Monday, May 21, 2018

The original purpose of the electoral college

The electoral college was put into place so that people would not elect the President directly, but would put that decision into the hands of other people who were better informed and would do the voting for them. The electoral college was set up before there even were political parties in America, and when the system of pledged electors emerged, Hamilton and Madison were horrified, claiming that this defeated the whole purpose of the Electoral College.

Now, you may like the idea of a system where living in a densely populated area means that your vote counts less, and living in a more populated area means your vote counts more. I don't see an argument for this offhand, unless large states were somehow exploiting the smaller ones, and they're not. No one is crucifying Middle America on a cross of gold. I don't see much force in the Argument from Geographical Balance myself. But even if this were a good argument, you cannot say that this is the reason the founders put in the Electoral College. Alexander Hamilton would not recognize the Electoral College as it is currently employed. The original purpose of the electoral college went by the boards shortly after our country was founded. 

4 comments:

bmiller said...

Now, you may like the idea of a system where living in a densely populated area means that your vote counts less, and living in a more populated area means your vote counts more. I don't see an argument for this offhand, unless large states were somehow exploiting the smaller ones, and they're not.

I think you meant less instead of more in this quote. But isn't this the same type of compromise between the House and Senate? Heavily populated states got more Congressmen to satisfy the larger colonies, but all states get the same number Senators to satisfy the smaller colonies.

Starhopper said...

The Electoral College was a good idea at the time, but it is now long past its sell-by date. Time to scrap it, along with lifetime appointments for judges, and gerrymandered districts. (I will miss the red/blue maps, but electoral dysfunction is too high a price to pay for pretty pictures.)

bmiller said...

@Starhopper,


Victor is right that the original intent suffered infant death syndrome almost immediately after being passed.

"Hamilton and Madison were horrified, claiming that this defeated the whole purpose of the Electoral College."

So much for original intent.

Joe Hinman said...

I think the true purpose was to make sure a demagog didn't make it in. That has been empirically proven not to work.