A Point of View: The Electoral College: constitutionally grounded in states’ right
The United States Congress will meet, in joint session, on Jan. 6, to count the Electoral College’s electoral votes. There have been calls for the reform, or even the abolition of, the Electoral College. Such calls are not new; there have been more constitutional amendments introduced in Congress for alteration or abolition of the Electoral College than on any other subject.
Some people feel that the candidate who receives the most votes in the nation should win the seat. They also believe that, if they are located in a state that is heavily one-sided, their vote may not count at all. But the framers were logical, when establishing this system of electors.
When the Constitution was drafted, America was an almost entirely rural society. There were no political headlines, TV news programs or Internet. Weeks sometimes went by, before political news was received from other states. In this atmosphere, the founders were concerned that a regional candidate in a highly-populated area could garner enough votes to win an election. A candidate who might not have the interests of the entire nation at heart, could win an election.
If an individual needed to win only the popular vote, that person could be elected president without winning a majority of America’s residents. That individual would not have been elected by a consensus of the states, but simply on his or her popularity in a particular state, or in two or three heavily-populated areas.
Our present system forces a candidate to win a majority of the states’ electoral votes and obliges that individual to appeal to the entire nation: a wider portion of the population than a few densely-populated cities or areas.
It is not sufficient for a candidate who is hugely popular in Philadelphia, New York City, Chicago or Los Angeles to win the election. Candidates must make a case more broadly, in order to garner the necessary electors nationally to gain the presidency.
Article 2 of the Constitution and its 12th Amendment stipulates that electors who are chosen by the state choose the president.
A state is allotted as many electors as it has representative in Congress. The Electoral College is a bulwark of states’ rights. I believe that it also fosters the cohesiveness of the entire nation.
We are the United States of America, not the united people of America, because it is a union of states and not merely individuals. States directly elect presidents and individuals indirectly elect those leaders.
This protects the integrity of the various states by vesting them with the authority to choose electors who will then choose the president. It fosters the cohesiveness of the entire nation and an examination of the issues nationally, discouraging candidates from concentrating on a few dispersed, but highly concentrated populated areas, and locally popular issues.
The Electoral College provides several other important benefits. Because a candidate must win at least 270 electoral votes from across the nation, that candidate cannot become president without a significant, widespread voter base. The college ensures a broad, national consensus for a candidate that will allow that person to govern, once in office.
Think of the influence New York City has, over New York state. When is the last time a governor or senator from New York has been a native of Western New York? Think of the impact this concentration of power has had, on the rest of the state.
The Electoral College system prioritizes the most important factors and issues, in selecting a president. A system of political representation that decentralizes decision-making and increases the authority of local control tends to support the concepts of representative democracy. That is what the Electoral College does.
This decentralization of political selection process and a more widely-dispersed political participation in a nation conforms to the original intent of our founding fathers and as articulated in Article 2 of the United States Constitution and its 12th Amendment.
The rights of states are well preserved. The early framers knew what they were doing and we will see their process play out, again, on Thursday, Jan. 6.