Root Truth 13


Root Truth 13-2016
Is the Electoral College in the U.S. Constitution?
By Douglas V. Gibbs
 James Madison in Federalist Essay #10 warned against "an interested and overbearing majority" and the "mischiefs of faction" in an electoral system. By faction he meant "a number of citizens whether amounting to a majority or minority of the whole, who are united and actuated by some common impulse of passion, or of interest, averse to the rights of other citizens, or to the permanent and aggregate interests of the community." This is why the founders created a republican government rather than a pure democracy. It was believed indirect election would be the best way to disrupt the power-hungry's use of factions. In today's political atmosphere the Electoral College has come to also guard against an urban-centric election where only the largest cities might choose the President.

In the early elections the popular vote was not even considered in any manner. The electors were chosen by, and their vote directed by, the State legislatures. It wasn't until Andrew Jackson (Father of the Democratic Party), who championed pure democracy, got into the political scene that the popular votes in the States were considered when awarding electors. By the time Jackson was elected President in 1828 the manner and procedure we see today with the popular vote in the States going towards the electors was largely in place. By 1832, only South Carolina chose its electors through their State legislature.

The choice for President was originally intended to be that only of the electors, and the electors alone. As the process changed where the electors traditionally voted in line with the popular vote of their State, the practice of allowing the electors to change their vote away from the popular vote remains because originally the popular vote didn't matter and the choice belonged solely to the electors anyway. Currently there is a push by the far left for the Electors, when they meet December 19, to change their vote from Trump to Hillary Clinton.  Such an action would create a massive upheaval, and spurn havoc in the American System.  Ultimately, it would force a constitutional amendment to resolve the unique glitch one way or another in the future - thus, while intended to be a good thing, will move us another step away from being a republic, and towards being a pure democracy.

The first version of the Electoral College is articulated in Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of the Constitution, and is slightly redesigned in the 12th Amendment. The term "Electoral College" does not appear in the United States Constitution. The term emerged during the early 1800s, and was written into federal law in 1845. During the Constitutional Convention a number of ideas regarding the vote for President were discussed.  A Committee of Eleven proposed an indirect election of the president through a group of Electors.  The delegates at the convention in 1787 determined that what we now call the Electoral College was the best way to protect us from pure democracy. The original idea was for the most knowledgeable and informed individuals, or we could say the savviest politicians, from each State to select the president based solely on merit and without regard to State of origin or political party. It was feared that if the process was only by national popular vote the larger more populated States would control the government, or those seeking tyranny would only need to fool the people in the largest cities in order to claim the Office of the President of the United States for their evil ends.

ARTICLE II, SECTION 1, CLAUSE 3: The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed; and if there be more than one who have such Majority, and have an equal Number of Votes, then the House of Representatives shall immediately choose by Ballot one of them for President; and if no Person have a Majority, then from the five highest on the List the said House shall in like Manner choose the President. But in choosing the President, the Votes shall be taken by States, the Representation from each State having one Vote; A quorum for this purpose shall consist of a Member or Members from two thirds of the States, and a Majority of all the States shall be necessary to a Choice. In every Case, after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President. But if there should remain two or more who have equal Votes, the Senate shall choose from them by Ballot the Vice President.

In the 12th Amendment the Electoral College was tweaked, a necessity made apparent with the rise of political parties. The men of the day had four elections under the original design, and had learned what the shortcomings of the original design of the Electoral College were. The new additional rules were instituted to make ties less likely (as we saw in the Election of 1800) and provide that if there is no majority of electoral votes for President the House of Representatives is tasked with choosing the President.  The choice of Vice President would devolve to the Senate.  The 12th Amendment also requires the President and Vice President to be chosen by separate votes (Vice President was awarded to the second place winner prior to the ratification of the 12th Amendment in 1804). The remainder of the process at that point remained unchanged. The hope was that political collusion and party loyalties would be diminished in the election of the President.
For further study, here is another article on the topic.


Douglas V. Gibbs is host of the Constitution Radio radio program on KMET 1490 AM, a conservative political activist, writer and commentator.   


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