The Electoral College is yet again under attack from many on the Left after Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote to Donald Trump. Reeling from the stunning defeat, some Democrats are advocating for the Electoral College to be scrapped and replaced with a popular vote. This is a dangerous idea, as the system is a mechanism that protects liberty and federalism from mob rule. Here is everything you need to know about the Electoral College.
The Electoral College was devised as the framers were crafting the Constitution. There were numerous ideas on how to elect a president, such as through Congress, the states, or by popular vote. James Madison even had a proposal to have the first branch of government select the second branch, and together they would choose the president and court judges. Madison’s plan was eventually modified to having the House of Representatives elected by the people and the Senate populated through state legislatures (until the 17th Amendment was implemented). To elect the president, the Founders devised the Electoral College, which had citizens of each state vote for electors who would cast their votes for the president, modeled on the delegates representing states at the Constitutional Convention.
Each state in the Electoral College receives the number of electors based on the number of members of Congress for that state; thus, each state’s number of delegates equals the number of its House representatives plus its two senators. The electors convene on December 19 to cast their vote for president. They are not required by the Constitution to vote according to the people of their state.
“In America’s early years many states did not even conduct popular presidential elections,” wrote Larry Arnn, president of Hillsdale College, in the Wall Street Journal. “Instead electors were picked by state legislatures or by governors. The Framers had the idea that the electors, in choosing a president, would vote their consciences after deep discussion—and sometimes this happened. Often, however, electors were selected because they had declared support for a particular candidate.”
The electors eventually began casting their vote based on the popular vote, and many are now required by state law to do so.
The reason why the framers designed the Electoral College as such was to prevent tyranny of the majority—emphasizing that the United States is a constitutional republic, not a democracy. The rights bestowed to the individual by God cannot be up for a majority vote.
Otherwise, you have what’s called “factionalism,” as radio host and constitutional scholar Mark Levin has explained:
Caller: “So you take California, and they got millions of people over there. They’re very liberal. They could dominate the nation, but this prevents it.”
Levin: “Well, California, the East Coast, and you’re exactly right. Because they didn’t want factionalism. They wanted diversity in terms of the states, but not factionalism.
“So let me ask you something: If we didn’t have an electoral college, how many campaign visits would there have been to New Hampshire?”
Levin: “Or Nevada? Zero.
“Or North Dakota? Zero.
“Or a number of states? Zero
“And so you’re right. You would’ve had essentially the East Coast, the West Coast, maybe the Chicago area and the Houston area, things like that going on, but you certainly would not have candidates campaigning all over the country. So they were exactly right in what they did.
In other words, California, the East Coast and the urban areas could effectively rule the U.S. while the Midwest would virtually have no say. The Electoral College helps to prevent such tyranny, helping to give everyone a say, not just California and the East Coast.
Additionally, repealing the Electoral College is a slippery slope. No Electoral College means that the popular vote is supreme and the states have no say in the electoral process. It would be yet another way to undermine the authority of the states, which are also essential to preventing federal tyranny. In fact, author Lawrence R. Samuel recently wrote a column in the Washington Post calling for ending the notion of states altogether, thereby ending federalism as a check on an out-of-control federal government.