Politics, Trump/Clinton, Electoral College, Debate, Society, Democracy
The highly controversial Electoral College began in 1787, when the Virginia Plan was created to allow for Congress to elect the President of the United States. However, after being debated, delegates then voted for electors to choose the president, which was proposed by James Wilson. How these electors were chosen was contested during the Connecticut Compromise and the Three-Fifths Compromise, and it was decided that they would be state chosen, "...in such a manner as its Legislature may direct" (US Const. art. II, sec. 1.) Several delegates, such as James Wilson and James Madison recognized that a popular vote would be ideal, but the pervasiveness of slavery in the South would make it problematic to obtain a consensus. In the records of the Federal Convention, it was stated that:
There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections (Farrand).
The Electoral College was described by James Madison as, "...the result of compromise between the larger and smaller states, giving to the latter the advantage of electing a president from the candidates, in consideration of the former in selecting the candidates from the people" (Josephson and Ross, 1996, 153). Therefore, there is a geographic bias in voter influence, and voters in the United States do not actually choose their presidents or vice presidents. Voters in America instead vote for delegates to the Electoral College, who then choose the next President of the United States. This can and does produce enormous amounts of dissatisfaction in the American people, as was the case with the 2000 election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Bush won the electoral votes by a narrow margin, with 271 electoral votes to Gore's 266, but actually got less of the popular vote. Gore had in fact won the popular vote by 547,398 votes by the people of the United States (Shmoop Editorial Team). The same phenomenon happened in the 2016 election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton, producing immense unrest in the American people. While Clinton had 48.0% of the popular vote, Trump had only 45.9%, but Clinton lost the election due to only having 227 electoral votes compared to Trump's 304 (Leip and Wasserman).
The above examples of difficulties with the Electoral College prompt most Americans to question the validity of the institution, as some say it was founded on racism. The following is a quote from a 2013 Gallup poll: "...61 percent of Republicans told Gallup they would do away with [the Electoral College], along with 63 percent of independents and 66 percent of Democrats" (Iaconangelo). Others endorse the Electoral College, stating that the Founding Fathers of the United States of America did not aspire to a straight democracy, but a constitutional republic, and so the body is valid. Supporters also say that the Electoral College fights against regionalism, forcing presidential candidates to gain support throughout the nation. However, the racial disparity in voting power presents a significant problem even today. Because people of different races are scattered disproportionately across the country, relative voting power is still less for Blacks, Hispanics, and Asians today than for a White person. For instance, Blacks and Hispanics specifically are more probable to live in New York, Texas, and California, which are the three states with the lowest electoral votes compared to population and therefore, these races are unfairly underrepresented (Leeds).
The bottom line is that there is no simplistic answer to the Electoral College debate, but the case for and against it unquestionably raise some disturbing points, especially concerning the American public and their representation in our government in the past twenty years.
Farrand, Max. The Records Of The Federal Convention Of 1787. Vol. 2. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1911. Print.
Josephson, William and Ross, Beverly J. "Repairing The Electoral College." Journal of Legislation 22(9) (1996): 145-93.
Leeds, Andy. "Racial Disparity of Voting Power in the Electoral College." ExtraNewsfeed, 7 March, 2017. Web. 12 Oct. 2019. https://extranewsfeed.com/racial-disparity-of-voting-power-in-the-electoral-coll...
Leip, Dave and Wasserman, David. "Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections, Cook Political Report." Presidential Election Results: Donald J. Trump Wins. The New York Times, Feb. 2017. 12 Oct. 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/elections/2016/results/president
Madison, James. "The Avalon Project: Documents In Law, History and Diplomacy." Madison Debates. Yale Law School, 19 July 1787 https://avalon.law.yale.edu/18th_century/debates_719.asp
Shmoop Editorial Team. "The 2000 Election and the Electoral College." Shmoop. Shmoop University, Inc., 11 Nov. 2008. Web. 12 Oct. 2019.
The Constitution of the United States. Art. II, Sec. 1.
Iaconangelo, David. The Christian Science Monitor. 4 Nov. 2016. Web. 12 Oct. 2019. https://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Politics/2016/1104/Most-Americans-don-t-want-the-E...