Letter: Time to discard electoral college

From: Robert Campbell


In the present climate of our national politics, our first five presidents, some of the important founders of our country, would not be elected to the presidency. There are a number of reasons for this. George Washington, John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe helped to create a constitutional republic with amazing checks and balances to control political power. A major problem they faced was to figure out what kind of executive branch we were going to have. Some argued for the president to be selected by Congress. Others wanted the governors of the states to choose. There were also some who favored a direct popular vote of the president. The Constitution is a “bundle of compromises,” and one of the most interesting was the creation of the Electoral College.

James Madison said, “As long as men hold differing opinions, have different amounts of wealth, and owning differing amount of property, they will continue to form alliances against the public interest, and infringe upon the rights of others.” Thus Madison argued for a Bill of Rights and an electoral college to prevent the excesses and weaknesses of democracy. The electoral college was designed to have, in theory, independent, thoughtful, knowledgeable citizens who are not government officials decide who should be president. In reality, the electors are partisan representatives of each political party and vote according to the party wishes. This is not what Madison had in mind for he thought that political parties, interest and lobbying groups (factions) would be the detriment of an American republic.

In reality, the electoral college does not act independently nor necessarily for the general welfare and genuine public interest. In most cases, in our history, the candidate who receives the greatest popular vote also gets the majority of electoral votes. That did not happen in the election of 2000, nor the election of 2016. There were only four other times in our history that we had similar cases. In essence, the electoral college is a partisan political tool that violates its very purpose. The presidency is the only elected office in which the person receiving the greatest number of votes does not necessarily hold office. Americans need to rethink the electoral college as it operates today and perhaps discard it or appoint a panel of objective philosophers to be our Electoral College.