The Electoral College

On December 19, 2016, 538 Americans will cast their ballots to elect the President and Vice-President of the United States.

These 538 Electors form the Electoral College, a group of citizens is appointed by the political parties in each state. None can be an elected government official.

In states that Mr. Trump won, only the Electors appointed by the Republican Party will cast ballots. In the states Secretary Clinton won, only Democratic Electors cast ballots.

But Constitutionally, each Elector can vote for anyone they want.

What is the Electoral College?

alexander-hamilton

Founding Father Alexander Hamilton is on the U.S. $10 bill.

Founding Father Alexander Hamilton, who was second only to James Madison in drafting the Constitution, worried in The Federalist Papers that someone unqualified, but with a talent for “low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity” could attain office.

As a protection against this, he urged the Electors to be “favorable to deliberation”, and, ultimately, choose only someone suited to be Commander in Chief.

Over the last 240 years, there have been several “Conscientious Electors,” but never enough to change the outcome of an election.

They have every right to do so, and a moral obligation to “deliberate”. We hope they will deliberate very carefully.

Is the Electoral College Inherently Unequal?

The Electoral College violates the principle of “one person, one vote” because it awards more voting power to people in small states. For example, half a million Wyoming voters are represented by 3 Electors. If California had equal representation, it would get about 229 Electors. But it only gets 55.

It takes 3 1/2 Californian votes to equal 1 vote in Wyoming. It takes 3 1/2 Texan votes to equal 1 vote in Vermont.

Louisiana voters count more than Florida voters. Idaho voters count more than Washington voters. Rhode Island voters count more than New York voters. This kind of inequality doesn’t make sense for the United States in 2016.

Some argue that the Electoral College prevents voter fraud. But the Electoral College probably makes voter fraud easier. Fraud in a popular vote requires thousands or millions of phony votes; just a few hundred votes in a swing state can win ALL the state’s Electors and change the outcome of the Presidential election.

This is no way to hold free and fair elections in a modern democratic republic.

Although Hillary Clinton won the national popular vote by nearly one-million, Mr. Trump got more electoral votes. That’s because the Electoral College favors small state voters. Not all votes count equally!

Why Don’t All Votes Count Equally?

The Framers created the Electoral system this way for three reasons:

Since the Electors are chosen by voters, the popular vote of the state, this gives provides what Alexander Hamilton called “the sense of the people”.

The Electors are allotted based on population, and small states are better represented than large ones.

It is documented that this was originally done to protect the institution of slavery.

The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes. The substitution of electors obviated this difficulty and seemed on the whole to be liable to the fewest objections

– James Madison, Father of the Constitution

Since Electors can vote their conscience, the system should and is designed to prevent a dangerous or unfit person from assuming the nation’s highest office.

Hamilton argued that appointing Electors who were “capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice,” would prevent an unfit Commander-in-Chief.

“Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union.”

– Alexander Hamilton

The result of the Electoral College system is that small states have much more voting power than large ones, and people in rural areas generally have more voting power than people who live in cities.

In the 2016 election, the votes of Trump supporters counted 35% more than the votes of Clinton supporters.

Here is a chart mapping each’s state population and Electoral representation. For example, one Elector from Wymoing represents 187, 874 people, while one Elector from California represents 677,345 people.

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Here is that data presented visually:

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This is no way to hold free and fair elections in a modern democratic republic.

If we’re not going to use the provisions in the Electoral College that are available to protect us, then it’s time to start talking about reforming our election system. 

Right now, this is the system we have. And while this system resulted in more Electors for Trump, it also allows those Electors to vote their conscience and protect our country.

You can read more about the Electoral College here: https://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/electors.html

You can also read some of the arguments for and against the current electoral system in our FAQs.

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