has instructed them too.

That said, penalties are not too severe in most cases- failure to adhere to these state laws by so-called “faithless electors” could result in a fine or replacement as an elector. That also leaves 21 states that do not have such laws, allowing electors to vote as they see fit instead of how the general public directed them too. It turns out, this seems to have been what the founders intended.

It should be noted here that, according to the National Archives, more than 99% of the time electors have voted as instructed and no elector has ever been prosecuted or punished for failing to vote in accordance with the popular vote of their respective states.  However, there have been 22 times involving 179 electoral votes that faithless electors have bucked the system. The most recent was in 2008 when an elector apparently accidentally voted for John Edwards, rather than the Democratic nominee Barack Obama. Another notable recent instance was in 2000 when a DC elector abstained from voting in protest over the District’s lack of representation in Congress.

Despite the occasional faithless elector, to date, none of these faithless votes has ever been the deciding vote in an election. However, there have been elections where a single faithless elector could have decided the president, such as in 1876 when Rutherford B. Hayes, despite losing the popular vote, won 185 electoral votes vs. 184 to Samuel Tilden.

So, why does the United States use the somewhat convoluted Electoral College when a popular vote would be drastically simpler and more democratic? In short, it was a necessary compromise from a time when the “united states” were not bound nearly as cohesively as today, nor the general public very well educated on the whole or well informed about the various candidates.

For the more detailed answer, the Electoral College dates back to 1787’s Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, where they were given the gargantuan task of figuring out a solution to the mostly ineffective Articles of Confederation. Among the many issues that needed resolving was how the president of United States was to be elected.

In order to understand the delegates’ thought process, context is needed. The young country was only 13 states and residents were generally extremely provincial, meaning they still trusted their own state more than the federal government. Further, in many cases people identified more as a citizen of their state, rather than a citizen of the United States first.

From this, the founders were concerned that citizens of each state would put their own best interest before the nation’s. On top of this, because each state’s citizens would likely know their own candidates much better than candidates from other states (most of whom they probably wouldn’t even have ever heard of), they were doubly likely to vote for their own candidates. The ultimate result of this was feared to be that the winner of each state would likely be a citizen of that state, who would in turn have little chance of winning, or even garnering any support at all, in other states.

This brings us to the first option put on the table- election via popular vote. While more democratic, as mentioned, delegates were very concerned that each state would potentially elect their own candidate, making it difficult to ever get a candidate with wide support throughout the nation. Instead, they feared they’d be left with a field of many “favorite sons.”

Among these favorite sons, the bigger states – like Virginia – would dominate, resulting in little chance of someone from a smaller state ever becoming president, and making it so Virginia’s interests would be disproportionately represented in the nation’s highest office. For reference, at the time, Virginia had 424,000 men eligible to vote, which was more than Georgia, Delaware, South Carolina, Rhode Island and New Hampshire combined.

The other major option proposed was a simple Congressional appointment. Despite being inherently non-democratic, there was a thought that the president should be less powerful than Congress and, therefore, needed to be dependent on them. Also, the thinking went, the general public was largely extremely poorly educated and poorly politically informed. Congressional members, on the other hand, were not only already elected to represent their respective citizens in such matters, but were also intimately familiar with prospective presidential candidates, their character, work ethic, political leanings, etc. and were generally quite well educated relative to most people. Thus, in a nutshell, members of Congress were simply the most qualified to pick the most qualified president.

Ultimately this proposal lost because it threatened the checks and balances of the federal government. As then delegate and future President James Madison noted,

[T]he election of the Chief Magistrate would agitate & divide the legislature so much that the public interest would materially suffer by it. Public bodies are always apt to be thrown into contentions, but into more violent ones by such occasions than by any others. [T]he candidate would intrigue with the Legislature, would derive his appointment from the predominant faction, and be apt to render his administration subservient to its views.

Essentially- if the president was elected by Congress, while in theory Congress at the time may well have been in a much better position to pick the best president, those who sought the office would be constantly campaigning and trying to impress those members, perhaps even giving favors upon election in exchange for votes. Beyond this, no president interested in getting re-elected could ever oppose Congress for fear they wouldn’t re-elect him or her later. Needless to say, this system was ripe for extreme corruption. So while in theory Congress was best suited to pick the potential best president, in practice they’d likely not have done so, or if they did, lorded too much power over that individual.

Thus, the Committee of Eleven on Postponed Matters devised and proposed the Electoral College, a system the delegates ultimately approved. Alexander Hamilton noted of the Electoral College, “…if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.”

As to what “the manner of it” actually was intended to be- the idea here was essentially something of a cross between a popular vote and congressional selection- it was democratic in the sense that the popular vote could potentially determine the state’s allegiance (in the beginning state legislatures didn’t all do it this way), but it also limited the larger states’ influence slightly by awarding extra votes to smaller states via an elector for each of their senatorial representatives.

As for why it was also partially a compromise for those who advocated for a congressional selection, in a time before political parties in the United States, there is evidence that the founders very much assumed the electors, who explicitly could not “hold an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States” (to avoid at least some of the aforementioned corruption potential), would not be bound by the popular vote in their state or party affiliation or any such similar device.

In fact, in the earliest elections, over half the states’ legislatures selected their presidential electors with no regard for public vote, a right state legislatures still technically retain, but is a practice that died swiftly around the turn of the 19th century.

Beyond potentially disregarding popular vote in selecting which group of electors gets to vote for president, if a given state legislature really wanted to, they could even decide to pick a group of electors via something completely arbitrary like putting a bunch of mice in a maze, one representing each person who ran for president, with the winning mouse determining which group of electors is chosen.

Of course, no state legislature would dream of doing something so outlandish. However, several state legislatures have very recently begun banding together to use their elector picking power to potentially disregard their own citizen’s popular choice (more on this in a bit).

In any event, by 1790, along with the rest of the Constitution, the Electoral College was ratified by all 13 states and has in the vast majority of cases resulted in little controversy or public outcry for a change to the original system. In fact, the Electoral College has undergone only a few small changes since 1790.

The most significant change occurred following the election of 1800. At the time, each elector would cast two votes, one for one presidential candidate and one for another. The person with the most votes became president, and the person with the second most became vice president. This ensured that, at least in theory, the second most qualified individual was vice president- ready to step in should something happen to the most qualified person- the president.

Today the person who potentially would step in should something happen to the president is not selected by members of the Electoral College, nor even by the citizens of the United States, but rather by the president- the most undemocratic selection of all. As Senator Samuel White of Delaware noted when this switch was made, the vice president is now chosen, not based on the individual’s qualifications for that office, but rather by if “he by his name, by his connections, by his wealth, by his local situation, by his influence, or his intrigues, best promote the election of a president…”

So what spurred the change in the Electoral College, no easy thing to do given that it requires an amendment to the Constitution? Mainly the rise of political parties. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson and John Adams were both vying for the presidency, with each having their preferred vice president within their own party- something of a new concept. This was a problem if all electors for a given party ended up voting for both individuals, for instance, Thomas Jefferson and his proposed vice president, Aaron Burr. If this happened, they’d both be tied for president.

It happened.

What followed was 36 rounds of voting within the House to try to break the tie (the opposing party members muddied things up by voting for Burr just to attempt to see their most hated rival, Jefferson, defeated). There were even threats of militia’s forming to march on the capital to push for Jefferson, before Jefferson, who was always understood to be his party’s choice for president over Burr, was chosen.

In the aftermath, the 12th amendment was passed. This said that each elector got two votes, as before, but instead of both votes being for a potential president, one would be for president and the other for vice-president, thus creating little chance that a vice-presidential candidate could be elected president. (Little chance, because, as VEEP illustrated, it can still happen).

Other than that, over two hundred years later, the Electoral College is still essentially the same process as it was on day one. While today it’s a bit outdated given American attitudes concerning federal and state allegiances, it is a process that has survived in no small part because it’s both relatively difficult to amend the U.S. Constitution and, on the whole, the system has worked pretty well, not garnering nearly as much controversy as it would need to spur a Constitutional change.

All that said, following the highly controversial 2000 election between Bush and Gore, there have been attempts to tweak the Electoral College system without the need for amending the Constitution. How would this be possible? It all comes down to the fact that states are allowed to select their electors however they see fit, not just based on a winner-take-all popular vote selection.

Towards this end, several bills have been proposed in various states to tweak the elector selection. In most cases, these bills looked to switch to a district system, rather than a winner-take-all.  To date, little has come of these, as most who oppose the Electoral College want a nation-wide popular vote system, which on the surface would seem to require a Constitutional Amendment… or would it?

It turns out there is a way around this, too, via the National Popular Vote system. This is a clever proposal in which each state that joins agrees to give all its Electoral College votes to whatever candidate wins the national popular vote, rather than their particular state-level popular vote. In some cases, this may well mean a state’s legislature would go against its own citizen’s popular vote in selecting electors.

Currently 11 states have pledged to this system, for a total of 165 electoral votes.  If 105 more electoral votes are pledged (making for a total of 270), the system will take effect and the United States, while still using the Electoral College system, will begin electing its president via electors based on the national popular vote- no Constitutional amendment required.

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Bonus Facts:

  • Some have argued that the idea of the Electoral College giving extra power to small states has worked out a little too well.  Today many use the Electoral College as the reason they will not vote- they already know how their state is going to vote. Thus, it’s essentially really just a handful of often small swing states that ultimately decide the president. (Of course, if everyone who used this reasoning did vote, there may well be a lot more swing states.)
  • Concerning the idea that many people don’t vote because they think their vote doesn’t count in their respective state,  swing states see about 25% higher voting per capita than their more predictable neighbors.
  • Beyond electors in many cases being free to disregard the popular vote within their state, if they so choose, another scenario in which a candidate who appears to have won the presidency based on elector votes can ultimately not be elected is if some prominent candidate resigns or dies before the electoral votes are cast or counted.  In this scenario, it’s not clear at all what the electors who are obliged to vote for that dead or resigning candidate would or should do. They could well switch their votes to any of the remaining candidates, potentially changing who gets elected. This may seem like an outlandish scenario, but it happened before in the case of Horace Greeley and the 1872 presidential election. Luckily this wasn’t too much of an issue as he garnered only 63 votes, with most of these electors intentionally voting for non-candidates to nullify their votes, and the few who still voted for Greeley having their votes thrown out by Congress.
  • Yet another way the result of an election might change from when Americans elect electors to when the electors elect the president concerns a power congress has. You see, members of congress may object to certain electoral votes, or even an entire state’s worth of votes.  If this happens, and at least one Representative and one Senator sign the objection, the Joint Session goes into recess while the objection is considered for no more than two hours.  A vote is then held within each house, and then the two groups get back together to let each other know how they each decided on the matter. If both chambers agree to the objection, the votes in question are not counted at all. To date, this has never happened, though there have been two incidents, 1969 and 2005, where an objection was recorded and voted upon. But in both cases the objection was ultimately rejected.
  • There are almost five million American citizens that have no say in which Electoral College electors are selected- these are people who live in U.S. territories, including those who were born in a U.S. state but moved to a territory.  In contrast, if you’re born in a U.S. state and move to another country altogether, you can usually still vote, with your ballot cast in the last state you lived in.
  • Beyond the Bush/Gore popular vote fiasco, the other incidents where a person won the popular vote, but did not win the Presidency were- Andrew Jackson winning the popular vote, but losing the election to John Quincy Adams. (Adams was selected as president by the House of Representatives in 1824 after an Electoral College deadlock.) Samuel Tilden won the popular vote against Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, but was not elected president. Finally, Grover Cleveland won the popular vote over Benjamin Harrison in 1888. With the exception of Tilden and Gore, the others on the list at one point or another did get to serve as president.
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  • Joel Bader

    I was going to say–future President Ronald Reagan won one electoral vote in the 1976 general election, and he wasn’t even nominated (although he came close during the primaries and convention phase of the process). Those who study the electoral process in the United States should keep such events in mind!

  • toto

    2000 was not highly unusual.

    Because of the state-by-state winner-take-all electoral votes laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) and (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states),in 48 states, a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in 4 of the nation’s 57 (1 in 14 = 7%) presidential elections. The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a difference of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 15 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 7 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore’s lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide.
    A difference of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes.

    After the 2012 election, Nate Silver calculated that “Mitt Romney may have had to win the national popular vote by three percentage points on Tuesday to be assured of winning the Electoral College.”

  • toto

    When Americans vote, they are casting a vote for a group of electors who will then vote for the president they are pledged to vote for.

    Now 48 states have winner-take-all state laws for awarding electoral votes, 2 have district winner laws. Neither method is mentioned in the U.S. Constitution.

    The electors are and will be dedicated party activist supporters of the winning party’s candidate who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable rubberstamped votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

    The current system does not provide some kind of check on the “mobs.” There have been 22,991 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 17 have been cast in a deviant way, for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector’s own political party (one clear faithless elector, 15 grand-standing votes, and one accidental vote). 1796 remains the only instance when the elector might have thought, at the time he voted, that his vote might affect the national outcome.

    States have enacted and can enact laws that guarantee the votes of their presidential electors

    The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld state laws guaranteeing faithful voting by presidential electors (because the states have plenary power over presidential electors).

  • toto

    The Electoral College system has undergone HUGE changes since 1790.

    The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes used by 2 states, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by states of winner-take-all or district winner laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states. And in the few where they could, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote. Eventually, state laws gave the people the right to vote for President in all 50 states and DC.

    The Electoral College is now the set of 538 dedicated party activists we vote for, who vote as rubberstamps for presidential candidates. In the current presidential election system. Also not what the Founders envisioned.

    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.

    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. States can, and have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years.

    The current winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is not in the U.S. Constitution. It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention. It is not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was not the Founders’ choice. It was used by only three states in 1789, and all three of them repealed it by 1800. It is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method. The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes became dominant only in the 1830s, when most of the Founders had been dead for decades, after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state.

  • toto

    With the National Popular Vote bill, the state legislature would not be selecting electors.
    The winner of the national popular vote would determine the electors of the enacting states.
    All of the 270+ presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    States not enacting the bill would award their electors however they want.

  • toto

    If some prominent candidate resigns or dies before the electoral votes are cast or counted, it is clear what the electors would do.

    A “presidential slate” is defined as a slate of two persons, the first of whom has been nominated as a candidate for President of the United States and the second of whom has been nominated as a candidate for Vice President of the United States, or any legal successors to such persons, regardless of whether both names appear on the ballot presented to the voter in a particular state;

  • HildyJJ

    One thing the Electoral College system does that should not be underestimated is prevent national recounts. In Bush/Gore the national margin of victory was a fraction of one percent. Imagine the complications if a national recount had happened instead of merely a Florida recount.

    That said, reforming the College system by removing the small state skewing would make the process fairer.

    • toto

      The current presidential election system makes a repeat of 2000 more likely. All you need is a thin and contested margin in a single state with enough electoral votes to make a difference. It’s much less likely that the national vote will be close enough that voting irregularities in a single area will swing enough net votes to make a difference. If we’d had National Popular Vote in 2000, a recount in Florida would not have been an issue.

      The idea that recounts will be likely and messy with National Popular Vote is distracting.

      No statewide recount, much less a nationwide recount, would have been warranted in any of the nation’s 57 presidential elections if the outcome had been based on the nationwide count.
      The state-by-state winner-take-all system is not a firewall, but instead causes unnecessary fires.
      “It’s an arsonist itching to burn down the whole neighborhood by torching a single house.” Hertzberg

      The 2000 presidential election was an artificial crisis created because of Bush’s lead of 537 popular votes in Florida. Gore’s nationwide lead was 537,179 popular votes (1,000 times larger). Given the minuscule number of votes that are changed by a typical statewide recount (averaging only 274 votes); no one would have requested a recount or disputed the results in 2000 if the national popular vote had controlled the outcome. Indeed, no one (except perhaps almanac writers and trivia buffs) would have cared that one of the candidates happened to have a 537-vote margin in Florida.

      Recounts are far more likely in the current system of state by-state winner-take-all methods.

      The possibility of recounts should not even be a consideration in debating the merits of a national popular vote. No one has ever suggested that the possibility of a recount constitutes a valid reason why state governors or U.S. Senators, for example, should not be elected by a popular vote.

      The question of recounts comes to mind in connection with presidential elections only because the current system creates artificial crises and unnecessary disputes.

      We do and would vote state by state. Each state manages its own election and is prepared to conduct a recount.

      Given that there is a recount only once in about 160 statewide elections, and given there is a presidential election once every four years, one would expect a recount about once in 640 years with the National Popular Vote. The actual probability of a close national election would be even less than that because recounts are less likely with larger pools of votes.

      The average change in the margin of victory as a result of a statewide recount was a mere 296 votes in a 10-year study of 2,884 elections.

      The common nationwide date for meeting of the Electoral College has been set by federal law as the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December. With both the current system and the National Popular Vote, all counting, recounting, and judicial proceedings must be conducted so as to reach a “final determination” prior to the meeting of the Electoral College. In particular, the U.S. Supreme Court has made it clear that the states are expected to make their “final determination” six days before the Electoral College meets.

  • bonni✓ᵛᵉʳᶦᶠᶦᵉᵈ ᵀʳᵘᵐᵖ

    Is This Communism at it’s best???????? sure looks like it to me.. That’s why Ted Cruz and Jeb Bush won’t back Trump …?

    • Mike

      No. They won’t back Trump because they’re afraid to not toe the party line and because Trump isn’t really a Republican.

  • KLD

    The electoral college is a joke at best and a ‘rigged system’ at worst (ala Trump). I live in CA and even though I prefer to vote Republican, my states electoral votes have traditionally gone Dem. My vote really doesn’t count. Never has and never will until the system is changed. Now, I actually voted for Obummer in ’08 because I believed his cock and bull about change. In ’12, it was Romney for me but my vote did nothing. Absolutely nothing. To make things even less balanced, CA has one Electoral vote for every 696,000+ people. ONE PERSON REPRESENTS NEARLY 700,000 PEOPLE! In Wyoming, each Electoral vote represents 194,000 folks. Each vote, every single one of the 538 votes has the same amount of power as the next. How is it fair that one person represents so many people…. 696,000 of ’em. My vote just does not matter.

  • Mike

    The Electoral College was instituted because many of the voting population when this nation was founded were of low or zero formal education or political acumen. Many of the politicians believed they wouldn’t be able to make such an important decision on their own and shouldn’t be trusted to do so.

  • Jfake Hname

    one person one vote. most fair system, most equal system. tho nothing really matters in a two party system this corrupt.

  • Ronald Hayes

    For those who think we should go to a nationwide popular vote versus the Electoral College to select the president should be reminded that the founders set up The United States as a representative federal republic and not a democracy, which as widely misunderstood. “Federal” meaning a federation of States and “republic” meaning governed by elected representatives rather than by a monarch.

    The founders were very concerned about a central Federal government gaining too much power where tyranny would be the natural result. This is why the Constitution lays out the separation of powers with a system of checks and balances between three branches. This is also why the 10th amendment (one of the “Bill of Rights” amendments added shortly after ratification of the Constitution) was added which says, “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.” It is clear that the founders intended for the States to maintain a high level of sovereignty in the federation as a check to the power of the central Federal government.

    The founders were also concerned about any one State or group of States gaining too much power. This is why the Constitution defines a bicameral legislative branch for the Federal government that is populated by citizens from every State that respects the sovereignty of individual States yet recognizes that more populous States should have more representation than less populous States.

    The Electoral College was setup as a mechanism for the States to elect the president. It was setup in recognition that the States have sovereignty. To prevent any one State or group of States from having too much power in the selection of the president the same formula for distribution of representation in Congress is utilized. Therefore each State has the same number of Electoral College votes to select a president as they have members in Congress (2 Senators plus the number of Representatives in the House of Representatives). It is up to each individual State to determine how their Electoral College Electors will cast their votes.

    A tremendous amount of thought and debate among hundreds of very intelligent founding fathers went into the writing, ratification and amending of the Constitution of the United States. It has served us very well when followed. The Constitution purposefully created a system/mindset/paradigm/culture that we are a collection of States (hence the name “The United States”) and NOT a single supreme Federal State. Going to a nationwide popular vote would be yet another move toward “The United States of America” becoming “The Federal State of America” which is NOT what the founding fathers set us up to be. Unfortunately, it appears that many of our voting citizens and many of our elected officials either do not understand this or they choose to ignore it.

    I would rather live in “The United States” versus the “The Federal State”. That way there would be 50 different States, each with a different and unique system of government. There would be 50 different living experiments in what is the best system for the balances between liberty versus protection/laws, taxation versus government services, local authority versus centralized authority, etc… This way one could move to a different State if one didn’t like how the State one was in was being run. In this manner the States that have better systems would be more successful and naturally attract people to them. The States with poor systems would be forced to improve their systems to better match the expectations of their citizens. The effect would be a natural expectation for States to improve their government systems because there would be an element of competition. But more importantly, people would have the opportunity/freedom to choose to live in a State that better matched their values. Alas, we are becoming “The Federal State of America” where if one doesn’t agree with how things are being run the only real way the change that circumstance (unless you are a member of the ruling class) will be to leave the country.