We have an Electoral College to protect slave states

❝ Every four years, we elect a president in this country, and we do it in a strange way: via the Electoral College. The reasons for the Electoral College are unclear to most people. On the surface, it appears anti-democratic, and needlessly complicated.

Why not rely on a popular vote, as almost every other democracy does? If a popular vote makes sense for gubernatorial elections, why doesn’t it make sense for presidential elections? What did the American founders have in mind when they erected this ostensible firewall against majority will?…

Why does the Electoral College exist? Is it exclusively about federalism and slavery?

❝ There are several standard stories that I learned in school, and then there’s an emerging story that I find more explanatory. I learned in school that it was a balance between big and small states. But the real divisions in America have never been big and small states; they’re between North and South, and between coasts and the center…

So what’s the real answer? In my view, it’s slavery. In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn’t vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount – the three-fifths clause – and that’s what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections. “And thus it’s no surprise that eight of the first nine presidential races were won by a Virginian. Virginia was the most populous state at the time, and had a massive slave population that boosted its electoral vote count.”

What’s the greatest argument against it?

❝ Again, it’s in tension with a basic idea of one person, one vote. The problem with most of the arguments for the Electoral College are that they prove too much, because if they were good arguments, every state is stupid, as no state has a mini-Electoral College. And if that’s good enough for the governorship of Texas or California, why not for the presidency of the United States?

History’s a bear, ain’t it? There is a current legal tweak circulating in an attempt to work around the Electoral College. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is what it’s called and only blue states have signed on. Republicans are confident the current Electoral College system favors them. No red states have supported the idea.

So, Congress ignores civil rights one more time. The mindset of slave-owners ain’t about to leave town.

17 thoughts on “We have an Electoral College to protect slave states

  1. archecotech says:

    Here’s what I did find. Americans don’t vote for a particular president they vote for an elector who represents them as a body. The elector is chosen from within representative party at the state party conventions. The electors are based on the number of senators and representatives that each state has, from both parties. Those who are elected as to this position is decided by both the Republican and Democratic parties within the state. The persons prohibited from serving as electors are Senators, Representatives, and persons “holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States.”

    After examining the information out there I see no cause to be alarmed by the process. In fact I can see that our forefathers saw something we don’t see, a fair and impartial election process.

    It sought to reconcile differing state and federal interests, provide a degree of popular participation in the election, give the less populous states some additional leverage in the process by providing “senatorial” electors, preserve the presidency as independent of Congress, and generally insulate the election process from political manipulation.


    * http://www.npr.org/2016/11/06/500660424/how-the-electoral-college-works-and-why-you-don-t-want-to-think-about-it

    * http://www.history.com/topics/electoral-college

    • keaneo says:

      Constituionally, we are a democratic republic. Aside from the upper house, all electoral matters are defined by one person, one vote. Electors – as a useless intermediary anyway in the 21st Century – should be absolutely representative of their population numbers. SCOTUS has affirmed every century.

      Professor Amar points out electors at this nation’s founding were counted as representing slaves who had no civil rights at all…to skew elections away from the majority of citizens eliminating slavery.

      In today’s world, simply another opportunity for gerrymandered elections.

      From the scholrly side: http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/fss_papers/790/

      Again, but, with a broader brush: http://historynewsnetwork.org/article/436

      • archecotech says:

        Just out of curiosity are you a democrat? The reason I ask is that Madison was a well. The thing that is curious is that abolishing the electoral college in the past or present wouldn’t shift the vote enough to make a significant difference. Logic says it would lean in the democrats favor but I suspect this is faulty.

        The fault being that it made no sense to abolish it back then or now since the power was kept in the dominant party, the slave owners (democrats again). Today it also makes little difference whether it’s kept or not if 42% of all registered voters are Democrats and 41% are Republicans. It’s also clear that those who vote today are not the most educated voters thus maintaining the electoral vote as it is ensures that individuals who are better informed about the candidates ultimately make the decision not just for themselves but for their constituents. It makes sense to keep the electoral college when we look at two different types of scales, the first being a scale with a single sliding weight (ultimately less accurate) compared to a scale with two sliding weights (more highly precise)

        Thus eliminating the electoral college will fail it’s true purpose, maintaining a truly healthy system. That’s why they call them checks and balances, looking at it a different way it’s never in the best interest of a government or individual to be too one sided. Thank you for sharing your sources it’s helped me see things more clearly.

        • keaneo says:

          Don’t know if you missed a chunk of American history – or never made to Mill’s “Tyranny of the Majority” – but, Americans kind of prefer democracy. We may let the slave owning days hang around to mess up presidential elections; but, the “checks and balances” are grounded in tripartite segments of governing not electoral choices. And as Amar also noted in this piece and larger works – we never extended this portion of our constitution to any other election, provincial, state, federal, whatever. It’s use has only depended on political opportunism from anyone of several parties over time.

          I don’t mean to sound insulting; but, from an American point of view, you sound a bit fearful of democracy.

          • archecotech says:

            I’m not fearful of a true democracy, even in Russia we have a form of democracy that is not seen from the outside. Form and substance are two very different things, your point is taken. Again abolishing it doesn’t help either side, it only angers the loser. This last election proves it was smart to keep the electoral vote. I don’t remember seeing the Republicans protesting or rioting, that to me speaks a lot.

            A lesson in discourse would be appropriate on both sides.

            As far as insulting me, I could care less. But I will keep my opinion just like you will keep yours.

      • archecotech says:

        The only reason I can see to eliminate the electoral college is to put the balance of power in the more dominate party, this in itself is criminal. If America is truly a democracy it will always seek to keep a balance of power between the two parties.

      • archecotech says:

        Also one other small comment, that is revealing. The title of this paper states what? It says, “Some thoughts on the Electoral College: Past, Present, and Future. It’s never stated as facts, which is quite different from the possible truth.

  2. Mike says:

    “Ditch the Electoral College? Yes we can (Baltimore Sun 11/13/16) http://www.baltimoresun.com/news/opinion/editorial/bs-ed-electoral-college-20161113-story.html “Ten states plus Washington, D.C., have enacted legislation that could lead to a system that leaves the Electoral College intact but ensures that it deliver the presidency to the popular vote winner. This national compact stipulates that as soon as states comprising a majority of the Electoral College — 270 votes — sign on, each will award its electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote. The Constitution allows states to allocate their electors as they choose — the winner-take-all system is not in the Constitution, and Maine and Nebraska have already abandoned it, choosing to split their electoral votes based on who wins in each congressional district.”

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes nationwide (i.e., all 50 states and the District of Columbia). It has been enacted into law in 11 states with 165 electoral votes, and will take effect when enacted by states with 105 more electoral votes. See http://www.nationalpopularvote.com/ for written explanation and status in each state

  3. archecotech says:

    I went and read Mill’s “Tyranny of the Majority”. So how does the popular vote protect the entire populous when in Mill’s proof it states the following: the majority opinion may not be the correct opinion? How does eliminating the electoral vote safeguard the minority?

    Mills goes on to state there is only way individual liberty may be restricted:

    That the only purpose for which power can be rightfully exercised over any member of a civilized community, against his will, is to prevent harm to others. His own good, either physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant . . . Over himself, over his body and mind, the individual is sovereign.

    This brings me back to what is currently happening, the protesting and rioting are purporting harm against the public claiming that their choice is the better choice? This is exactly why the electoral college must be kept in place. It proves that the people are not capable of self-governing and at the least responsible for their actions and second not level headed enough to vote for a candidate that would lead in a manner any less than their own.

    By capitulating to this behavior sets the government up to be ruled by the unjust. I seriously doubt anybody want a despot for a president either way. If the immoral majority rules the land than the land itself is in danger.

    • Ochlocrat says:

      “American Confederate Secession was anchored by a version of Subsidiarity, found within the doctrines of John C. Calhoun. Antebellum South Carolina utilized Calhoun’s doctrines in the Old South as public policy, adopted from his theory of concurrent majority. This “localism” strategy was presented as a mechanism to circumvent Calhoun’s perceived tyranny of the majority in the United States. Each state presumptively held the Sovereign power to block federal laws that infringed upon states’ rights, autonomously. Calhoun’s policies directly influenced Southern public policy regarding slavery, and undermined the Supremacy Clause power granted to the federal government. The subsequent creation of the Confederate States of America catalyzed the American Civil War.” https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tyranny_of_the_majority#Concurrent_majority See links, also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Concurrent_majority#Calhoun_and_nullification

      • archecotech says:

        Absolutely, individuals make their own choices, moral or immoral. The question is if the majority is immoral does it have the right to impose this state upon the minority? Tyranny comes form the immoral majority when it want to dictate or impose this behavior on the minority. Immorality in itself shows a lack of good judgement, do you truly want this inflicted upon all people? Does the minority not have a voice if it stands for righteousness?

        • moss says:

          We just ended up with an amoral minority losing the popular democratic vote – winning the “election”. That’s a small “d” BTW. You may not be aware that in much of the United States, the majority of voters choose not to belong to either of the two parties we’re allowed in practice.

          You may fear democracy; but, at least it allows for more than a binary choice.

          • archecotech says:

            Listen closely; it’s clear that you don’t like the choice of who was made president. That’s fine! That’s your right in America, believe it or not many don’t agree with Putin being president here as well. Here they have the same right to disagree with who’s is president. Politics are just as dirty there as they are here. Those who chose not to vote could have made a difference as to who became president.
            Nearly 124 million votes were cast in this last election, the total number of citizens that are registered to vote is 146 million [1]. That means that 22 million people that could have voted, didn’t. This means that 15% that didn’t vote could have and maybe just maybe the presidential choice would be different. Of those who are eligible only half voted, again had they voted it could have been a different outcome. In reality those “who did not vote” won the election by a landslide [2]. What does that tell you about the voting system in America?
            In a binary system the non-voter is the larger body yet it does not control – Houston we have a problem. Pew research conducted research back in 2006 about this larger body and its reasons for not voting [3]. So why does it matter? Go back to the reasons why the Electoral College was created and you will find our answer [4]. Thus the Electoral College was born not because of slavery but to balance the choice because of an apathetic majority. Thinking that it was for any other reason is absolute lunacy and cherry picking.
            [1] http://www.politico.com/2016-election/results/map/president
            [2] http://brilliantmaps.com/did-not-vote/
            [3] http://www.people-press.org/2006/10/18/who-votes-who-doesnt-and-why/
            [4] http://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/fss_papers/790/ – page 469

  4. leonardrysdyk says:

    In the early years of the republic, Virginia had 20% fewer (free) people than Pennsylvania but 10% more electoral votes. Every wonder why so many of the first presidents were Virginians? More on my blog.

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