The Arguments Regarding The Need To Abolish Electoral College

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There have been countless arguments regarding representation in our country. Since the beginning of its creation. The original purpose of the Electoral College was to help and see differing state and federal interests see eye to eye, provide and promote popular participation in the elections, and give the less populous states some additional support via providing “senatorial” electors. This would preserve the presidency as independent of Congress and generally insulate the election process from political manipulation. The Constitutional Convention of 1787 considered several methods of electing the President, including selection by Congress, by the governors of the states, by the state legislatures, etc.. However, Late in the convention, the matter was referred to the Committee of Eleven on Postponed Matters, which devised the Electoral College system in its original form. This plan, which met with widespread approval by the delegates, was incorporated into the final document with only minor changes. So has it been effective and with such a large and dramatic growth in our country since its founding would the Founding fathers argue in favor of the electoral college now? Or is it stifling our concept of direct democracy?

From the many debatable issues mentioned in the 1787 constitutional convention, one of the most difficult issues to resolve was regarding what path to take in regards to deciding the presidential elections. The founding fathers had been arguing for months, while some argued that it should be up to Congress to make the final decision and others argued that it should be determined based purely off of direct democratic votes, in other words, the public. Some strongly believed that there is a perfect opportunity for corruption between congress and the legislature if Congress were to be apart of the election process and thus they pushed that Congress shouldn’t be involved at all. Meanwhile another group wanted to make it pretty much impossible for the presidency to be won via popular vote as they felt that eighteenth-century voters did not have the intelligence nor would they know enough information about the candidate to make such a big decision. What ended up happening was a compromise of sorts. A process that we now call The Electoral College. The Electoral College was created in order for it to allocate a group of temporary voters every four years, whom would be equal to the number of members in Congress. Strictly speaking, if we are being technical. Yes, it is technically those electors and not “the people” who are electing the president, because the first candidate who wins 270 of 538 votes in the general election wins the Presidency. It is not a perfect system nor do we have reason to think that the Founding Fathers believed that it was a perfect system However, they met a compromise with this because they couldn’t really agree on anything else. During all of this no other nation in the world had experienced electing their president or leader in chief directly through direct democracy so to be fair, they were kind of going in blindly into this form of government and they were trying to be as cautious as they possibly could. Especially considering they had just finished fighting for their independence from a tyrannical king, they didn’t want to deal with another potential tyrannical “king” figure.

Things only began to get more complicated as they reached this compromise. Now they were back to a similar dilemma one that they faced regarding representation in the House and how many seats they’d be allowed. This time it was regarding how many electoral votes they would get. At this point in time. About 40 % of people living in the south were black slaves and thus the debate reignited, should slaves count? They New that if there had restricted it so that only white residents would be counted there would be an uproar! thus, they agreed on the controversial three fifths compromise. Slaves would count as three fifths of a person and they would use these numbers to tally up and allocate just how many representatives and electors that state would get.

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There is a conception that the founding fathers because they were so afraid of being led by a tyrannical king like figure they devoted such miniscule attention to detail to the electoral college that it has to be the best form of election process that is fit for us. Well, that is not entirely true in fact according to Robert W Bennet from his book “Taming the electoral college” he speaks about how “It seems more likely however, that delegates were a little more carefree towards the process because they were so confident that Washington would be the first to be chosen” They thought the electors would have it in their best discretion to choose Washington. Which leads me to another big misconception. Predicting just how the electors will vote, we can’t it is believed that usually electors vote to reflect the popular vote from their state or in reflection of their personal party preference. However, that is more of a modern conception as there were no actual “parties” back then. Also not all states electoral votes reflect the popular vote. For example, Nebraska and Maine do not abide by that practice. There is not a set rule that ties electors to vote a specific way, there is nothing in the constitution that binds them to reflect the popular vote in their state they could just vote opposite that is not usually done, but there is nothing from stopping that to potentially happen.

Within just a single generation of the electoral college being in existence it had changed a fair amount from what it was originally envisioned as. Especially with the popularization of political parties. The founding fathers figured that it would either be like the election of George Washington in which it was almost unanimous or there would be so many contenders that it would break up the possibilities like a pie and thus the electoral college would be effective but with political parties becoming a thing it turned into mostly just two candidates and the electoral college seems to favor whatever party is more in “power” at the specific point in time. The founding fathers had led themselves to believe that the electoral college would need help deciding from Congress because of the many possibilities of candidate they had assumed they would be dealing and Congress would serve as a form of “tie breaker” or overall deciding factor. That has only happened twice, the last time being in 1824.

According to Robert M Alexander’s book “ Representation in the Electoral College” the existence of the electoral college itself is what is keeping alive and maintaining our “traditional”. Two party system. In a way this makes sense. There are plenty of times when the desire and favoritism towards a third party has been pretty abundant but they see them as usually a lost vote because it is nothing compared to a huge projected outcome from either the democratic or republican parties that people tend to just drop their support for a third party even if it was their first choice. They tend to give their vote to their second choice that would align with the popular two party system mostly out of fear of their vote missing out and not being heard. We saw that happen in the 2016 election. Even in a two party system, a good majority of people wanted to support Bernie Sanders however they knew Hilary was probably going to be Trumps biggest opponent so if they voted for Bernie it was almost like a lost vote they were forced to either “lose” that vote which in turn benefited trump. Or, they had to compromise and vote for someone who was not their first choice but would be more tolerable than trump.  

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