The wisdom of the Electoral College

I’m seeing (yet again) calls to abolish the Electoral College in electing the President of the United States.  Others are calling for the electors to change their vote, irrespective of how the residents of their state voted.  There’s also the ‘National Popular Vote Interstate Compact‘ campaign, which wants each state to allocate its electoral college votes to the winner of the popular vote nationwide, irrespective of the state’s own vote tally.

Despite all these objections to the Electoral College, there are valid reasons for its existence.  The Founding Fathers didn’t just suck the idea out of their thumbs.  I was going to write about them myself, but in the course of my research I found an outstanding three-part article at Meridian magazine.  The parts are:

They’re well written, and well worth reading.  If you have family or friends fulminating about the ‘discriminatory’ or ‘undemocratic’ Electoral College, they’ll give you plenty of ammunition to fight back.



  1. Or if you had a good/thorough Government/Civics teacher in high school you would have studied this and been able to do a 3 page hand-written essay in 30 minutes or less on the nuances of the Electoral College and why it was instituted before moving to the next essay question. The deliberate dumbing down of America just pisses me off.

  2. Now that Trump has won the popular vote by ~700,000 votes this tantrum should die in a matter of days… I've heard commentators on both sides say we would have seen a totally different campaign if it was only the popular voted

  3. Rick T: What is your source for Trump winning the popular vote? I've found a claim based on somebody getting numbers from Twitter and a claim that absentee ballots won't be counted and would give Mr. Trump a majority if they were (all other sources I've found say absentee ballots are always counted). I haven't seen a credible source making this claim.

    Obviously we'll get the actual answer in a few weeks when states report official numbers, but claims of Trump winning the popular vote seem as much wishful thinking as demands that the members of the Electoral College vote against their state's results.

    If the Electoral College is an outmoded system then it should be changed, and there is a method (Constitutional Amendment). Unfortunately today we're seeing a push to abolish the Electoral College by some other method, whether it be for States to cast their votes for the winner of the national popular vote instead of the State's winner to demands that the courts rule that the Electoral College violates equal protection (one person, one vote).

    There can also be a modified Electoral College system. Maine (and maybe New Hampshire) cast two votes for the statewide winner and one for the winner in each Congressional District. Thus, Maine is marked with a red/blue pattern in most maps since it's vote will be split.

  4. A concrete example of why the electoral college is a good idea-
    look at the results of the Initiatives in Washington State- or in Nevada.
    Essentially, a special interest, funded by out of state billionaires,captured the law with a majority. Due to the nature of the process, there is no legislative discussion or any public discussion – most people vote on the issue with no more involvement than reading the description or being "advised" by the media , which is always presented to make it sound like "common sense".
    In Nevada, the "background check", more accurately described as a registration scheme, passed. All the counties save for one, voted against. It won with 1% majority. The initiative system deprives the rural less populated counties of any voice and makes them slaves of the cities.

  5. The electoral college is enshrined in the Constitution so it would take a Constitutional amendment to abolish it completely. However, how each state allocates its electors is determined by each individual state's laws. The "winner take all" system that most states have is more a tradition than anything else. (…kind of like the pre-FDR presidential two-term limit was.)

    If I am not mistaken, there are two states, Maine, as mentioned above, and Nebraska, that allocate their states electoral votes – not by winner take all – but by allocating them based on congressional district with the two senatorial electoral votes going to the candidate that got the majority.

    I, personally, am okay with either method. I am NOT for eliminating the EC completely. I do not wish to be ruled by NYC, Chicago, and LA any more than we already are.

  6. Peter,

    Many thanks for the very interesting articles. Like many non-Americans, I have struggled with the concept and function of the Electoral College. I see the wisdom of the FF in implementing it.

  7. Thomas, you are correct (and Confirmation Bias is a bitch).. We probably found the same source. It will be interesting to see what the true and authenticated final vote counts are in after a week or so..

  8. Those wondering about the logic of the Electoral College should look at the European Union. One province of one small member nation almost killed the trade treaty with Canada.


    These are the two I use to explain why we have the Electoral college and why it is needed. I also include this blurb:
    "This will educate you as to why we have the voting system we have. It is a brilliant system and makes perfect sense, it's just not taught in schoolsanymore or commonly understood by the ignorant masses who believe we live in a Democracy when we, in fact, live in a Representative Republic!"

  10. None of the virtues you ascribe to the electoral college are in fact features it can accomplish. Since in most cases, their outcome is the same as the popular vote and only present differences when the outcome is tightly contested, you can easily see that when there is a difference, it is a cause of randomness, not the founders intend in the design of the college. There is nothing about the electoral college that would prevent socialism. As we saw in two Obama administrations and an near miss on a Hillary administration. Nor does the Electoral college protect anyone's rights. The Bill of Rights can't even do that.

    The Electoral college was created because the founders saw the nation as an association of states, so the government they designed consisted of officials elected by the states according to state law. The College was merely a method for accomplishing that for the President. It is entirely incapable of acting as a check or balance. In the extreme, it merely shows that popular elections are a farce, as would be the case of any major party replacing their nominee with a ringer at the last minute.

    We could easily do without the electoral college and the outcomes would be mostly the same. Or you can tweek it until it keeps giving you the outcome you prefer. There is probably a word for manipulation of the system to gain the advantage you want. But it is similar to gerrymandering to create districts with the right proportion of voters of a particular type to create safe districts for incumbents.

    The big mystery is, who are the electors and who made them king?

  11. Today there's less that .4% difference in vote tallies. That'said an automatic recount in most states. Now just imagine Florida 2000, but now nationwide. If that doesn't make you shudder with trepidation, then I can't imagine what would. We really don't know what the final count really is, though, because there are states that don't count absentee ballots if they can't affect the final results. Most military have to vote absentee, and since they vote overwhelmingly conservative, that can affect the final count.

  12. Larry,
    What you said used to be true, but it isn't anymore.

    1. The military is not overwhelmingly conservative. They mirror the rest of America. The younger officers are smarmy recent college graduates. The women are borderline socialists. The Blacks are interested in social justice (for blacks). The military is a very youthful population and mirrors that demographic.

    2. While most states used to just throw away absentee ballots if they weren't expected to change anything, that is an old practice. Most states now have laws in place to count all the absentee ballots by election day and even to start counting them the week prior. For example, California is STILL counting them, a week after the election is over, even though it clearly doesn't matter for the California race. Those that don't complete a count on election day normally require votes postmarked by election day, and get counted the following week, as they arrive.

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