April 13th, 2007

The Electoral College


photo credit: nshepard

The Washington Post reports on a recent bill signed by the Governor of Maryland:

Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley signed into law yesterday a measure that would circumvent the Electoral College by awarding the state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the most votes nationwide.

The bill… makes Maryland the first in the nation to agree to let the national popular vote trump statewide preference. It would not take effect until states that cumulatively hold 270 electoral votes — the number needed to win a presidential election — agree to do the same.

The Founding Fathers knew that two main threats existed to our Constitutional Republic. The first, tyranny, comes from the top down. The second, mob rule, comes from the bottom up. A democracy can lead to both. A republic safeguards against such results, as does the Electoral College.

Not surprisingly, Ron Paul understands this fact quite well. Over two years ago he wrote an article titled The Electoral College vs. Mob Rule, where he clearly explains how the Electoral College is necessary to preserving state’s rights and preventing mobocracy. The article follows in its entirety:

Today’s presidential election is likely to be relatively close, at least in terms of popular vote totals. Should either candidate win the election but lose the overall popular vote, we will be bombarded with calls to abolish the Electoral College, just as we were after the contested 2000 presidential election. After all, the pundits will argue, it would be “undemocratic” to deny the presidency to the man who received the most votes.

This argument is hostile to the Constitution, however, which expressly established the United States as a constitutionally limited republic and not a direct democracy. The Founding Fathers sought to protect certain fundamental freedoms, such as freedom of speech, against the changing whims of popular opinion. Similarly, they created the Electoral College to guard against majority tyranny in federal elections. The president was to be elected by the 50 states rather than the American people directly, to ensure that less populated states had a voice in national elections. This is why they blended Electoral College votes between U.S. House seats, which are based on population, and U.S. Senate seats, which are accorded equally to each state. The goal was to balance the inherent tension between majority will and majority tyranny. Those who wish to abolish the Electoral College because it’s not purely democratic should also argue that less populated states like Rhode Island or Wyoming don’t deserve two senators.

A presidential campaign in a purely democratic system would look very strange indeed, as any rational candidate would focus only on a few big population centers. A candidate receiving a large percentage of the popular vote in California, Texas, Florida, and New York, for example, could win the presidency with very little support in dozens of other states. Moreover, a popular vote system would only intensify political pandering, as national candidates would face even greater pressure than today to take empty, middle-of-the-road, poll-tested, mainstream positions. Direct democracy in national politics would further dilute regional differences of opinion on issues, further narrow voter choices, and further emasculate political courage.

Those who call for the abolition of the Electoral College are hostile to liberty. Not surprisingly, most advocates of abolition are statist elites concentrated largely on the east and west coasts. These political, economic, academic, media, and legal elites overwhelmingly favor a strong centralized federal government, and express contempt for the federalist concept of states’ rights. They believe in omnipotent federal power, with states acting as mere glorified federal counties carrying out commands from Washington.

The Electoral College threatens the imperial aims of these elites because it allows the individual states to elect the president, and in many states the majority of voters still believe in limited government and the Constitution. Voters in southern, midwestern, and western states — derided as “flyover” country — tend to value family, religion, individual liberty, property rights, and gun rights. Washington elites abhor these values, and they hate that middle and rural America hold any political power whatsoever. Their efforts to discredit the Electoral College system are an open attack on the voting power of the pro-liberty states.

Sadly, we have forgotten that states created the federal government, not the other way around. The Electoral College system represents an attempt, however effective, to limit federal power and preserve states’ rights. It is an essential part of our federalist balance. It also represents a reminder that pure democracy, mob rule, is incompatible with liberty.

Should the Electoral College be abolished, mobocracy will prevail in our country. This is why our government was created as a republic, and not a democracy. The latter results in tyranny or mobocracy, while the former—if implemented correctly—prevents such abuses of power.

29 Responses to “The Electoral College”

  1. Kelly Winterton
    April 13, 2007 at 8:34 am #

    Sorry, I can’t agree. Why are elections decided by majority vote in every single race throughout towns, cities, states, and ALL other federal offices – EXCEPT for the office of US President? It seems to be a good enough model for these offices, but not for President?

    When was the last time a Presidential candidate actively campaigned in Utah? Never. And that is because Utahns are relegated to the status of unimportance in the electoral college. Perhaps a candidate would actually consider campaigning in Utah if the electoral college were eliminated. Perhaps then my vote for a third-party candidate might actually mean something!! As it is now with the electoral college, any efforts to campaign or vote for a second or third party candidate is totally futile.

    The electoral college is merely one of the tools (like Diebold) that Secret Combinations use to insure their pre-selected candidate for President actually makes it to office.

  2. Kelly Winterton
    April 13, 2007 at 9:34 am #

    Maybe we should even hope to abolish the electoral college SO THAT MOBACRACY might do a little bit of prevailing! Perhaps that is what our country needs! We are certainly in a handbasket right now. The electoral college is powerless anyway, given the way the last two elections have gone. The candidate that was NOT legally chosen became president anyway, with disasterous results.

  3. Kelly Winterton
    April 13, 2007 at 9:37 am #

    Can we honestly imagine someone with the integrity of Ron Paul somehow overcoming the Gadianton systems of Supreme Court votes, or black-box voting machines and media manipulation to actually become President by magically using the Electoral College?

  4. Connor
    April 13, 2007 at 9:47 am #

    Maybe we should even hope to abolish the electoral college SO THAT MOBACRACY might do a little bit of prevailing!

    Do not give to your friend any power that may someday fall into the hands of your enemy. (Paul Weyrich, via Quoty)

    Can we honestly imagine someone with the integrity of Ron Paul somehow overcoming the Gadianton systems of Supreme Court votes, or black-box voting machines and media manipulation to actually become President by magically using the Electoral College?

    Don’t you think, Kelly, that nobody realizes the conundrum better than Ron Paul himself? If so, why would he so adamantly support the Electoral College if he realized that it was his biggest obstacle?

  5. Kelly Winterton
    April 13, 2007 at 10:02 am #

    I honestly applaud sticking to Constitutional principles, and admire Ron Paul for it. However, it doesn’t matter who the people vote for, it only matters who is doing the counting and by what means the vote is counted. That seems to be what has happened in the last couple elections, and I am sickened by it.

    I applaud Paul for standing for Truth and Righteousness though. I would honestly consider voting for him, if he by some miracle could overcome the obstacles of media and money. Perhaps if he could be somehow invited to a debate with the McCains, Romneys, Obamas and Clintons of the Establishment, he might then get enough people behind him in grassroot support of real Constitutional values. (Now if we could just get him to change that little letter after his name to an I or a C instead of an R. He might make a great Constitutional Party candidate.)

  6. Dan
    April 13, 2007 at 10:11 am #

    The electoral college is out of date and useless, except to keep certain people in power. Let the people vote for whom they want and let each vote actually count.

  7. Connor
    April 13, 2007 at 10:24 am #

    Kelly,

    Perhaps if he could be somehow invited to a debate with the McCains, Romneys, Obamas and Clintons of the Establishment, he might then get enough people behind him in grassroot support of real Constitutional values.

    Then be sure to tune in on May 3…

    Dan,

    Let the people vote for whom they want and let each vote actually count.

    So you favor a democracy over a republic?

  8. Kelly Winterton
    April 13, 2007 at 10:25 am #

    Ha! I wondered if Dan were out there! And he was. Sometimes I don’t appreciate his comments, sometimes I do. Perhaps Dan feels a little like I do today. I really feel frustrated in the voting booth – knowing that my vote for someone OTHER than the Republican candidate in Utah is really actually NOT counting for anything. My vote means a big fat zero. Perhaps by leaving the box for POTUS blank would actually be better than voting for a second or third party candidate. I guess that is why I vote-paired last time. I can honestly understand the voter apathy in the face of the Electoral College! Why make the effort when the Electoral College just negates my vote anyway!

  9. John
    April 13, 2007 at 10:28 am #

    The electoral college allows for people’s votes in small towns to make a difference.

    Kill the electoral college, and you’ll never see a candidate campaign in less-populated areas again.

  10. Kelly Winterton
    April 13, 2007 at 10:50 am #

    John,

    I have yet to see a candidate campaign in Utah yet, so what difference might it make to me? Seems to me that if we went to majority vote, the candidates might actually for once be concerned about all those silent majority types in small-town America.

    Connor,

    Does the difference in whether we have an electoral college or not make the difference whether we are a republic or a democracy? Are we a government “by, for, and of the people?” Are all people created equal? Should my vote not then actually count for something? Or should my vote be just for my own personal satifaction to just make me THINK that my government is by, for and of my opinion, but is over-ridden anyway by the powers that be?

    Under a republic, small land-owners and women do not even have the right to vote. That is why we amended that small problem.

  11. John
    April 13, 2007 at 11:12 am #

    Kelly,

    I have yet to see a candidate campaign in Utah yet, so what difference might it make to me?

    Um, there’s more to this issue than just you. You might not be affected, but many others would. And the fact is, who cares about a silent majority in a small town, when you really need to be campaigning in the big towns?

  12. Dan
    April 13, 2007 at 12:52 pm #

    Connor,

    So you favor a democracy over a republic?

    Most definitely! Any day of the week. Frankly what I would like to see is a proportional representation system to truly reflect what the populace believes. But that’s just me.

  13. Dan
    April 13, 2007 at 12:54 pm #

    Kelly,

    Ha! I wondered if Dan were out there! And he was. Sometimes I don’t appreciate his comments, sometimes I do. Perhaps Dan feels a little like I do today.

    HA! yes, I am here. We’re not going to agree on everything, and we’re not going to disagree on everything. I like this personally.

    I can honestly understand the voter apathy in the face of the Electoral College! Why make the effort when the Electoral College just negates my vote anyway!

    That right there is one of the strongest reasons to stuff electoral college in a coffin, dig a pit six feet deep and lay it to rest forever.

  14. Dan
    April 13, 2007 at 12:58 pm #

    John,

    Kill the electoral college, and you’ll never see a candidate campaign in less-populated areas again.

    How many times do you see candidates fly to Rhode Island, to Wyoming, to Utah, to Alaska, to Hawai’i? This is one of the supposed good reasons to keep the electoral college, but alas, it is not correct.

    The reason candidates visit one place over another is because one place is a “battleground” while another is “safe territory.” Ironically, if we make every single vote count, each candidate will actually have to vie for ALL the votes, not just the ones in key battleground regions.

    Voters in Massachusetts will rarely see a Republican candidate for president stop by for a visit, because financially, it is a waste of that candidate’s money; Massachusetts electoral college delegates will inevitably go to the Democratic candidate. The same for Utah. Why should a Democratic candidate go waste his money in that state, when it clearly will end up going to the Republican candidate?

    However, if every single vote counts, those few Democratic votes in Utah might make just the difference in the national election.

  15. Kelly Winterton
    April 13, 2007 at 1:23 pm #

    I remember seeing news clips during October and November 2006 during the last election. There were lawn signs everywhere in those news clips. But, I never saw a single lawn sign in Utah for Bush or Kerry. Why? Because the Repub and Demo parties didn’t want to waste any money on Utah, no matter how devoted that lawn’s owner was! They wanted the lawn signs to go to the states like Iowa or Florida.

  16. April 13, 2007 at 2:28 pm #

    The Electoral College was created, if I understand it correctly, at a time when political parties either didn’t exist at all, or didn’t have as much power as the do at the present time. The EC does provide smaller states with an opportunity to have a much larger say in the election of the President, percentage-wise, than the larger states do.

    This Wikipedia table shows the population of the United States, per state, along with the Electoral College votes per state, and the mathematical breakout of the number of voters per Electoral College vote. In Utah, for example, the population is shown as 2,550,063, and it has 5 EC votes to cast. California’s population is shown as 36,457,549 (which is roughly 14.3 times the population of Utah), but it only gets 55 EC votes (11 times as many as Utah). This enables the smaller states to pool their votes and defeat a candidate who may appeal to the voters only in the large population centers on the coasts.

    If you want to make sure that the East and West coast populations of the US get to dictate the results of Presidential elections from now on, by all means, let’s do away with the Electoral College. Since the states with the larger populations are generally more Democratic than Republican (I am right about that, right?), I would think that the Republicans are the last people who would be in favor of elimination of the Electoral College.

    The Founding Fathers seemed to think a bi-cameral legislature was a pretty good idea, and the Electoral College system goes right along with it, numbers-wise.

  17. April 13, 2007 at 2:35 pm #

    Kelly W. — I really feel frustrated in the voting booth – knowing that my vote for someone OTHER than the Republican candidate in Utah is really actually NOT counting for anything. My vote means a big fat zero.

    Well, just remember there are a whole bunch of Republican voters in California who feel just as frustrated as you do, since California is known to be pretty safe territory for Democrats when it comes to the Electoral College.

    I stupidly voted for Bush in the 2000 election, but thankfully (in retrospect) the Democrats of this state made sure that my vote for Bush counted for nothing back then, God bless ’em.

    (Of course, it was those red states, like Utah, who ended up negating the California vote against Bush in the end.)

  18. Janet
    April 14, 2007 at 12:17 pm #

    Kelly W. — I really feel frustrated in the voting booth – knowing that my vote for someone OTHER than the Republican candidate in Utah is really actually NOT counting for anything. My vote means a big fat zero.

    I remember standing on a main road leading to a voting booth back in the 70’s holding a sign that read, “A vote for the lesser of two evils is still a vote for evil!” And yes I voted for a third party candidate that election. Did my vote get me the end result that I wanted? NO, it did not. Did my vote count? ABSOLUTELY! You see, if you do everything in your power to combat evil, then like the prophets of old, your hands will be clean, guiltless, free from of the blood and sins of the leaders. On the other hand, if you vote for evil you will have to make an accounting for the actions of the leaders that you sustained by your vote.

  19. fontor
    April 14, 2007 at 10:58 pm #

    Anyone who’s against the Electoral College is hostile to liberty?

    I think anyone who wants the candidate with fewer votes to win is much more hostile to liberty. Let everyone’s vote count equally.

    Dan — you mentioned burying the EC six feet under, but you forgot overlaying it with concrete.

  20. April 14, 2007 at 11:27 pm #

    The coolest type of electoral reform we could institute would be instant runoff elections where we rank our choices and if our top pick doesn’t get into the top 2 or 3, our vote then goes to our number 2 pick automatically. This way, people can vote their conscience and then still lend support to the lesser of two evils if their 3rd party candidate didn’t make it. I hear they do this in Australia and in some cities in the US like San Francisco.

    I’m for getting rid of the EC as well. It’s definitely outlived it’s utility.

  21. John
    April 15, 2007 at 11:22 am #

    Fontor,

    I think anyone who wants the candidate with fewer votes to win is much more hostile to liberty. Let everyone’s vote count equally.

    Yeah I say we get rid of the Senate too.

    — John

  22. Dan
    April 15, 2007 at 7:47 pm #

    As for the Senate, I actually like the idea of removing the 17th Amendment and letting states decide the Senators and the House represented by the people in their district based on proportional representation, and not first-past-the-post. I think that is the best system of government. And the Executive should be elected by popular vote. The Founding Fathers never intended the President to be such a powerful figure.

  23. April 15, 2007 at 10:02 pm #

    Anyone who’s against the Electoral College is hostile to liberty?

    You have heard the phrase “tyranny of the majority”?

    The Founding Fathers never intended the President to be such a powerful figure.

    Well, if the Congress would just stop its tendency to roll over and die every time the Executive Branch announce its edicts that will make the whole world A Better Place, maybe the Presidency wouldn’t be so powerful. Having it take back its responsibility to declare war, instead of forfeiting the right to the Executive branch, would be a good start.

  24. April 15, 2007 at 10:20 pm #

    There’s an informative article at http://www.fec.gov/pdf/eleccoll.pdf, which looks at this history of how and why the Electoral College system was put into place. It includes the following interesting paragraph in a discussion of changes that were made to the system as the result of the outcome of the election of 1800:

    “It is noteworthy in passing that the idea of electing the president by direct popular vote was not widely promoted as an alternative to redesigning the Electoral College. This may be because the physical and demographic circumstances of the country had not changed that much in a dozen or so years. Or it may be because the excesses of the recent French revolution (and its fairly rapid degeneration into dictatorship) had given the populists some pause to reflect on the wisdom of too direct a democracy.”

  25. fontor
    April 16, 2007 at 4:47 am #

    Curtis: Instant Runoff Elections are actually really cool (but in Australia it’s called ‘Preferences’). If no party gets more than 50% of the vote, then all the votes for the lowest party are given to each voter’s second choice (if they specified) or to that party’s second choice (if they didn’t specify). If there’s still no majority, then repeat until one party is over 50%.

    Imagine, you guys. You vote for the Constitution Party, and if they don’t win, your vote goes to the next party you choose, and perhaps the next and the next. Talk about making a statement with your vote!

    Plus more people might actually vote for third parties if it’s not a ‘wasted vote’, which means third parties will have a stronger presence, and may be able to pick up election funds.

    I mean, Electroral College. Pfft. Someone invented it. It wasn’t revealed or anything. (Though I’m sure you can find something in the Journal of Discourses to suggest that it was.)

  26. April 16, 2007 at 11:14 am #

    I mean, Electroral College. Pfft. Someone invented it. It wasn’t revealed or anything.

    The same thing could be said of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.

  27. fontor
    April 16, 2007 at 6:05 pm #

    Yes, and like the electoral system, they have provision for us to change them if needed. (Well, the Constitution at least)

    Which we should only undertake with copious reflection and great reluctance. It’s not a light thing. I’d rather leave it alone, except that the EC just hasn’t done a good job of reflecting the will of the people. IMO.

  28. November 4, 2008 at 12:33 pm #

    The Republican party comes to UT to get donations for their cause and so does the Democratic party. Even though I’m an Independent and don’t like the fact that the Electorical College votes Republican I’m glad we have the College or UT would have no say at all. This is why it is so important that we get state elected officals in power that agree with what we want nationally so our vote counts in the College. If UT wants a Democratic President then UT needs to vote more Democratic and less Republican. Historically this has not happened because of apathay which leads to majority rulling for a very long time. Why change if you don’t care? Get involved and VOTE!

  29. April 30, 2014 at 10:05 am #

    2014…..yea, how’s that Electoral College working out for ya? If you want a Democrat in office, vote more Democrat locally? And vice versa for Republican? Sorry, same coin, different sides. More than half of Congress are millionaires. The gap has engulfed any Republic that once stood and the States now have less power than they ever had in the history of this Union. After being betrayed by bought-out politicians, corrupt execs in corporations and Wall Street, after the Feds start claiming millions of acres ‘federal’ land across the U.S. for political agendas and corporate contracts with foreign entities, it’s no wonder the People are fed up with the Feds and want some answers and some REAL change. Next elections, right in your own name, or of someone you know personally who could do a better job than any of the fools we have in office now who DO NOT represent the People on ANY level.

Leave a Reply

Leave your opinion here. Please be nice. Your Email address will be kept private.