The electoral college. It has been talked about, argued about, discredited and praised. It has been built up as a safeguard for small rural states, and it has been called a system meant to protect states’ rights to own slaves. The question remains, if this system is so controversial, why have it?
Federalist Paper #68:
To give some background into the electoral college, the best example is Federalist Paper #68, written by Alexander Hamilton in 1788.
In this letter, he states clearly the proper set-up and objectives for the electoral college. To Hamilton, the electoral college was a group of individuals elected by the public at large, who would then deliberate and pick the President and Vice-President. He wrote, “a small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations,” These individuals were supposed to be people with no ties to politicians or be politicians themselves.
The truth today is the people know nothing about who the electors are, or how they became electors. Since state parties choose electors, there is an understanding that they are past government or party officials, or somehow close to current politicians.
Problems with Electoral College
First, the winner-take-all system has created the infamous swing-state where only a handful of states have any importance in a general election. Ohio, Florida, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and now Wisconsin are all considered swing states that leave other small states, as well as larger states out of the mix.
It also gives smaller states more power through the electoral vote/population ratio. For example, Wyoming has three electoral college votes for President and Vice-President with a total population of about 560,000. That means that when divided by three votes there are about 185,000 people for every one electoral vote. In California, there about 39 million people, and 55 electoral college votes. That would mean California has about 690,000 people for every one elector. The winner-take-all system does not accurately represent all of the states.
Should it be Abolished?
The short answer is no. The electoral college is designed to curtail the greatest issue and criticism with any democratic form of government, the tyranny of the majority against the minority. Abolishing the electoral college would, in fact, not solve the problem of misrepresentation, it would only shift it from small rural states to larger ones with major cities.
It is important to remember that everyone who is shouting about this system being undemocratic seems to forget, we are not a direct democracy, we are a republic. We do not vote directly on matters and laws; we elect people to represent us.
The Electoral College Part II: An opportunity to Compromise coming soon.