E D U CA T I O N
What is the Electoral College and is it Outdated?
The Electoral College drew a lot of attention in December 2017 when the Electors voted as their state’s directed for the next President of the United States. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but Donald Trump won the Electoral College and the Presidency.
To understand the college, it’s important to understand the difference between a democracy and Constitutional republic. In a democracy, representatives are chosen by direct popular vote. Our founding fathers saw the potential danger of this system. They were concerned about tyranny by the majority, when 51% represents a majority. What about the other 49%? How could the minority be assured a voice? Or are they simply going to be overrun by an ambitious majority? How could they preserve liberty and build an effective government that represented the voices of both the majority and the minority?
If we were to amend the Constitution to change the way a president is selected to popular vote, it would change the entire dynamic of the way we are governed. Popular vote would mean that just a few highly populated cities would choose a president, to the exclusion of everyone else. If the same party elected the President and both the Senate and House of Representatives, then they would most likely be tyrannical and would ignore the needs of the minority.
As a Constitutional republic, we elect people at the local level to be our representatives in the seats of government, be it Local, State or Federal government. By electing people locally, they are directly accountable to those who elect them. A duly elected representative joins other representatives and they work together to assure all voices are heard.
This is the premise of the Electoral College. Each State has representatives, called Electors. The Electors are chosen by the popular vote of that State. The number of legislators and senators in each State determines the number of Electors they have.
When you’re voting for president, you are actually voting for a slate of Electors that represent the candidate you’re voting for. If you combine the total of all State’s Electors, there are 270 and a candidate must receive the majority vote of the Electors to win the presidency.
Our founders put a lot of thought into this process. The process is straightforward and quite detailed and you can read about it in Article II Section 1 of the US Constitution. The Electoral College is a safeguard against tyranny by a majority and assures that all voices are heard.
By Suzanne Cook Catlin