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Proposals to end the Electoral College are short-sighted

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Proposals to end the Electoral College are short-sighted

Proposals to end the Electoral College are short-sighted
January 11
18:36 2019

Understandably, whenever we elected a President who loses the popular vote, there is talk of doing away with the Electoral College. With the influx of a significant number of radical left-wing legislators, that issue has again been brought to the fore.

On the first day of the 116th Congress, Democrat Representative Steve Cohen introduced two bills to amend the Constitution to end the Electoral College. The New York Times closed a recent editorial with this comment. “For most reasonable people, it’s hard to understand why the loser of the popular vote should wind up running the country.”

This has been a perennially controversial issue since the election of 1824, when John Quincy Adams lost both the popular vote and the Electoral vote (which four candidates split, preventing a majority for any) to Andrew Jackson but was subsequently selected by the House of Representatives. Winning the presidency while losing the popular vote had happened four more times since then – most notably in 2016, when Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but lost in the Electoral College.

The Electoral College was not an ill-conceived idea when it was put into our Constitution by our nation’s Founders – and it is not a bad idea today.

Critics argue that it is undemocratic. In a sense, this is true – but we are not a pure democracy. We are a Republic that operates on a representative federal system. Because of our size, we often rely on civic devices that are not purely democratic. Laws concerning voter eligibility vary from state-to-state.

The Electoral College was not only a good idea, but it was also a bit of genius. It prevents a few large states from dominating the federal election process – essentially disenfranchising the people of small states. More importantly – and less appreciated – the Electoral College has enabled America to transition power from one party to another without the kinds of civil unrest that is seen in so many other nations attempting to engage in some form of democracy.

For all the criticism of the institution, it settles our presidential elections. Without it, close elections could drag on for months and years in the courts – creating a massive constitutional crisis over the legitimacy of our national government. That alone, could lead to civil unrest among the population.

The Electoral College proved its worth every time there was controversy over an election. In its first test in 1824, none of the four candidates for President achieved the required majority in the Electoral College. In that event, the decision was thrown to the House of Representatives, which chose John Quincy Adams even though Andrew Jackson had more of the popular vote and more electoral votes. But the SYSTEM worked, and Adams was not only declared the duly elected President of the United States, but it was a process and decision respected by the nation’s leaders and the general public.

Perhaps the most controversial election in American history occurred in 1876, when Samuel Tilden carried the popular vote, but neither he nor Rutherford B. Hayes had sufficient electoral votes – with 20 southern electoral votes being in controversial contention. Despite the highly emotional and divisive environment of the post-Civil War era, the great Compromise of 1877 was reached, and the votes were given to Hayes. The election was settled. Done.

Fast forward to the election of 2000, when the results in Florida were being contested. It was apparent that Vice President Al Gore had won the popular vote, but it was the final resolution of the Florida electoral votes that settled the election. Had there been no Electoral College, the presidential election of 2000 would have dragged on for months and months in the courts.

There would have been endless court filings to have the entire Florida vote recounted. Other states, with a close result, would be subjected to court-ordered recounts.
Since the Constitution, with its Electoral College provision, did not contemplate unsettled presidential elections, there was no provision for settling them in the College’s absence. Would President Clinton simply remain President until the new head-of-state was formally recognized? Would the person with the greater number of popular votes at any given time claim the office? Would a newly ensconced President be evicted if a later vote count changed the popular vote?

The decisions and actions of any President who is just extending his tenure beyond the constitutional end date – as well as any candidate claiming the office based on a fluctuating count of the popular vote – could be and would be declared illegitimate. Could such an unofficially inaugurated President dispatch troops to protect our national interests around the world? Could ANY presidential power be executed without legal challenge?

These may seem like outlandish scenarios and preposterous questions, but only because the Electoral College has spared us from ever having to face them.
The only real danger to this ingenious protection is reckless experiments by states to undermine the concept of the Electoral College. The most dangerous is legislation that would require states electors to vote for the winner of the popular vote regardless of the votes cast in their own states. In other words, if you were elected as a Trump elector because Trump won the votes of the citizens in your congressional district, the left-wing proposal is to force them to disenfranchise the local voters and cast their vote for Clinton.

The good news is that a change in the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College would require a constitutional amendment approved by two-thirds of the states. There are just enough small states to prevent that from ever happening. Soooo … this current debate over the Electoral College – like the debates of the past – will gradually ebb as rational thinkers dominate the issue.

So, there ‘tis.

About Author

Larry Horist

Larry Horist

Larry Horist is a conservative activist with an extensive background in economics, public policy and politics. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman, as well as the White House. He has testified as an expert witness before legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress, and lectured at major colleges and universities. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He can be reached at lph@thomasandjoyce.com.

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14 Comments

  1. mspidge
    mspidge January 12, 19:53

    We don’t need 2or 3 states DECIDING WHO ARE PRESIDENT WILL BE

    Reply to this comment
  2. Kiowah
    Kiowah January 12, 19:54

    Great article! Thank you for defining this so well.

    Reply to this comment
  3. Chelemark
    Chelemark January 12, 20:29

    Typically your use of the word “rational” takes on disparaging thoughts of those who don’t think as you do. You could have written this article and just left it as your opinion of the situation, but no we have to have another beat up of those who think differently. One day you might realize how sickening it is to read comments like your “rational” every stinking day, but for sure I don’t hold much hope for an idiot like you.

    Reply to this comment
  4. James97603
    James97603 January 12, 21:19

    Your argument seems to place a smooth transition above the will of the people. Can we not have both?

    Your description of the Tilden-Hayes election was seriously incomplete. Tilden clearly held the popular vote and only needed one of the twenty disputed electoral votes to win. Yet, the electoral commission voting straight down party lines, gave the election to Hayes. If the vote was based on each state reporting its popular vote total, there would have been no Constitutional crisis and Tilden would have become president.

    Your description of the 2000 election was even more flawed. Without the electoral college, a few hundred votes in Florida would have had no significance. Gore would have becomes president and the US Supreme Court would not have embarrassed itself by descending to the level of state politics. Your assessment of “endless court challenges” is more a description of what actually happened than a state wide recount triggered by a result that was within its margin of error.

    The result of the electoral college is that it has locked our political system into a strict two party system. How many of us have been disgusted by the antics of both parties and longed for a choice that represents our values? At times, two choices seems to be no choice at all.

    Reply to this comment
  5. fred
    fred January 12, 21:43

    thanks for this article, i knew some of the facts about eliminating the electoral college, but i was not sure of all the consequences, this article makes it very clear the dangers of such an action

    Reply to this comment
  6. jpelle36
    jpelle36 January 12, 21:50

    Democrat Representative Steve Cohen introduced two bills to amend the Constitution to end the Electoral College. This proves that all Democrats in Congress are mindless morons. You can not amend the US Constitution without abolish the original amendment. As usual the Democrats make up their own rules. It takes a 2/3 vote of Congress to abolish an amendment and 2/3 vote of the States. Then a 2/3 Vote of Congress to create a new amendment and 2/3 vote of the States. I had civics in Catholic School. God only knows what they teach in Federal School. Besides a direct vote favors the Major Cities and heavy Populated States. The framers and those people living in rural areas would be completely disenfranchised. Good move Democrats with your Identity Politics.

    Reply to this comment
  7. Patty Teufel
    Patty Teufel January 12, 22:45

    I really don’t believe Hillary won the popular vote without being corrupt about it. Soros had a lot to do with voting machines!!!Trump is the real hero for America, not Corrupt Hillary and her secret corrupt ways! She couldn’t win a dog fight without being corrupt!!She’s not a nice person !!!

    Reply to this comment
  8. Donald Mccormick
    Donald Mccormick January 13, 00:23

    The electoral college was STARTED to make every state equal to all of the other state in their total votes.
    thus it made even the smallest state total vote equal to the biggest states total vote,is n FACT that anybody that votes in the smallest state. a
    state’s total vote for somebody in that small state is equal to the total votes of the largest states total votes.
    It keeps candidates from concentrating ALL of their energy on the biggest states and ignoring the small state so the small state could vote for a low candidate and that low candidate might win because the bigger candidate ignores those smaller states and thus lost the election.

    Reply to this comment
    • Doran Zeigler
      Doran Zeigler January 13, 07:50

      Your reasoning is pure nonsense. Either we are a democracy where the majority rules or we are not democratic at all and have nothing more than a rigged system to prevent majority rule. It is pure hypocrisy to sell our system as a democratic one.

      Reply to this comment
    • paulie 1
      paulie 1 January 13, 17:02

      Abolish the electoral college. The presidential election should not be about one state vs another. it should be about one person’s vote against another person. That’s why the presidential election is not called a electoral election. So simple -majority vote wins.

      Reply to this comment
  9. Doran Zeigler
    Doran Zeigler January 13, 07:46

    It works both ways. We now have a situation where smaller, less populated states trump (no pun intended) the larger more populated states. In essence, the minority dominates the majority. We pride ourselves on being democratic, but then we hear the author of this article attempting to justify an undemocratic method by using the very lame reasoning that we are really a republic. Is he saying that a republic does not have to be democratic? I never heard such garbage and a more pathetic excuse to thwart democracy and majority rule.

    Reply to this comment
  10. kohler
    kohler January 13, 16:58

    The National Popular Vote bill is 64% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    It simply requires enacting states with 270 electoral votes to award them according to the nationwide, rather than the statewide, popular vote.

    All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.

    Reply to this comment
  11. TA1
    TA1 January 14, 04:35

    just to re-calibrate your birds who fly with two right wings:
    1) the radical left were the people who objected to the british crown treating the colonies like vassals. eventually that became a movement to throw off british rule altogether, which more or less crystalized after the crown sent armies and navies to crush any opposition. Does this sound even the SLIGHTEST bit familiar during the Trump administration?

    2) the radical “right” (nee, the puritans) did not come to the new world to establish religious freedom. They came here to establish areas where their brand of religion was ENFORCED, which even britain would not tolerate. So first they went to the netherlands, which did tolerate them, but they left in fear that their children would be exposed to liberal ideas.
    Does THAT sound familiar? I thought not.

    Reply to this comment
  12. Foster
    Foster January 14, 10:32

    Your argument seems to place a smooth transition above the will of the people. Can we not have both?

    Your description of the Tilden-Hayes election was seriously incomplete. Tilden clearly held the popular vote and only needed one of the twenty disputed electoral votes to win. Yet, the electoral commission voting straight down party lines, gave the election to Hayes. If the vote was based on each state reporting its popular vote total, there would have been no Constitutional crisis and Tilden would have become president.

    Your description of the 2000 election was even more flawed. Without the electoral college, a few hundred votes in Florida would have had no significance. Gore would have becomes president and the US Supreme Court would not have embarrassed itself by descending to the level of state politics. Your assessment of “endless court challenges” is more a description of what actually happened than a state wide recount triggered by a result that was within its margin of error.

    The result of the electoral college is that it has locked our political system into a strict two party system. How many of us have been disgusted by the antics of both parties and longed for a choice that represents our values? At times, two choices seems to be no choice at all.

    Reply to this comment

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