Now that we have had the most contentious election in modern history, for the second timein this century, we have a result where the presidential elect has lost the majority of the popular vote. As a result, many are calling for a Constitutional Amendment eliminating the electoral college altogether.
Many wrongly attribute the creation of the electoral college to the founder's desire to protect minority rights. This may be partially true, but the main reason for the electoral college was the founders' distrust of democracy. Most people do not realize that the United States Constitution does not give anyone the right to vote for president of the United States. Our country was formed as a Republic and not a Democracy because the founders were fearful of populism or fear of "mob rule" Our founding father's were intellectual elitists, who having read Aristotle, believed that popular opinion can be easily manipulated, and that leaders should do what is right rather than what is popular.
The Constitution only grants the right to vote for the House of Represnetatives. The right to the direct election of Senators was not created untl 1913 when the Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified. Until that time, United States Senators were chosen by State legislators, and not by an election of the people. Similarly, that was how presidnets were chosen as well.
Instead of elections, the Constitution allows each state to determine its own method of selecting how to distrubute its electoral college votes. Currently,each state has elections, but nothing in the Constitution mandates it. 48 states have adopted a winner take all approach so all of the states's elctoral votes go to the candidate who received the most votes. However, Nebraska and Maine give a proportionate amount of electoral votes based on congressional districts.
When the Constitution was written, the orginal idea was for the Congress to determine who the president would be, similar to more of a parlimentary system. James Madison, on the other hand, preferred a straight popular election of the executive rather than the electoral college, but thought that the idea would fail because of the slavery question.
Some states have considered the idea that each state give a proportionate amount of electors based upon congressional districts,as oppoed to the winner take all approach. Opponents have arged that gerrymandering could result in states awarding the majority of electors to one candidate who may have lost that state's popular vote. This may shock people, but nothing in the Constitution would prevent this from being adopted, or even for states to elimate elections for president all together.
When George Washington was elected president, he was not voted president by the people. Of the 15 states in the Untion in 1792, Connecticut, Delaware, Georgia, New Jersey, New York, North carolina, Rhode Island, Vermont, and South Carolina did NOT have presidential elections. Instead, the electoral college was determined by those states' legislatures. As late as 1832, the state of South Carolina still denied its citizens the right to vote for president.
We have come a long way since the founding of our country. The United States has become more democratic. Even in the states that allowed elections for president, only white male landowners over 21 were allowed to vote. However, the founding father's believed that democracy could ironicially lead to tyranny because the "mob" could easily be manipulated and misled based on emotion rather than reason. Jefferson believed democracy would only work with an educated well informed populace.
Would eliminating the electoral college be a step in the right direction or the wrong direction? Is promoting democracy a positive step if it risks creating tyranny?