A history of Electoral College
Many don’t know how it really works
Recently there has been a great deal of discussion concerning the Electoral College and its relevance.
To understand the reason this body was created, you need to look back in time and understand the circumstances surrounding the adoption of the Constitution and the form of government we have today.
Once you do, you will be scratching your head trying to figure out why we still operate under the archaic system.
Remember, we declared our independence from England in 1776, but George Washington wasn’t elected president until 1789. During those 13 years, the colonies needed a form of government to operate the new country or they needed to become separate independent countries.
In 1781, they adopted the Articles of Confederation.
The 13 states did not yet fully consider themselves as a proper country, and the document merely defined the United States as a “firm league of friendship “ that would allow every member state to retain its “sovereignty, freedom, and independence.”
The few powers the states were willing to give up were once again concentrated in the Congress, and again, the president was a weak figure tasked mostly with presiding.
After the Treaty of Paris formally ended the American Revolution the new country quickly found that the articles did not provide them with the structure needed to effectively operate the former colonies. The interest on our debt was $10 million.
States were squabbling over where their borders were.
The process of adopting the new constitution took four months of continuous debates and meetings. The method of electing the president was considered by Delegate James Wilson, “the most difficult of all on which we had to decide.”
The Virginia Plan called for the president to be elected by Congress for one seven-year term. But nationalists like Wilson, Washington, Hamilton and others wanted the president elected directly by the people.
They stated that having a president elected directly by the people would, “cement their attachment to the Union.”
Most delegates objected. They felt that in this day of slow travel and strong local attachments it was impossible for the people to have the required capacity to judge the respective candidates.
As a result, the delegates compromised by adopting the Electoral College.
Those in favor of the people electing the president felt that this gave the public a say in the process and those in favor of Congress electing the president felt that the system was complicated enough to ensure that all elections would be decided by the House of Representatives.
The title “president” was chosen because it implied an overseer, rather than a ruler.
Contrary to things people may have been telling you or that you have seen on the internet, the election of the president was never a big state versus small state issue when drawing up the Constitution. Those who feel that the Electoral College represents the interest of the smaller states don’t really understand its workings because the college actually represents the larger states.
A political science teacher once explained it to me the best. If only one person would show up to vote in each state.
Candidate A received the votes of the 11 largest states and Candidate B got the votes of all 40 other states and the District of Columbia Candidate A would have 271 electoral votes and win the election even though they lost the popular vote 40 to 11.
To further exemplify this over the past 50 years, all our presidents both elected and appointed, have come from the 11 states with the highest electoral votes except Bill Clinton, who at the time of election came from Arkansas.
Do you really want to keep the Electoral College now? My suggestion in the future: Please check the accuracy of the Internet sites you are using. If you are searching for accuracy go visit your local library, yes, they still exist, or go to a bookstore. Both of those sources can suggest excellent, accurate literary works that can answer your questions.
Brant resides in Patton.