Why the Electoral College result should stand

 The original idea of the Electoral College (Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution) was that Americans would not choose a President ourselves, but instead choose the leading citizens from our communities, and delegate the decision to them.

In that way, we supposedly would avoid self-seeking politicians and only choose individuals devoted to the public good.

This idea lasted through precisely one administration, that of George Washington.  From then on we had political parties and electors pledged to particular candidates—precisely what the Founders hoped to avoid.   This reality was reflected in the Twelfth Amendment.

Now certain opponents of Donald Trump, who claim to be followers of Alexander Hamilton, say that electors should ignore their pledges and exercise independent judgment.  This is a terrible idea.

I would be perfectly happy to delegate decision-making to someone I considered to be wise and good, but that is not what I did when I voted in the recent presidential election.   Most American voters don’t know the names of the electors they voted for.  I don’t.  If you do, you’re a rare exception.

I don’t think most Americans who voted for Donald Trump (or, for that matter, for Hillary Clinton) would be willing to see their decisions over-ridden by people they’d never heard of.   This is very different from the original idea of the Electoral College.  I think that Alexander Hamilton and the other Founders would think so, too.


The other issue concerning the Electoral College system is that the electoral vote does not always reflect the popular vote.

If I were a delegate to a 21s century Constitutional convention, I would advocate electing the President by popular vote.  But the Founders had a different conception than many Americans of today.

They set up a Constitutional system based on state sovereignty, not popular sovereignty.  That’s why the one provision of the Constitution that can’t be amended is the one specifying every state is entitled to two Senators (Article I, Section 3; Article V).

The Electoral College weighs representation in favor of small states, since every state gets one electoral vote for each congressional representative plus two for its senators.  But even if every state had equal representation in the Electoral College, there still would be a possibility of winning the nationwide popular vote and losing the electoral vote.

Without these provisions to ensure that the individual states’ interests were protected, the original 13 states might not have come together and formed a nation.   The Electoral College is the price we 21st century Americans pay for having a United States of America.

The Democratic and Republican parties have accepted this system as long as the two parties have been in existence—at least they did prior to Nov. 8, 2016.   I think American voters and electors had enough information to make an informed decision on what kind of president Donald Trump would turn out to be.  I don’t think anything has changed since Nov. 8 except the unexpected result.


The Electoral College: A Civics Lesson by Peter Van Buren for We Meant Well.

How to Delegitimize a President by Peter Van Buren for The American Conservative.

Tags: , , ,

One Response to “Why the Electoral College result should stand”

  1. sglover Says:

    Even by its own “logic” — we must stop Republicans at any cost! — this “jigger the EC until it gives us the result we want” is profoundly brain-dead. Electors are state-level officeholders. At what level of government have Dems lost even more heavily and consistently than the federal level? Whaddaya know — the **state** level!

    So imagine Dems follow up on this wish-thinking. Is it really so hard to imagine that some time in the not too distant future (2020, say?) the roles might be reversed, with the Dems getting an electoral majority against a razor-thin popular vote margin? What are they going to say when Republicans get to use that 2016 precedent to toss out the result?

    These days many “liberals” don’t seem capable of looking ahead more than an hour. These are the same people who argued that “sober”, “responsible” judgement necessarily favored Clinton as the Dem nominee.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: