A Primer on the Electoral College

By Tom DeWeese

It is no surprise that Hillary Clinton’s first act as a U.S. Senator is an attempt to abolish the Electoral College. Her central philosophy of government is the displacement of the roots of power from individual Americans to the central government.

She is an advocate of “Common-ism,” the new global face of Communism, suggesting that the popular vote promotes an agenda of “social equality” or “social democracy.” She would have us believe that the rule of law must take a back seat to “fairness” and the “needs of the people.”

The abolishment of the Electoral College would, in fact, establish an election tyranny giving control of the government to the massive population centers of the nation’s northeastern sector and the area around Los Angeles. If these sections of the nation were to control the election of our nation’s leaders the voice of the ranchers and farmers of the Mid and Far West would be lost, along with the values and virtues of the South.

Throughout history, Americans have challenged the legality of the Electoral College. Opponents point out that our President is actually elected by 538 virtually unknown people who are members of 51 small delegations in fifty States and the District of Columbia. Moreover, in most states the electors are not even bound to vote for the candidate that won the popular vote. In fact, many Constitutional scholars believe that’s just what the founders intended, 538 independent thinkers, bound to no one. There is reason and logic behind the idea.

The Founding Fathers, particularly those from small States, were very concerned they would be smothered by the larger states. Under the representative republic established by the founders, the United States is made up of fifty sovereign States. Under the Constitution, except for limited powers specifically defined for the central government, the power for the rule of law is intended to reside in the States.

To deal with the problem, the founders decided on a compromise that would establish two chambers for the Congress; the House of Representatives, whose size would be dictated by the population in each State and the Senate in which every state would get two representatives, regardless of size or population.

The same problem appeared in deciding how to select a President, the only elected official to stand for election to represent all the people in the nation. Here again there was the fear that election by popular vote would overwhelm the will of smaller States. Again compromise was reached to address the issue in a fair and equitable manner. Each state was assigned a number of presidential electoral votes equal to its representation in the House and the Senate. In each state, the electors would vote for a President and Vice President. The candidate receiving the largest number of electoral votes would be elected.

Under the plan the only connection with the popular vote was local election of the electors. However, even the smallest state was assured at least three votes in the process. To provide a further check in the process to protect the smaller States, in the event no candidate won a majority of the Electoral vote, the names of the top five would go to the House of Representatives, where each State delegation would cast one vote for one of the five candidates. In this process each State is equal.

There are fundamental and often regional differences in how Americans view the role of government and the leaders they elect to run it. Little wonder those who seek to establish the new “Commonism” prefer elections be decided by the popular vote. Such a move will eliminate the power of individual States in favor of elections decided by the population of large, politically liberal cities.

Many lament the loss of the Republic as envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Many believe the Constitution is dead. Such a belief comes from the effects of a step-by-step erosion of Constitutional principles by Congress and by the courts, but the Constitution has proven itself to be very much alive in the presidential election of 2000. Can anyone deny that the people of Florida know the value of their votes? Can anyone argue that this one state has not been heard?

If the Electoral College were eliminated, the election would be decided by the popular vote of 677 counties out of 3,111 nationwide! Election 2000 has not proven the need to eliminate the Electoral College. Instead, it is proof that the system created by the Founding Fathers is working perfectly.

Tom DeWeese is president of the American Policy Center, an activist think tank in Herdon. VA. The Center maintains an Internet site at americanpolicy.org.

Tom DeWeese
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Tom DeWeese is one of the nation’s leading advocates of individual liberty, free enterprise, private property rights, personal privacy, back-to-basics education and American sovereignty and independence.