Original Intent

While I fully agree that the Electoral College was not an arbitrary decision and should not be abolished, I also think that we need to articulate the arguments in favor of the Electoral College better than simply stating:

Our Forefathers specifically wanted the STATES to elect the President and Vice President, not the general public.

That argument is about as compelling as the argument often used by those who want to abolish the Electoral College that we have the means to count every vote today (as if addition had not been invented back in 1789). Our Founding Fathers did want the states to elect the President and Vice President, but they also wanted the states to elect Senators. We passed the 17th Amendment to change that for Senators so reading history books may tell us that the Electoral College was a conscious choice by the founders, but those same history books also remind us that we have ignored the founders in the past and we could do so again in the 28th Amendment.

About David

David is the father of 8 extremely organized children (4 girls / 4 boys) who is constantly seeking answers to tough questions related to parenting, education and politics while moonlighting for 40 hours each week as a technology professional. He also enjoys cooking, gardening, and sports.
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7 Responses to Original Intent

  1. One piece of flawed logic is the idea that “because we’ve always done it this way, it is the best way.” The drawbacks to the electoral college are many. In the general election, only those states which are competitive will hear from Presidential candidates. Incumbent Presidents may base funding priorities on the basis of providing pork to an important swing state.

    More than anything, is the reality that your vote doesn’t count. I have yet to vote for the winner of Utah’s electoral votes, and I’m 46. If it mattered whether a Presidential candidate got 60% of Utah’s vote rather than 55%, Presidential candidates might actually care what Utahns think. As it is, they know that Jesus Christ running on the Democratic ticket would take second in Utah and give us appropriate consideration.

  2. David says:

    I agree that “we’ve always done it this way so it must be the best way” is very flawed logic. The drawbacks you list are drawbacks of the system, but not necessarily of the Electoral College. The concept of “swing states” where all the campaigning is focused is a result of block voting which is not a requirement of the EC. The questions that we have to ask before undertaking such a systemic change are “what were they trying to accomplish when they set it up this way, what were they trying to avoid/prevent, and do we still face the dangers they were planning around?”

    I agree that it is frustrating that my vote does not count, but if we went to popular elections there is a good chance that presidential elections would focus on the most populous states, the largest media markets, and whatever swing demographics the candidates identified. If that were the case my vote would still not be courted in most elections because I live in a small state without a major media market and I conveniently miss being identified in any target group.

    I’m willing to consider changing the system, but only after discussing the issues of why the system was set up this way in the first place.

  3. Being the devil’s advocate, why would a citizen of Wyoming’s vote count more than the vote of a citizen in New York? The electoral college, adds to the already injustice of Rhode Island having the same number of Senators as California. Does one person’s vote count? Is it equal? Or have we institutionally given a greater value to small states than we have to larger, more populous states?

    Why should my vote mean more than the vote of some other citizen with the same rightsw guaranteed under the constitution? If the presidential race is meaningful to me, am I required to move to a state where the vote is close?

    I think the electoral college has outlived it’s usefulness. Admittedly, I feel alienated by the fact that my fellow Utahns are dumber than bags of hair, but I wish that my vote actually counted.

  4. David says:

    If you think it injustice that each state have an equal number of senators then you don’t want to live in a nation where we have two functionally different houses within out legislative branch.

    Would it be fair for the concerns of the entire nation to be dictated by the agenda of the citizens of the 9 most populous states? (9 because according to the 2000 US Census the 9 most populous states have 50% of the nations population.)

    The question is, does the principle of federalism still have merit, or should we live in a nation where the states are merely administrative districts of the Federal government?

    Federalism is based on the premise that the states are sovereign political entities and that each state should have equal standing at some place in the federal government. Do we want a system where California always has as much power as the 22 smallest states combined? In the house that is the case, and it’s not very equal about population either. California has 15 times the population of Utah but 18 times the number of representatives. Texas has 9 times the population but 11 times the representatives. Either we have to become a true democracy instead of a republic or else we need to do our best to minimize the inequality of our representation. Our current course favors the citizens of small states in one legislative body and the citizens of large states in the other.

  5. David says:

    I’m sorry that you feel alienated (I often do too) but I don’t think your fellow citizens of Utah are as dumb as you suggest – I think they have been lulled into political sleepwalking.

  6. yeh, “bags of hair” was a little strong. “Easily led” would probably be more accurate.

    Federalism is one of those issues that is complicated. Just think if Brigham Young’s was successful in creating that expansive “State of Deseret” which included all of Nevada and parts of other states. It was only through the complicated histories of the region that determined the superficial state boundaries of the west.

    When you give power to the state, you take power away from the people. The reality is, the people of California have less representation and less influence in the Presidential election than their population should warrant. Utahns have every reason to like a strong degree of federalism and state sovereignty. The issue is whether that is fair for the citizens of our country. Does every vote count equally? The reality is no.

  7. David says:

    If the federal government were not intimately involved in every little detail of our lives then it would not be as big a deal that a vote from California is not precisely equal to a vote from Utah.

    If we did not give 1/3 of our GNP to the Federal government and then make half our state budgets dependent on their portion of that money then the people of California would have equal power as the people of Utah. Californians would have power in the State of California while Utahns would have power in the State of Utah and the government in Washington D.C. could be more narrowly focused on those things which could not be handled at the state level (immigration, national defense, postal service, weights and measures, coinage . . .).

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