The Constitution and the Electoral College
This is Part II of an article that reviewed the Constitution and the Electoral College.
As stated in Part I, the Electoral College is the process by which the President of the United States is elected. It is detailed and specified under Article II, Section I of the United States Constitution.
Part I reviewed the history that led up to the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Such was important because it impacts the reasoning behind the Constitution and Electoral College and helps in the understanding of both.
"History is a Myth that Men Agree to Believe" Napoleon Bonaparte
Again, Part I concluded with the signing of the Declaration of Independence.
The Articles of Confederation
While the states crafted their constitutions, the Continental Congress got together largely as a general political group. Though it was the central government, the individual states still held power. By 1777, Congress recognized that it should have written guidelines for how it was organized.
Congress worried that a central authority wouldn't be able to connect with the citizens it represented and would ultimately deteriorate into a dictatorship. But, Congress simply seemed to be a place of gathering for representatives from a group of affiliated states.
Each state would go on maintaining "sovereignty, freedom, and independence." The Congress would only print money, regulate peacekeeping, and solve disagreements between different states. Most importantly, Congress would preserve the Continental Army and manage war efforts. Each state had one vote. Nine out of thirteen states had to vote for a law in order for it to be enacted, and any changes to the articles required unanimous agreement
Certain issues eluded resolution. One proposal was to tax states based upon the total number of inhabitants, excluding Native Americans. The southern slave-owning states contended that taxes should be based only on the amount of white citizens. The south prevailed when congress decided that taxes would be based on land values and improvements. Congress could not impose taxes or regulate commerce.
"There is Nothing Good in War Except it's Ending" Abraham Lincoln
In 1776, France began to secretly assist the colonists. In 1778, it openly entered the war and helped ready the colonists. Its participation was invaluable and helped the Continental Army force Britain to surrender at Yorktown, Virginia in 1781. By then, the colonies essentially won their independence, although fighting officially ending in 1783.
Thomas Jefferson: The greatest danger to freedom is a government that disregards its constitution (re-quoted to pass submission)
Now that America was independent, it needed a more authoritative central government in order to remain constant. In 1786, Alexander Hamilton called for a constitutional convention in Philadelphia.
On May 25, 1787, the Constitutional Convention opened at the State House (now Independence Hall). Fifty-five delegates attended, representing all thirteen states except Rhode Island.
Congress initially sought to amend the Articles of Confederation but then proposed an entirely new form of government. After an intensive, months-long debate, they developed a design that established the three branches of government, all of which had equal power and served as checks and balances so that no single branch would have too much authority. The three branches were as follows:
- Executive: the president leads this branch. It carries out the nation's laws;
Legislative: Congress leads this branch. The House of Representatives and the Senate make up Congress. It makes the nation's laws; and
- Judicial: The Supreme Court leads this branch. It reviews the laws.
Another sensitive issue concerned state representation in the legislature. Delegates from the larger states thought population should determine representation. Smaller states thought representation should be equal. The two-division legislature solved the matter. Each state would have equal representation in an upper house (Senate) and a proportional representation in a lower house (House of Representatives).
The U.S. Constitution was now the supreme law of the land.
"I Never Dreamed About Being President. I Dreamed About Being Willie Mays" George W. Bush
The First Presidential Election
The delegates contemplated various methods for selecting the president. They rejected popular election because a dispersed citizenship couldn't possibly appreciate a candidate's character and/or would only vote for a favorite from their state. They also rejected congressional election as such could lead to cliques and group-led deception.
As well, they feared a tyrant could manipulate direct election.
As well, they wanted to provide extra power to the smaller states.
The delegates finally agreed to the Electoral College scheme, whereby each state would direct a number of electors equal to the entire number of senators and representatives to which the state was entitled. The president, thus, was to be elected through the states.
The candidate who received the most votes would be president and the runner up would be vice president. Should there be a tie, the House of Representatives, because it was the house nearest the people, it would break it.
This lasted through four elections.
In 1800, political parties had developed, and Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr tied. As the Constitution stipulated, the House of Representatives broke the tie by deciding in Jefferson's favor (Hamilton was pivotal in this decision, and it heightened his and Burr's intense conflict). It took thirty-six tries, a situation the Electoral College was set-up to avoid, so in September 1804, the 12th Amendment was added to the Constitution, which provided a ballot for the Vice President.
The 20th Amendment
The 20th Amendment fixed the starts of terms for the Congress to January 3 of each year and for the President and Vice President to January 20 of each year. This was to offer newly elected members time to settle in.
The 23rd Amendment
The 23rd Amendment offers citizens living in Washington, D.C. the same rights to vote as electors living in the states.
Donald Trump: The false Electoral College made everyone laugh at us. The loser was victorious (re-quoted to pass submission)
Should the Electoral College be Abolished
The 2016 election was certainly not the first time a candidate won the popular vote but lost the election. It's marks the fifth time in our nation's history that such has happened. Here are the last four times it occurred:
2000: Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election to George Bush. The U.S. Supreme Court stopped a recount of the Florida ballots and gave the state's 25 electoral votes to Bush, securing his presidency.
- 1888: Grover Cleveland secured the the popular vote but lost the election to Benjamin Harrison, who got 233 electoral votes.
- 1876: Samuel Tilden secured the popular vote but lost the election to Rutherford B. Hayes by one electoral vote.
1824: Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but lost the election when the House of Representative selected John Quincy Adams by over 50 percent.
Trump will be the 45th president, so one can say this happens 20% of the time.
Those Supporting Elimination of the Electoral College
Over the past two hundred years, people have tried over seven times to eliminate the Electoral College.
Those who support eliminating it say that, because some states have a lot more electoral votes, candidates spend much more time in those states. They feel that, in the end, only a few states wind up deciding the election and only selected people get to see and hear the candidate.
The results of many surveys support abolishing it, as well.
Those Against Abolishing the Electoral College
Those who wish to retain the Electoral College argue that, because an official change requires a Constitutional amendment, it's too hard. A way around such an amendment would be state laws directing state representatives to cast votes for candidates who won each state's popular votes. The group, National Popular Vote, is attempting to achieve this and it's gaining recognition in states with Democrat controlled legislatures. But, then again, what if the legislature changes its mind?
Others point out that a candidate could win with just 35% of the vote, which could then spark a nationwide recount. If Florida 2000 was a nightmare, imagine that horror.
Without the Electoral College, a president could be elected simply because one area was a dense metropolis. The Electoral College provides equality to the rural areas. It also provides more intimacy to the country. As well, it boosts the standings of minority groups.
I feel both sides have excellent points. But, for me, I keep going back to our history. The founding fathers were very clear. We may be one nation, but we consist of separate states, each with "sovereignty, freedom, and independence." The fairness of our representation to the united government is distributed through our representatives: we all have two senators and a proportional amount of representatives. How we elect those officials is governed by our state constitutions.
The election of our president was never meant to be through popular means and not simply because the founding fathers had no faith in the people. Representation of the people was always conducted through the states, through representatives and elected officials. Our history is very, very clear. The only times the states and citizens came together was during war. That's it. The state was always an independent entity and free to do what it wanted.
The country still conducts still itself this way. Each state has individual rules and laws. Yes, the Constitution is the supreme law and it still oversees us, but that doesn't mean that the population has say over how the federal government works or how the Constitution functions. The population does not have say over the appointment of cabinet members, Supreme Court Justices, or ambassadors or the federal budget or taxes. Our senators and representatives do, and that's who we elect when we vote.
Over 90 million eligible voters did not cast ballots this past election. A little less than 60% of those who were eligible to say who would be our leaders actually voted. That's so sad. I'm sure the other 40% had opinions. I'm sure they all express those opinions. Maybe if everyone actually voiced their expressions at the voting booth, the popular vote would be much clearer.
I believe the founding fathers truly wanted to protect the people from tyranny and keep the citizens free. No system is perfect, but something shouldn't be radically changed because one or two things go astray. That's when things really go wrong.