Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Pertaining to the electoral college

Here is a site  (and written by by William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director FEC National Clearinghouse on Election Administration) providing background about the electoral college:  specifically,

One idea was to have the Congress choose the president. This idea was rejected, however, because some felt that making such a choice would be too divisive an issue and leave too many hard feelings in the Congress. Others felt that such a procedure would invite unseemly political bargaining, corruption, and perhaps even interference from foreign powers. Still others felt that such an arrangement would upset the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government.

A second idea was to have the State legislatures select the president. This idea, too, was rejected out of fears that a president so beholden to the State legislatures might permit them to erode federal authority and thus undermine the whole idea of a federation.

A third idea was to have the president elected by a direct popular vote. Direct election was rejected not because the Framers of the Constitution doubted public intelligence but rather because they feared that without sufficient information about candidates from outside their State, people would naturally vote for a "favorite son" from their own State or region. At worst, no president would emerge with a popular majority sufficient to govern the whole country. At best, the choice of president would always be decided by the largest, most populous States with little regard for the smaller ones.

Finally, a so-called "Committee of Eleven" in the Constitutional Convention proposed an indirect election of the president through a College of Electors.

The function of the College of Electors in choosing the president can be likened to that in the Roman Catholic Church of the College of Cardinals selecting the Pope. The original idea was for the most knowledgeable and informed individuals from each State to select the president based solely on merit and without regard to State of origin or political party.

The structure of the Electoral College can be traced to the Centurial Assembly system of the Roman Republic. Under that system, the adult male citizens of Rome were divided, according to their wealth, into groups of 100 (called Centuries). Each group of 100 was entitled to cast only one vote either in favor or against proposals submitted to them by the Roman Senate. In the Electoral College system, the States serve as the Centurial groups (though they are not, of course, based on wealth), and the number of votes per State is determined by the size of each State's Congressional delegation. Still, the two systems are similar in design and share many of the same advantages and disadvantages.

The similarities between the Electoral College and classical institutions are not accidental. Many of the Founding Fathers were well schooled in ancient history and its lessons.

Here is a U.S. government provided PDF file on the electoral college:    Note especially the conclusion:

The Electoral College has worked well for 56 elections with the exception of a few historical
anomalies. Even in close elections, it gives one candidate a majority of electoral votes with
which to claim a mandate to govern. While it is not a direct election of the president, the public
has significant influence in the outcome and much more than in parliamentary systems in which
  the executive is chosen by the ruling political party.
Aside from modest statutory changes, the Electoral College has not been structurally changed
by Constitutional amendment since 1804. There have been attempts to change or abolish the
Electoral College through the years. Still, while the Electoral College may be a system that
  some people today and the founding fathers at the Constitutional Convention regarded as
  imperfect, it remains likely the way Americans will continue to elect their president.

Note also this Washington Post in a November 9th article:  specifically,

. . . If Trump wins every state left -- Alaska, Arizona, Minnesota, Michigan and New Hampshire -- he could even win by more than 100 electoral votes, 320-218. Take Minnesota away, and it's still 310-228 -- a very big margin.

So you can bet that there are a whole bunch of Democrats right now that would like to put an end to this whole electoral college thing.

The bad news: They have virtually no power to make that happen -- and even if they did have any power, it'd be immensely difficult.

The electoral college, after all, is enshrined in our Constitution, which means getting rid of it requires a constitutional amendment. That's a two-thirds vote in both the House and the Senate and the ratification of three-fourths (38) of the 50 states.

Democrats not only lost the presidency on Tuesday; they failed to win a majority in the Senate and didn't gain as much ground in the House as they had hoped. The idea that this would even be brought up in a GOP-controlled Congress -- much less approved with a two-thirds majority in both chambers -- just isn't in the cards. And even if it passed that congressional threshold, 38 states aren't going to ratify it. Red states won't like the idea because it's been a perceived boon to Republicans, and swing states won't like it because it means they lose their prized status in the presidential campaign.

Such efforts have also been tried -- unsuccessfully, of course -- several times before.

1)  Of the elections wherein the candidate winning the electoral college majority did not win the popular vote, the election of 1828 may not be pertinent to modern times because both Adams and Jackson were at the time in the same party.  The Hayes-Tilden 1876 election may also not be pertinent since it involved the deal that gave the presidency to Republican Hayes in return for the end of reconstruction in the south.  The election of 1888 in which Harrison got 233 electoral votes to Cleveland's 145 may also not be pertinent to the modern discussions because Harrison was a Democrat.  If you follow my reasoning here we are left with just two elections which disturb some modern voters, the 2000 election in which Gore got about 500,000 more popular votes than Bush but lost the electoral college vote by 266 to Bush's 271.   And the current election in which Clinton got 232 electoral votes to Trump's 290; although I can't tell if Michigan's votes are being counted in the 290.  They seem to be still counting up there.  The current Michigan count is 2,279,221 for Trump vs 2,267,298 for Clinton with 100% reporting; so I don't know why the election map at doesn't show Michigan as having allocated its 16 electoral college votes for Trump.

2)   It seems more than coincidence that those arguing most stridently for the elimination of the electoral college at the president time are Democrats, the losers of the current election.  These Democrats preponderantly inhabit the big cities which of necessity require greater bureaucracies to run than the smaller outlying cities and towns.  These smaller cities and towns might understandably view such attempts to get rid of the electoral college with alarm.  It might seem and in fact be the case that the larger cities wish to tell the smaller cities and towns how to behave, and this was one of the concerns at the very beginning.  Note Thomas Jefferson's comments on July 30, 31 Aug 1st in regard to the Articles of Confederations ) page 28 in Library of America's Thomas Jefferson, Writings:  This isn't quite the same thing, but inasmuch as it pertains to article 17 (i.e., how to amend the constitution) of the constitution it touches not only on the thinking at the time but something of what would need to be involved to eliminate the electoral college:

"Present 41 members.  Mr Chase observed that this article was the most likely to divide us of any one proposed in the draught [sic] then under consideration.  That the larger colonies had threatened they would not confederate at all if their weight in congress should not be equal to the numbers of people they added to the confederacy; while the smaller ones declared against a union if they did not retain an equal vote for the protection of their rights.  That it was of the utmost consequence to bring the parties together, as should we sever from each other, either no foreign power will ally with us at all, or the different states will form different alliances, and thus increase the horrors of those scenes of civil war and bloodshed which in such a state of separation & independence would render us a miserable people.  That our importance, our interests, our peace required that we should confederate, and that mutual sacrifices should be made to effect a compromise of this difficult question.  He was of opinion that smaller colonies would lose their rights, if they were not in some instances allowed and equal vote; and therefore that a discrimination should take place among the questions which would come before Congress.  That the smaller states should be secured in all questions concerning life or liberty & the greater ones in all respecting property.  He therefore proposed that in votes relating to money, the voice of each colony should be proportioned to the number of its inhabitants."

3)   Here is a site that shows how the nations of the world elect their leaders:    While it was said  someplace that I shouldn't consider Germany in this regard, I have to consider them this one last time inasmuch as this site lists Germany's means for selecting its leader as an "Electoral College." 

I did a further check to see how European nations voted in their leaders.  Not as many use direct vote as one might think.   I used this site:

4) I have heard the argument that the US electoral college system is old and obsolete and should therefore be abolished and replaced with the Direct system of selecting our leader, but look at our European models.  One might reasonably argue that a "Monarchy" is an even older and more obsolete system then the one we use in the U.S.  Are there movements in each of these monarchies to abolished them and replace them with a modern system?  Possibly.  I know there are such movements in Japan, but the emperor as also the Queen of England, remains.  May our electoral college not like them remain as well?

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