• Tag Archives Electoral College
  • The Effort to Abandon Electoral College Gains Steam. Here’s What It Would Ruin for America. – Foundation for Economic Education

    Colorado is joining a list of states attempting to overturn the way Americans have selected their presidents for over two centuries.

    The Colorado legislature recently passed a bill to join an interstate effort called the “interstate compact” to attempt to sidestep the Electoral College system defined by the Constitution. Gov. Jared Polis, a Democrat, called the Electoral College an “undemocratic relic” and vowed to sign the bill into law.

    So far, 12 states representing 172 Electoral College votes have passed the initiative into law. With the addition of Colorado (which has nine votes), that number will rise to 181. They need 270 for the compact to go into effect. It would then undoubtedly be challenged in the courts.

    Some major voices on the left were gleeful about the potential change.


    While the Constitution, intentionally, gives wide latitude to states to create their own electoral systems, the law passed in Colorado, along with the rest of this effort, would be unprecedented. It would be the first time states potentially outsource their Electoral College votes to the will of the nation as a whole rather than having elections determined by their own voters. The result of this, ironically, could be very undemocratic.

    For instance, if the people of Colorado vote overwhelmingly for a Democrat, yet the total popular vote of the nation goes Republican, all of the state’s votes would go to the Republican, essentially overturning the will of the people in Colorado.

    The Electoral College is already fairly democratic. Nearly every state switched to direct, democratic elections of electoral votes in the early 19th century, as opposed to selection by state legislatures. What the national popular vote would do is overturn the concept of federalism, which recognizes that states have unique interests that deserve representation in the electoral system. We are not just a nation of individuals but a nation of communities and states.

    Some have dismissed the Electoral College system as outmoded and unjust. But they are mistaken—the Electoral College system remains highly relevant and necessary today. The 2016 election actually demonstrated that.

    In 2016, states that had gone Democratic in presidential politics for a generation flipped to Republican, in large part because of a unique candidate who appealed to their interests. While one candidate capitalized on their support, the other took them for granted and focused elsewhere. The result was a startling upset that demonstrates why the Framers wanted an Electoral College.

    Without an Electoral College, candidates could more easily write off certain constituencies located in limited areas. The Electoral College binds those votes up with a larger mass of votes so that in order to win the whole, candidates have to appeal to the interests of more constituents.

    Under a popular vote system, candidates could ignore entire localities and focus on driving up votes among their natural supporters.

    Many on the left have also complained that the Electoral College gives an undue weight to small states, which, in their minds, are conservative.

    It’s true that small states are given a boost because Electoral College votes are based on population and Senate votes. Since every state automatically has two senators, small states do get slightly more weight per their population. But in practice, this ends up benefitting Democrats just as much as Republicans.

    In 2018 , for instance, the 10 smallest states sent 10 Democrats and 10 Republicans to the Senate, and the 10 largest states sent 11 Democrats and nine Republicans to the Senate.

    This system of electors is not perfect, of course. But it is the best system for a large and diverse country like the United States, as it favors candidates who do the best job of appealing to diverse interests and not just the big population centers.

    In fact, while the Founding Fathers disagreed on many things, the Electoral College was one thing that received the widest acceptance, as Alexander Hamilton recorded in Federalist 68:

    The mode of appointment of the chief magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system … which has escaped without severe censure. … I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.

    In addition to protecting diverse interests, the diffused federal nature of the Electoral College is also a vital tool to counteract election fraud and contentious recounts that could undo the public will.

    Imagine if the 2000 recount of the presidential contest between Al Gore and George W. Bush included not just Florida, but the entire nation. That’s what would have happened if the Electoral College weren’t in place to isolate election systems from each other.

    It doesn’t take long to see how the new system that the Colorado bill aims for could become a nightmare to deal with in other ways, too, especially in tightly contested races.

    This Twitter thread explains one highly plausible scenario in which the national popular vote is decided by around 100,000 votes—a tiny margin given the nation’s population is over 320 million.


    If Colorado were to narrowly choose a Democrat, while the other states chose the Republican by a wide margin, Colorado would have no way of making the other states conduct a recount.

    The people of Colorado would essentially be forced to throw the election to a candidate they didn’t support.

    Even more problematic is the effort in New Jersey to strip President Donald Trump from the state ballot over his refusal to release his tax returns. This will likely be ruled unconstitutional, but consider what it would do if implemented under a national popular vote: with Trump off the ballot in all of New Jersey, it would skew the vote for the entire nation.

    Interestingly, stripping a candidate from the ballot has been used as a tactic against a Republican presidential candidate before. Southern states made it nearly impossible to create ballots for Abraham Lincoln in the 1860 election, which severely depressed his support in those states.

    Fortunately, because of the Electoral College, Lincoln was able to win without these states, even though he ended up with only around 39 percent of the popular vote.

    If the nation had simply taken a popular vote at the time, Lincoln may never have been elected president.

    At the end of the day, the Colorado law is unlikely to ever be put into effect, despite the best efforts of activists.

    It’s important to note that while Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg has publicly voiced support for abolishing the Electoral College, she has said it would take a constitutional amendment to do so.

    “There are some things that I would like to change, one is the Electoral College,” she said in 2017 when asked about things she’d change in the Constitution. “But that would require a constitutional amendment and amending our Constitution is powerfully hard to do.”

    Given the unlikeliness of such an amendment—which, according to Gallup, actually reached a high point of popularity after the 2016 election—national popular vote activists have turned to more indirect means to accomplish their ends.

    This misguided attempt to subvert the Constitution and abolish the Electoral College has been cooked up for partisan purposes. It is based on the false notion that Hillary Clinton’s defeat in 2016 reflected a failure in our electoral system—not an abysmal candidate—and that this “relic” from the founding stands in the way of progressive dominance of U.S. politics.

    Such a view is not only partisan but also historically ignorant. It overlooks all that the Electoral College has produced—chiefly, a stable political system that forces politicians to reckon with our nation’s diverse needs.

    We would be wise to cling to that system and reject these machinations to upend it.

    This article was reprinted from The Daily Signal.

    Jarrett Stepman

    Jarrett Stepman is an editor for The Daily Signal

    This article was originally published on FEE.org. Read the original article.

  • The Electoral College is Vital to Freedom and Peace

    Michael Moore recently called the system antiquated and only created to protect the dubious “rights” of slave states. Not so. In fact, it was created to protect smaller states from domination by the largest, including slave state Virginia. Let’s remember, the people of the original thirteen states did not have to accept the Constitution. Rhode Island, which passed laws to gradually emancipate its slaves in 1784-87, didn’t ratify it until 1790.

    It’s primary reason for holding out was the addition of a Bill of Rights to the Constitution, measures which clarified the restrictions on the power of the federal government, but did not protect slavery. What it did ensure was that larger states like Virginia and Pennsylvania were not able to dictate how Rhode Island governed its internal affairs. The very first clause of the First Amendment, properly understood, prohibited the federal government from establishing a national religion, like the Church of England. Rhode Island, founded in the name of freedom of religion by a man kicked out of Massachusetts because of his religious beliefs, was especially concerned about this.

    While some of the particulars are different, the underlying principle remains the same. The United States is a diverse federation of drastically different cultures. Anyone who believes New York City, Atlanta, GA, Boise, ID and Los Angeles, CA aren’t different cultures just aren’t being honest with themselves. As President Obama is so fond of saying, E Pluribus Unum (out of many, one).

    There are some laws the federal government enforces within the states, based on its power to regulate interstate commerce. But the executive who enforces those laws must represent the people of every state, especially given how culturally diverse they are. That’s why we have an electoral college. That is why the people of Idaho, many of whom may find the societal values in places like New York or California abhorrent, agree to abide a chief executive who most likely comes from a place like that – because they and their culture have an equal say in electing him, even if they’re outnumbered.

    If the shoe were on the other foot and Midwestern evangelical states had a population advantage, you can bet New Yorkers and Californians would be defending the electoral college to the death.

    The beauty of our system is that it allows people with vastly different beliefs and values to live together in one federal republic dedicated to protecting their freedom to hold those beliefs, right or wrong, so long as they do not infringe the rights of others. To transform the republic to a pure democracy and allow a few, cosmopolitan states to rule over people who don’t share their beliefs would truly be tyranny and a threat to domestic peace.

    Source: The Electoral College is Vital to Freedom and Peace

  • The Accidental Genius of the Electoral College

    The Accidental Genius of the Electoral College

    Through the electoral college, Donald Trump will win the presidency even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote. In response, many people have called to abolish the electoral college and have the presidency decided by a popular vote, including several hundred thousand MoveOn.org petitioners.

    In contrast, I support the electoral college. Though I would find unobjectionable changes in the way the electoral college is calculated, I generally approve of the electoral college because it is one of the Constitution’s accidentally great procedural features for deterring the concentration of political power and the resulting abuses of such concentration.

    As described below, in addition to the electoral college, the Constitution’s voting system does an unexpectedly good job of deterring the concentration of political power.

    The Accidental Two-Party System

    Let’s start with the what makes the Constitution’s voting rules accidently great.

    At the time of the Constitution’s ratification in the late 1700s, its proponents expected federal power to be restrained by having a wide swath of different Americans in a large republic form many factions. These diverse factions would restrain federal action by hindering consensus. In James Madison’s words in Federalist #10:

    “The smaller the society, the fewer probably will be the distinct parties and interests composing it; the fewer the distinct parties and interests, the more frequently will a majority be found of the same party; and the smaller the number of individuals composing a majority, and the smaller the compass within which they are placed, the more easily will they concert and execute their plans of oppression. Extend the sphere, and you take in a greater variety of parties and interests; you make it less probable that a majority of the whole will have a common motive to invade the rights of other citizens; or if such a common motive exists, it will be more difficult for all who feel it to discover their own strength, and to act in unison with each other.”

    Thus, according to Madison, having a lot of people with diverse interests restrains federal power and protects liberty by deterring the formation of oppressive majorities.

    Since America has consistently had two major political parties instead of dozens of factions, Madison was, in a word, wrong. He overlooked the significance of voting rules.

    When designing the Constitution, its drafters spent considerable time considering who voted when. The Constitution makes the House popularly elected by the people, the Senate appointed by the states, the President indirectly elected through the electoral college, and the judiciary nominated by the President and appointed by the Senate. Due to a skepticism of majorities, the Constitution empowers different people to choose different components of the federal government to protect against majoritarian dangers. The question of who should decide predominates.

    Yet, the drafters largely overlooked how those people should be measured. In his significant (but dull) book Social Choice and Individual Values, Kenneth Arrow earned himself a Nobel Prize in economics by showing that individuals with rational preferences among multiple choices (i.e., for three choices A, B, and C, individuals who can rationally form a preference of A > B > C) will when aggregated, such as through voting, almost necessarily create collectively irrational social preferences (i.e. an outcome in which, collectively, society decides that choice A > B > C > A > B > C . . .).

    Arrow’s Impossibility Theorem shows that how collective decisions are measured matters as much or more than who should be included in the group deciding.

    In other words, the “will of the people” does not exist independently of the voting rules. Voting rules matter because the measure of “the will of the people” determines collective decisions.

    To have a Madisonian system with many factions that deter majorities, states would need to use a system of proportional representation in voting. Under such a rule, a party with about 10% support would receive around 10% of the seats in Congress, and Congress would need to form coalitions with many factions to pass legislation—just as Madison wanted.

    Currently, due to proportional representation, Spain has not had a government for almost a year because of the inability to form a coalition. Setting a world record, Belgium with its proportional representation voting system did not have an elected government for 589 days. Thus, European countries with proportional representation voting systems show how such voting rules can cause Madisonian inhibitions of government. As Madison suggests, a larger, more diverse country with a proportional representation voting system would likely have such restrains more frequently.

    Third party candidates can be “spoiler” candidates because of states’ first-past-the-post voting rules, leading this voting system to create and reinforce two-party systems.Throughout America, with the recent exception of Maine which just adopted ranked-choice voting, voters elect the Congressperson with the most votes—a first-past-the-post voting system.

    According to Duverger’s law, basically political science’s only “law”, first-past-the-post voting rules create two party systems because voters who diverge from established parties to vote for more ideologically favorable third parties can cause the election of the established party that they least prefer. So, if a voter votes for Ralph Nader, George Bush may win the election—even though the voter prefers Al Gore to Ralph Nader. Third party candidates can be “spoiler” candidates because of states’ first-past-the-post voting rules, leading this voting system to create and reinforce two-party systems.

    Having underappreciated the significance of voting rules, Madison expected many factions and did not intentionally design the Constitution to restrain the unanticipated two-party system.

    Drunk without Power 

    A two-party system poses the danger of one party taking exclusive control and exerting its unrestrained will on the population. Though not preventing this common 19th century occurrence, the Constitution’s voting procedures accidentally mitigate this danger through staggered elections.

    Under the Constitution, the President is elected every four years, the House every two years, and one-third of the Senate every two years. So, to control the federal government, one of the two parties probably has to be popular without interruption for at least four years—at least two election cycles—across both the population and individual states.

    Even in a presidential year, a popular party that seized the House and Presidency would likely not secure the Senate because only one-third of it gets elected at a time. With the