Strengthening Constitutional Self-Government

No Left Turns

Electoral College, good or bad?

Glenn C. Altschuler writes a quick review of George Edwards’ Why the Electoral College is Bad for America (Yale). It is a pretty good characterization of the arguments against the Electoral College (but also see the links here) and I especially like his last paragraph:

"One final objection, and it is a big enchilada, bedevils abolitionists. Direct election of Presidents does promote political equality. But to avoid the possibility of electing a President who has only a plurality in a crowded field, advocates of direct election provide for a runoff if no candidate gets 40 percent of the vote. The runoff, Mr. Edwards acknowledges, ’has some potential to fragment the party system.’ He argues, strenuously, that runoffs would be rare and would not destabilize the political system. The provision, however, is fraught with danger. Third-, fourth- and fifth-party candidates—let’s call them Ralph, Ross and Lyndon LaRouche—could enter the first round. Without a winner-take-all in each state, voters might be less likely to think they were wasting their votes on them. These reforms might weaken the already fragile two-party system—which, for all its flaws, has served this country well—and put fringe parties in the driver’s seat, à la Israel. It doesn’t seem worth the risk. Maybe, after all, the Founders were right."

Discussions - 6 Comments

The simple fact is that the Founders sought to establish a republic that was led by the virtuous and talented citizens in preserving our rights. The electoral college, indirect election of Senators, and appointment of judges were all aimed at limiting direct democracy and the passions and vices of human nature. As with the 17th Amendment, we cannot get rid of these checks without fundamentally altering the nature of the republican government itself. They wanted a government based on the consent of the people, not government directly by the people. That is not even to mention other issues such as federalism.

So, Dr. Schramm, what are your thoughts on a state splitting its electoral votes?

Is this wise?

John, Very bad idea! Do what you can to stop it. If the Demos do this in CO the GOP will do it in California, and so on. You will end up with a bunch of narrow parties, factions, with runoff elections, and different kind of majorities being formed than what you have today (i.e., not Constitutional majorities). I was on an hour long radio talk show out of Cleveland (NPR, I think) a few days ago with the woman who runs this travesty in CO and she was not impressive. A silly person. Stop this. Please.

So this becomes the problem, (and because I don’t think Governor Owens has properly framed the arguement) how do you oppose this without using party strength?

It seems to me that this is a populist arguement that is quite easy to defend. (1)Your vote means more if the EC vote can be split. (2) With this, Colorado will have more influence on National Politics. (3) The additional spotlight will bring more attention to the issues that Coloradans face. etc...

The anti Amendment 36 arguement seems to revolve around strength of the party and history. A pretty tough position to defend. Help.


Doing away with the EC, Presidents would be elected by the major metro areas. This is not a good idea. With the EC, then entire country has a say.

You might want to read Dr. George Grant’s new book "The Importance of the Electoral College". In it, he outlines the reasons why the Electoral College was one of the only things the founders nearly universally agreed upon as the best way to address the problem.

I have not yet had the opportunity to read the book, but it is apparently a timely expansion of the argument Grant put forward in shorter form in his previous "The Patriot’s Handbook", which is worth having just so you can answer the question, "Who was the first president of the United States?" (Hint: It’s NOT George Washington. The book Patriot’s Handbook includes very interesting summaries of each of the 15 (or is it 16 - I forget) presidents that preceded Washington, including the one that was the only standing US president taken as a prisoner of War...)

Truth does indeed sometimes seem stranger than fiction, especially to those of us indoctrinated rather than educated by the nation’s public schools. Fortunately the real truth is relatively easy to find, if you bother to look for it, like Grant did when he realized that despite a doctoral degree (and I think his first one was in History!), he had no idea who the first president of the United States was.

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