On November 8, 2016, Americans voted Donald Trump as their 45th President. President-Elect Trump captured 290 electoral votes to Secretary Clinton’s 232. It appears that Clinton will win the popular vote by about 400,000, however, Trump won 30 states and Clinton won 19 (Michigan is still counting votes in a close election). Because of Trump’s performance in a majority of states, he captured the Presidency, based on the Electoral College.
The U.S. Constitution and the Electoral College
The American Framers of the Constitution wrote that the President and Vice President are elected through the Electoral College. The Electoral College is an institution, or process. States are given a certain number of “electors,” people who vote for a President and Vice President. The number of electors given to each state depends on how many representatives each state has in Congress. The electors are directed by their state legislators how to vote.
Before 1824, state legislators decided how electors would vote. However, American politicians in the 1820s and 1830s, especially Andrew Jackson, thought that all American citizens should choose the electors. Because of Jackson and others, the people became the main voice in choosing electors, not the politicians. However, Americans still vote by state through the Electoral College.
Why did the Framers Create the Electoral College? Why Didn’t the Framers Establish Direct Democracy to Choose a President?
There are at least two reasons why the Framers created the Electoral College.
1. They wanted proven leaders to decide who should be president, because they thought professional politicians would best understand who should lead the country.
2. They wanted all 13 states to join the United States of America, because the new country could probably not have survived if one or two states did not join. After the Framers wrote the Constitution, it had to be approved by the states to become the law of the land.
Allowing for a representative body, elected by the citizens, to choose a president, was a completely novel and radical idea. The Framers were taking an incredible risk in establishing a republic, and most thought the young United States of America would fail. Never before, in the history of man, had there been a republic established as the United States of America. The Framers wanted the President to be chosen by professional, proven leaders, who had been chosen by the citizens of each state. Their thinking was, “Who could make the best decisions about leaders than leaders themselves?” When the leaders were George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Benjamin Franklin, John Adams, etc., it is easy to understand this logic.
The Framers established the Electoral College also to ensure the states that were lightly populated, or rural, would not be bullied by the more populous states. The lesser-populated states of Vermont or Rhode Island would not have joined the Union if the President were to be democratically chosen. In a democratically chosen election, the interests of the people of Virginia would have dominated the young country, much like the citizens of California and New York would today. The Electoral College ensures a President that is approved over a large and diverse geographical area, not just over one particular kind of people.
How Could America’s Electoral College Change?
There are at least two ways how Americans could change the electoral process.
1. One way is for each state to change how their electors are granted. 2. The other way is for a Constitutional amendment.
For a state to change, it could decide to reward the politician with the percentage of electors that would coincide with the percentage of votes received. For example, in California, Hillary Clinton won 61.5%, Donald Trump won 33.2%, Gary Johnson won 3.2%, Jill Stein won 1.7%, and others won .4% of the vote. California, like most states, currently rewards the winner with all of its electoral votes, which is 55. If the California legislature wanted to, it could reward the electoral votes as a percentage of votes cast. However, the California Democrats (who control the California legislature) are happy with this way of rewarding electors, so California will probably not change how it rewards the winner of the vote in its state.
The second way to change the electoral process is through a Constitutional Amendment, which is detailed in Article V of the Constitution. However, to do this, a large number of states would have to agree to the change, and it is highly unlikely that state legislators, or citizens of each state, would ever agree to this, as it would diminish a state’s power in the Electoral College.
The Electoral College: An Institution of Stability
The United States of America is the world’s oldest Constitutional Republic, and the Electoral College is one of the reasons for its longevity. Only once in America’s history has a Presidential election been a catalyst for war, which was the Civil War, 1861-1865. It can be strongly argued that it wasn’t the election of Lincoln that caused the war, but the issue of slavery. The Electoral College ensures that lesser-populated states are important and not dominated by heavier-populated states. It allows for states to have freedom in deciding how electors are chosen. And it ensures that the United States of America doesn’t become divided by geography or by urban or rural living.
Interesting Questions You Can Ask Your Kids
1. Who won the popular vote and the electoral vote in the 2016 Presidential election?
2. What is the Electoral College?
3. Why did the Framers create the Electoral College?
4. How could Americans change the Electoral College?
5. What is good about the Electoral College
6. What is your opinion of the Electoral College?
By John De Gree of www.classicalhistorian.com Copyright 2016. All Rights Reserved.