Why the Electoral College is Necessary

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Every four years, you can count on three things: the Summer Olympic Games, an American Presidential Election and millions of Americans howling about why we need to do away with the 228-year-old institution known as the Electoral College.

Though the motivations of people who wish to abolish this odd way of selecting a national leader are most pure, the reality is that the Electoral College is the one thing that has kept this 322,369,319-citizen, 3,805,927-sq. mile nation together over all of these years – the system we are presently using, though imperfect, is necessary for a nation as diverse, large and splintered as modern-day America.

With this said, I was recently scrolling through my newsfeed and came across a meme which stated, “GET RID OF THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE… IN A DEMOCRACY WE SHOULD COUNT EVERY VOTE!”

The picture was on the internet, written in all caps, and had been shared over 6,700 times, so I know it must be true – still yet, I can’t help but believe that the Electoral College represents the true genius of our nation’s founding fathers.

For starters, the United States is not a democracy, we are a republic.  Some will argue that this is nothing more than a To-May-Toe vs. To-Mah-Toe deal, but it is actually critically important for Americans to recognize the difference.

As history has proven, unchecked democracies are among the worst forms of human government ever devised by man.  Majority rule means minority ruled… never forget this.  Hitler came to power by means of a European democracy and in the case of Nazi Germany, majority rule equated to mob rule and culminated with millions of minorities being viciously murdered by the bloodthirsty mob of the majority.

Though full of faults themselves, our founding fathers fully embraced the doctrine of man’s total depravity, believing that though people are capable of doing some good, safeguards had to be put in place due to the fact that the human race is equally prone to engage in unspeakable evils…  as we have seen throughout the history of the planet.

To check mob rule, our founders made this nation a land of laws and the law of the state triumphed over the whims of the people – fortunately – the supreme law of the state (the United States Constitution) guarantees us the rights we hold most sacred: freedom of speech, freedom of worship, right to due process, etc. rights that cannot be abridged by the impulses of the people.

So to begin with, we must recognize that we are not a democracy, we live in a Republic (The average lifespan of nations with true democracies is less than a half-century, whereas this Republic has lasted for nearly two and a half centuries)… and fortunately, in a Republic, the majority of the people do not always get their way.

A second thing that must be noted is that the United States is just that – a collection of fifty independent states that have voluntarily united to form a Republic built upon the rule of law as opposed to the ever changing fads and impulses of men.  We must not be quick to forget that the states formed the federal government, not the other way around.

A third thing to keep in mind, by means of introduction, is that compared to the vast majority of the modern nations around the globe, America’s system of selecting a head of state / leader of the government provides the people with an incredibly louder voice than nearly all other advanced nations.

Canada’s process for selecting a prime minister is so complex that if I were to actually write about it, you would “x out of this page immediately!”  To put their process into the simplest of terms, the prime minister is appointed by the governor general on behalf of the monarch… this person is often the leader of a party whose members form a majority. At no time, however, are the people ever consulted.

The head of the United Kingdom’s government is selected by the ruling political party in control of the 650-person parliament.  That’s right, the politicians, not the people, get to select who runs their country… can’t you just imagine the backroom deals and corruption taking place in a room filled with 650 national politicians tasked with selecting a national leader?!?  I provided these two examples to let you know, that when it comes to choice, you have it a heck of a lot better than other countries… even nations we often think are leading the way when it comes to human rights!

For whatever reason, Americans have it in their mind that the Electoral College automatically means that it’s a fifty-fifty chance that the guy who gets the most votes will not become President.  Despite the popular memes and prevalent rhetoric, the following reality remains: only three times in the institution’s 239-year history has a president been selected who did not receive the most votes.

If you’ve managed to read this far into the article, pat yourself on the back: you now know (or probably already knew) more about our government than +85% of Americans… which is the true problem, the level of ignorance being demonstrated by people going to the polls in modern-day America has reached a point where it could easily be declared panic time…  Makes you glad we live in a Republic and not a democracy, doesn’t it!

But why do we need this seemingly archaic institution?  What is its purpose?

Remember Florida?
We all remember the nightmare that was the Florida election – a close vote, followed by a recount, followed by another recount, followed by court battles, etc.

All of that hoopla was made over 5.8 million votes cast in 67 counties.  Just imagine what a nationwide recount of more than 101 million votes cast in 3,143 counties would have looked like?  One cannot even begin to fathom the opportunities for fraud and voter suppression.

Who can referee a ballgame with that many players?  Under our present arrangement, a corrupt election official may have the power to change the results for a single state, but under a nationwide popular vote, that same individual would have the power to undermine the votes in all fifty states.

Under our present system, a 48.5% to 48.7% nationwide popular vote result is nothing more than an interesting statistic that will provide the television political pundits with something to talk about for a few days.  Under a new system, it would place our national security in grave danger and provide opportunities for civil unrest unlike anything previously seen on this continent.

According to the Public Interest Legal Foundation, 141 American counties have more registered voters than living residents… in my opinion, these type of counties already have too much power… do we really want to give them the opportunity to singlehandedly select the leader of the free world?

PA MAPLook at Virginia and Pennsylvania?
Take a look at this map of Pennsylvania’s 2008 election results.  Which candidate do you believe won this election?  Here’s a hint, it isn’t the one who appealed to the more diverse audience, it was the individual who won only three cities.

This phenomenon is known as the urban-rule effect and at its core, it is a single or group of cities ruling over an entire state or nation… a good ole Appalachian term for this is “the tail wagging the dog!”

In the Commonwealth of Virginia, a state that has long been defined by its rural agricultural ties, more than eighty counties are experiencing the peril of this effect first hand:  With an ever expanding Federal government workforce that has now overran northern Virginia, the counties of Fairfax and Arlington have exploded in population – reaching the point where their budgets and resources rival that of the state government down in Richmond.

The result of this incredible concentration of people in only a few localities has been a total takeover of the state’s government – the Code of Virginia has literally been rewritten by only a handful of counties in order to offer themselves special tax incentives and other privileges that aren’t afforded to the rest of the state.

Thanks to the Electoral College, America’s presidential elections have not gone in the way of Virginia and Pennsylvania.  Do away with this system and you will never again see a Presidential candidate standing in front of a John Deere tractor or working to secure the votes from the people in America’s flyover states.

It is Flexible…
We’ve been having presidential elections for a long time in this country and fortunately, they’ve always been fairly civil (except for that one time back in 1860… and even then, erasing the Electoral College would have produced the same result).  So no one can make the argument that the Electoral College totally and completely scoffs at the will of the people.

With this said, the beauty of the Electoral College is that it is made up of real people (and fairly ordinary people) who have the power to deviate should the need arise – let’s say the assassination of President and Vice President-elect, etc.

Right now, illegal aliens are allowed to vote in certain California elections — though the ramifications of this may have an effect on the rest of the nation, it only directly effects the results of one state.  Under our federal system, each state is free to choose and define their individual election laws without suppressing the votes of the residents in other states.  As a West Virginian, I don’t want California’s election laws undermining my vote for President… do you?

The NBA, MLB and NHL all select a Champion in a Similar Fashion!
To win the Stanley Cup, an NBA Championship ring or the World Series, a team is required to win the best of seven games.  Under this system, it is possible and has even occurred on a few rare occasions for a team to score the most points in a series and lose the championship.

Even still, these organizations continue to choose a champion in this manner because it makes each game important.

Likewise, our present selection process is critical because it makes each state important – regardless of how populated or rural.

Is the Electoral College perfect?  Absolutely not!  However, it is the longest running selection process used by a free people to choose a leader – only deviating from the majority’s will on a few rare occasions.

Is there some room for a little fine tuning of the process? Of course (I would like to see America do away with winner take all system and split the electoral votes like Maine and Nebraska do)! But before we throw out the baby with the bath water, we need to remember what happens when a handful of heavily populated jurisdictions are allowed to reign over the rest of a state…  We get unfair laws that provide the heavily populated areas with a power to dictate over the remainder of the territory.  This is happening all across the country on a state level right now… Do we really want to see this on a national level too?

Like it or not, but we are the United States… not the United People of America… and in order for our government to function as designed, we must be willing to allow this system to remain in place.  For if we remove this ancient pillar of our Republic, we have silenced the people of West Virginia, Montana, Wyoming,Vermont and the majority of all other states.

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12 COMMENTS

  1. You said it early on, we the people need to educate ourselves on the candidates before we vote. When we vote not knowing who these people are we are stuck with what we have now for at least four years .

  2. Very well said. Maybe with this I can better understand the process that has always worked. It always seems that our votes don’t count, especially when someone we feel is wrongly elected twice. We must also look back at the times the tables were turned. I am glad you understand politics, so I don’t have to!

  3. Towards the end of the article you state, “Likewise, our present selection process is critical because it makes each state important – regardless of how populace or rural.” I would have to disagree with that. By the time West Virginia casts its votes the winner has more often then not already been decided. This is why very few running for president even bother visiting West Virginia during presidential campaigns. West Virginia and other small states are bombarded with TV ads but seldom see an actual candidate, who are spending all their time in the powerhouse states like California and Texas for example.

    • I sure hope that you’re not the local teacher “Jim Cook,” because if you are, the fact that you teach school and have this little understanding of the electoral process is really frightening and reveals a lot about why our children are graduating not knowing who Hitler was or that America is a republic and not a democracy.

      First of all, your following statement makes absolutely no sense and reveals that you know nothing about presidential elections: “By the time West Virginia casts its votes the winner has more often then not already been decided.”

      West Virginia is an east coast state, meaning that our polls are the first to close… if you were talking about Alaska or Oregon, you would have an argument, but by saying West Virginia, you’ve revealed your ignorance.

      Secondly, no presidential candidates spend anytime in California or Texas campaigning… They spend time in these states fundraising, but do very, very, very little campaigning in these states… That’s because everyone knows that California will vote blue and Texas will vote red.

      On the other hand, over the past few elections, the little and often overlooked state of West Virginia has actually had several visits from candidates… Thanks exclusively to the Electoral College.

      Perhaps you need to return to school yourself and learn basic American civics.

      • Thanks to the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, (not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution), a grand total of $100 was spent on TV ads in West Virginia (5 electoral votes) in 2012 after the conventions.

        Because of state winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes, analysts concluded months ago that only the 2016 party winner of Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Nevada, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire (with 86 electoral votes among them) is not a foregone conclusion.

        Over the last few decades, presidential election outcomes within the majority of states have become more and more predictable.

        From 1992- 2012
        13 states (with 102 electoral votes) voted Republican every time
        19 states (with 242) voted Democratic every time

        If this 20 year pattern continues, and the National Popular Vote bill does not go into effect,
        Democrats only would need a mere 28 electoral votes from other states.
        If Republicans lose Florida (29), they would lose.

        10 states were considered competitive in the 2012 election.
        More than 99% of presidential campaign attention (ad spending and visits) was invested in them.
        Two-thirds (176 of 253) of the general-election campaign events, and a similar fraction of campaign expenditures, were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa).

        $148 million was spent in Ohio (18), 73 visits
        $ 34 million in New Hampshire (4), 13 visits
        $ 55 million in Nevada (6), 13 visits
        $ 51 million in Iowa (6), 27 visits

        $ 0 and no visits in Montana (3), Wyoming, and Vermont (3)

  4. Of course, the Electoral College is not the one thing that has kept this nation together over all of these years, and keeping the current system is not necessary.

    The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes used by 2 states, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by states of winner-take-all or district winner laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, the people had no vote for President in most states, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

    The Electoral College is now the set of 538 dedicated party activists, who vote as rubberstamps for presidential candidates. In the current presidential election system, 48 states award all of their electors to the winners of their state. This is not what the Founding Fathers intended.

    The Founding Fathers in the Constitution did not require states to allow their citizens to vote for president, much less award all their electoral votes based upon the vote of their citizens.

    State-by-state winner-take-all laws to award Electoral College votes, were eventually enacted by states, using their exclusive power to do so, AFTER the Founding Fathers wrote the Constitution. Now our current system can be changed by state laws again.

    Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1:
    “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
    The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    The current winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is not in the U.S. Constitution. It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention. It is not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was not the Founders’ choice. It was used by only three states in 1789, and all three of them repealed it by 1800. It is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method. The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes became dominant only in the 1830s, when most of the Founders had been dead for decades, after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state.

    The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding a state’s electoral votes.

    As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. States can, and have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years.

  5. A constitutional republic does not mean we should not and cannot guarantee the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes. The candidate with the most votes wins in every other election in the country.

    Guaranteeing the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes would not make us a pure democracy.
    Pure democracy is a form of government in which people vote on all policy initiatives directly.

    Popular election of the chief executive does not determine whether a government is a republic or democracy.

  6. Adolf Hitler did not come to power in Germany as a result of a national popular vote.
    Hitler was rejected by approximately two-to-one nationwide popular-vote margins when he ran for Presidency of the Weimar Republic.
    Because President Hindenburg did not receive an absolute majority of the votes, a run-off was held on April 10, 1932, among the top three candidates.
    On July 31, 1932, parliamentary elections were held in Germany and Hitler’s National Socialist Party won the largest number of seats in the Reichstag (230 out of 608); however, these 230 seats were far from a majority.
    On November 6, 1932, another parliamentary election was held, and the strength of Hitler’s party was reduced to 196 seats out of 608 in the Reichstag.
    On January 30, 1933, a deal orchestrated by a coalition of parties and power brokers who (mistakenly) thought they could control Hitler. As a result of this deal, President Hindenburg appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany. Once in power as Chancellor, Hitler quickly used his position of Chancellor (and, in particular, the control over the police that his party gained in the deal) to create a one-party dictatorship in Germany.

  7. Because of the state-by-state winner-take-all electoral votes laws (i.e., awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in each state) in 48 states, a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide. This has occurred in 4 of the nation’s 57 (1 in 14 = 7%) presidential elections. The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 15 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 7 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore’s lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes. .

    After the 2012 election, Nate Silver calculated that “Mitt Romney may have had to win the national popular vote by three percentage points on Tuesday to be assured of winning the Electoral College.”

  8. I want to thank you all. For the first time, I’ve learned so much about the Electoral College. I’m 61, college educated and a 20+ year retired veteran and never understood the EC, until now. Thank you again. That being said; how could Obama take counties in Ohio (all-Dem. and zero-Repub.)? Ohio being the deciding state (usually, right?)…voter fraud on a monumental scale? Just wondering.

  9. Regardless of if this electoral process works or DOSENT work any longer 20 TRILLION dollars does not seem be a subject of concern with anyone. BILLIONS WENT TO TRILLIONS OVERNIGHT.

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