Is our method of selecting a President outdated? Today close to 60 percent of Americans favor abolishing the Electoral College. Many argue that the system is archaic and unnecessary. Most however, are uninformed when it comes to the benefits our current system provides. Tara Ross, author of the new book Enlightened Democracy: The Case For the Electoral College, argues that the system the framers set up actually functions better and is more needed today than in the past.
The framers of the Constitution wanted a form of government ?that would reflect the people but also respect the minority.? The system they set up ?allows the majority to rule, but only when it is reasonable. It also allows the minority to throw up road blocks.? The Electoral College is the perfect system that provides the coexistence of these provisions.
Alexander Hamilton, author of a majority of the Federalist Papers, said, ?The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is?I venture?and hesitate not to affirm that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent.? The Founders were incredibly proud of their invention, and rightly so. It has been functioning well for 200 plus years. John Fortier of the American Enterprise Institute, himself a proponent of the Electoral College, urges us to look at the results of the system, ?we have elected many Presidents under this institution, good ones.?
Tara Ross points out that ?the Electoral College was originally seen as a compromise between the large and the small states, and it still serves the nation well today.? Two main effects of the Electoral College make this 18th Century invention a solution in 21st Century America.
First, the Electoral College encourages moderation, compromise and coalition building. The Founders set up a federalist system to protect our freedom. A presidential candidate must appeal to a broad range of people. Any appeal to extremists or pandering to regional interests in the country will not likely win enough states to provide the required 270 electoral votes necessary to become president. A candidate must also tour enough states to win this majority of electoral votes. The ?swing state? argument seems to undermine this, but according to Ross, ?over time there is truly no such thing as a safe state.? Take West Virginia for example. West Virginia has not voted for a Republican candidate for president since 1928. It was not until George W. Bush took advantage of two key issues (gun control and the effect of environmental policies on coal mining) that West Virginia changed from a ?safe? to a ?swing? state.
Second, the Electoral College encourages stability and certainty in elections. The system makes it very difficult to contest elections. Take the 2000 General Election for example. Even though it was the first time in more than 100 years that a candidate won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote, the Founders? brilliant invention prevented a potential mega crisis. The Electoral College allowed us to isolate the problem and deal with it on a micro level. Without the present system the problem would have been magnified dramatically as nationwide recounts would have been required. It is very difficult to contest 50 different elections.
For this same reason, the Electoral College also prevents massive voter fraud. For example, California is considered a ?safe state? for Democrats. Were California (the nation?s most heavily populated state) to engage in massive voter fraud, it would be of little benefit to the Democrats because no matter how many Democratic votes are counted, the state still only has 55 electoral votes. The same can be said of Texas, or any other Republican ?safe state.? Were a direct popular vote in place these heavily populated states would have a much greater incentive for fraud. Because these states are so clearly dominated by one party, prosecutors are unlikely to look into charges of fraud for fear of retribution. The Electoral College prevents much of the motivation for fraud.
The Electoral College also promotes and protects our two-party system, which promotes stability and certainty. ?Without a two-party system,? Ross explains, ?the electorate would splinter its votes among many candidates. Multi-candidate presidential races would result in constant recounts, uncertainty, and consistent runoffs.? John Fortier warns against systems with a large number of political parties. ?At the end of the day coalitions have to be built, a majority must be reached. This often results in behind the scenes deals. Our system is very transparent.?
The Electoral College may be imperfect as Alexander Hamilton concedes in Federalist No. 68, but it is nevertheless excellent. The moderation and stability it promotes protects and preserves our freedom. It is one of the crowning achievements of our Founders and should be revered as such.