The Electoral College has recently been the subject of heated debate. However, most of what I’ve seen and heard makes it clear not too many Americans today understand why and how the Electoral College came to be. This is not all that surprising, given the state of our public school system. The truth is that, at one time, the Electoral College was not controversial at all. This was because people understood how it worked and why it was put in place.
Today, more than a dozen states have joined in an attempt to remove or circumvent the Electoral College. This is because Hillary Clinton lost the 2016 election while receiving a majority of the popular vote. However, if you examine how that popular vote broke down, Clinton received a large number of votes from densely-populated urban areas like New York and California. In fact, if you remove California, President Trump would have won the popular vote by 1.4 million votes.
This is a somewhat flawed argument. You could arbitrarily remove any state’s electoral votes and the outcome could be altered in some way. But, it still illustrates the central point. The Electoral College was instituted to ensure that a President must have broad national support to win. The president is the president of the whole nation, not just president of the most densely-populated urban areas.
Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution states:
Each state shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in Congress.
Article II, Section I of the U.S. Constitution insures that each state retains equal representation in presidential elections, exactly like they do in Congress. It is genius and it insures a nationwide “fair” representation in presidential elections.
The Electoral College was designed to make sure that each candidate took their message to the whole nation, and subsequently won based on national support for their policies. The Electoral College was designed precisely to prevent a situation where a state like New York or California become the defacto policy decision maker for the entire nation. Since its inception, it has worked brilliantly in doing exactly that, sometime benefiting the Democratic Party and sometimes the Republican Party.
One has to ask if those currently clamoring for ending the Electoral College would be doing so if their side had won the majority of Electoral College votes and the election.
Perhaps the Electoral College is a victim of its own success. Throughout American history it has shaped American politics in many ways that were beneficial to this country. It only becomes an issue when one side loses a closely contested election and just cannot make themselves accept the results.
For those interested in states rights, abolishing the Electoral College would give the states less power against the federal government. The Electoral College also prevents a strong, charismatic person from using a fickle surge in popular support to consolidate more power and become a dictator.
If you truly understand the role of the Electoral College in making sure the entire nation has a voice in its presidential elections and you believe in fairness and the Rule of Law, it is hard to imagine why anyone would call for its abolition. I can only think of two reasons.
- You do not understand what it does
- You are making a power grab, and you can’t win national elections … therefore, you have to change the rules.