George Washington presiding over the first Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia in 1787
The Electoral College was a great idea in 1787. But the country has changed since 1787 when the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College to select our President. Today political parties dominate our elections. Political Parties didn’t even exist in 1787. The Electoral College was never designed to work with political parties. The Electoral College today works very differently from how the Founding Fathers designed it to work in 1787.
On July 17, 1787 the Constitutional Convention voted 9 states to 1 against electing the President by popular vote! (Note: 5 of the 9 no votes were from Southern slave states). The Founding Fathers really didn’t want the people choosing the President.
The Founding Fathers even didn’t want the people choosing the Electors in the Electoral College, like we do today. They voted it down on August 24, 1787, 6 states to 5 at the Constitutional Convention(close, but no cigar). Note: 4 of the 6 no votes were from Southern slave states.
Many of the Founding Fathers wanted the state legislatures to select the state Electors but in the final version of the Constitution they left it up to each state to decide for themselves what system to use to select their Electors. In the first presidential election where all 13 original states voted (1792), 40% of the states chose their Electors by popular vote and 60% let their state legislatures choose their state Electors.
The Founding Fathers wanted the Electors to make their own decisions in the Electoral College as to who would make the best President. But today the Electors are just political party loyalists selected by the political party that won the most votes in each state and the Electors automatically vote for the party winner in their state.
Because of poor communication and transportation in 1787, the Founding Fathers thought 95% of the time no one presidential candidate would get a majority of the Electoral Collage votes because each state would vote for “favorite son” candidates from their own state. Then the House of Representatives would choose the President from the top five vote getters in the Electoral College with each state getting one equal vote.
On September 6, 1787 the Constitutional Convention approved the final version of the Electoral College 10 states to 1.
Today the American people want to elect the President themselves and not let the Electors in the Electoral College or the House of Representatives choose the President for them as the Founding Fathers wanted back in 1787.
The main issue today is whether the people have one direct national popular election to elect the President or have 51 state elections filtered through the Electoral College that gives a small advantage to the small states so they won’t always be outvoted by the big population states. Also the issue of the presidential candidate winning the Electoral College but losing the popular vote because of political party “Winner Take All” state laws. This has happened five times in U.S. History (1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, 2016). And this doesn’t take into account the political distortions of 51 “Winner Take All” state laws (Maine & Nebraska have modified “Winner Take All” laws) that create 12-13 swing states and leave 75% of the voters in the rest of the country virtually irrelevant.
Should we keep the Electoral College or abolish it? That decision should be based on how it works for our democracy today not how it was supposed to work in 1787.
Steve Scott, U.S. Citizen & Voter, Sarasota, Florida
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