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Electoral College is an outdated institution


Every presidential election, the question is raised: Why do we have a 223-year-old Electoral College? The Founding Fathers created it at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 to protect the independence of the chief executive and to restrain the political power of voters. The first reason to protect the president’s position still pertains, and many political authorities and scholars contend that it is an institution of the past and at this time it is a constraint on the principle of “one person, one vote.” Their critique is that the 130 million voters do not directly elect the president. A large majority do not because their votes in a state where their party loses are not counted toward the Electoral College votes of the winning party in that state. Most election scholars believe that the country should work toward a direct presidential election on the basis of “one person one vote.” To move to a direct popular election, a constitutional amendment is required to retire the Electoral College. This is said and done, but the immense effort to do so is Herculean.

Two-thirds of the Senate and the House of Representatives need to approve this amendment and pass it on to the 50 states for enactment. Three-fourths of the states need to support the amendment for it to become law.

Our presidential election is based around the Electoral College. Political parties, interest groups, state governments and historic experience are all important elements when there is an undertaking to change the presidential electoral system. Most knowledgeable election specialists are not positive about the retiring of the Electoral College.

The largest election issue today beyond the “one person, one vote” matter is the split-election outcomes. Today the winner is the candidate who receives the highest electoral vote, 270 votes or more. There have been presidential elections where the winning candidate received the requisite electoral votes, 270, and the losing candidate received the highest popular vote. The most recent split-vote election was the Bush-Gore election in 2000. A group of eight states and the District of Columbia have passed state legislation or constitutional amendments to provide for a split election, “The National Popular Vote.” Their action provides that they would pass on all of their electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most popular votes.

Fifty states with 51 percent of electoral votes are required to bring this change into being. Other states are in the process of supporting this action. If this amendment goes, the winner of popular votes in an election wins.

Robert N. Wells


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