The Electoral College ~ Everything You ever wanted to know, but were afraid to ask!

by faithgibson on March 18, 2017

The history and contemporary impact of the Electoral College is a follow-up for yesterday’s “Not Voting, protect voting & the Electoral College: the perfect politcal Storm that determined the 2016 presidential election

Electoral College vs.
Presidential Election by the Popular Vote . . . .

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Pretty Birds on a Branch

It seems somehow un-American that the winner of our presidential election was not decided by a majority of the voters. But in the US, the ‘popular’ vote for president only records our individual ‘preferences’ (these are the numbers reported in the media), but our individual votes for president is not what legally determines who will be declared the winner.

What we are actually doing when we check the box next to a candidate’s name is authorizing the people appointed to the Electorial College by that particular candidate’s political party to cast the votes that will determine which of the candidates will be legally declared “President of the United States“.

For better or worse, the presidential election is determined by the 538 members of the Electoral College. The Electoral College is a political process, not a physical place. The number of electors each state is entitled to is equal to the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member of their state’s House of Representatives, plus two for Senators. A majority of 270 electoral votes (one more than 50%) for the same candidate is required to elect the President.

The people who formally and legally decide who will be declared president are nominated by each political party’s state convention or by its central committee. Typically, Electoral College appointees are state-elected officials, party leaders, or people with a strong affiliation (or big campaign contributors) with their party’s candidate for president. The appointed members of the EC all convene on the same day in a predetermined place in each state to cast their EC ballots.

It should be noted that members of the EC are NOT legally required to actually vote for the same presidential candidate that the majority of Americans voted for. Depending on the situation, this open-ended unusual authority could be used ‘corrective’ or as a corruption of the electoral process.

For example, if the candidate of their party had been diagnosed as mentally ill or otherwise unable or fit to assume the “duties of the president”, they would be free to vote for whoever else they wanted. Or EC members could ignore the popular vote for both major candidates and simply pool their votes for another candidate. While the vast majority of Americans might consider that to be unfair, the Electoral College’s majority decision would still be legally binding.

Why such a departure from the democratic principle of “Majority Rule”?0-6

The Electoral College system purposefully does not represent the popular vote.

The reason is simple and straightforward: Our Founding Fathers did not believe such an important decision as electing the head of the executive branch of government (i.e. president) could or should be left up to ordinary citizens, citing the historical record as proof.

This seems odd to us today, but this provocative conclusion was based on historically compelling reasons. Previous experiments in “direct” democracy, such as the ancient Greeks, early Romans and lesser-known groups, were spectacular failures. And it was all for the same identical reason — an unanticipated fluke in human nature that eventually brought the downfall of each of these fledgling democracies.

It seems that human beings are easily swayed by their ‘passions’ (i.e. emotions). When it comes to voting, people are more likely to be moved by passionate emotions than an intellectual investigation of facts. In the political realm, such passions are often stirred up by temporary or transient circumstances that trigger intense anger, fear, or hatred in the moment. These reactions can be caused by a simple mistake or misunderstanding, or unfounded gossip or their passions can be manipulated by strong charismatic leaders or dictatorial personalities stirring up dissent.

Our individual passions are multiplied (squared!) when large groups are involved and can heat up to the boiling point. Without a strong government or one that is temporarily disabled or absent, rampaging passions often break into ‘mob rule’ such as vigilante violence or historic storming of the Bastille by French peasants.

snake-Catches-bird

In the world of self-governance, this irrational behavior often resulted in popular votes that were immoral or impractical. Whether it was a series of poor decisions or one big whopper of a bad idea, being governed by the shifting opinions of the population as a whole wrecked havoc on the system. Unable to fulfill its function, these failed democracies were either overrun by more powerful, well-armed and better-organized neighbors or they were overtaken by a strong personality who appointed himself king.

Far too often, the first thing the new king did was banish (or execute) his political rivals and then set up a tyrannical and oppressive monarchy.

Having so recently (and at such great expense in blood and treasure to rid themselves of the English monarchy, that was the VERY last thing the Founding Fathers wanted to happen in the brand new United States of America!

The Electoral College as Safeguard against Mob Rule

Our Founding Fathers had many reasons to believe a popular or ‘majority’ vote for president was risky business and thus to be avoided if possible. To circumvent such dramatic dangers, the framers of the US Constitution created the Electoral College as to be the ultimate “decider” of presidential elections.  They saw this as a smart move, as the EC would provide an official buffer between the ‘unwashed masses’ and the critical need for political stability.

The unelected and transient body of the Electoral College was created to balance off the uninformed or passion-driven choices make by a large number of disaggregated (i.e. ununified) ordinary, but not particularly smart or well-educated citizens. Therefore, the persons legally identified to make the final determination of which particular candidate would be declared “President” would be made by the 538 well-educated and politically astute individuals who’d been appointed by their political parties to collectively determine the presidential winner.

A majority of registered voters vs. 538 unelected politically elite?

The question for all of us today is whether the 241-year old fear that the American voting public could easily turn into as a mob that was easily swayed by a strong man or petty tyrant should continue to make the electoral college system the center of presidential elections in the 21st century.

The Founding Fathers and the framers of the Constitution of the United States were genuinely convinced that the American people were intellectually deficient, poor judges of character, and easily fooled. To be sure that our all-important presidential elections were not “at the mercy” of a majority vote by American citizens,  the EC was created to make the legally-binding choice. As a result, a majority vote by American citizens is functionally irrelevant to the executive branch of government.

The Big Yes/No Question for all of us:  Is our desire to remain a vibrant and technologically-advanced civilization worth figuring out how 70% (or more) of us can come together and agree that first and foremost, we  are fully committed to upholding the principles that made and now keep our democratic republic resilient and sustainable   that requires a strong stand for unity btw the many different factions that the population of the US.

ShawnJeffJuly4_2004Obviously, this requires unity btw the many different factions that our population is make up America. We must decide that WE, THE PEOPLE are once more a unified nation. We must pledge justice and liberty for all who are living within her borders, as was so clearly articulated by our Founding Fathers and recorded for posterity in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

We must decide that WE, THE PEOPLE are once more a unified nation. We must pledge justice and liberty for all who are living within her borders, as was so clearly articulated by our Founding Fathers and recorded for posterity in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

We must pledge justice and liberty for all who are living within her borders, as was so clearly articulated by our Founding Fathers and recorded for posterity in the Declaration of Independence and the United States Constitution.

Given these Constitutional principles and goals for a resilient and sustainable democratic republic, I would happily declare myself to be a “communitarian” — a person in community with other like-minded souls.


If all adult Americans were divided into groups of a 100, each group would have:

  • 73 Americans who did NOT vote for Donald Trump
  • 27 people who voted for Trump; however half (13 out of 27) of those Trump voters later said their vote was actually a protest against the Washington elite
  • 86 out of every 100 voting-age Americans either did NOT vote for Mr. Trump or they cast “protest votes” and did not intend for Mr. Trump to be elected.

 

 

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