How the Electoral College Is Supposed to Work
One of the welcome things about this year’s election cycle is that it has focused attention on the electoral college for the first time in 16 years. Unfortunately, thanks to a hyper-partisan media, what most people think about the electoral college is wrong.
The low-information media’s agenda in its post-election coverage is simple and sinister: to use fake news to delegitimize a Donald Trump presidency before it starts. Their objective is not to tell the truth, or educate the American people, but to destroy Donald Trump. The electoral college is simply the cudgel at hand.
Once Trump is sworn in, they’ll forget all about the electoral college and grab the next weapon they can find to beat him about the head and shoulders. All those scenes of Mexican lawmakers taking bats to a Trump pinata in the halls of the Mexican congress are just metaphors for what we will witness on a daily basis for the next four to eight years. What counts for the left is not truth but usefulness. They could care less about whether something they spout is either true or right. They only care about whether it is useful in destroying the objects of their animosity.
But thanks to the media drawing so much attention to the electoral college, we have the opportunity to educate Americans about how it was designed to work. Here are some salient points.
First, contrary to what most Americans believe, the Founders designed our framework of government so that the president is NOT democratically elected. The Founders were well aware of the dangers of direct democracy, in which the people themselves establish public policy. They knew how easily a demagogue can inflame public passions and create a dangerously misinformed and misguided mob. (Liberals who think that’s what Trump is, and has done, should be the most fervent supporters of what I am saying here.)
Getting rid of the electoral college, as many wounded liberals are caterwauling about, is a perfectly terrible, horrible, no good, very bad. Going to a straight popular vote would mean that every president until the end of time would be picked by California and New York. No thanks. The electoral college was designed to make sure that every state’s voice was heard in the process of selecting a president.
So the Founders designed a system in which we do not elect a president on the first Tuesday in November. No, what we elect are electors. We elect the people who in turn will elect a president for us. That’s what December 19 is all about. That’s the actual election for the presidency of the United States. The bottom line is that the only votes that truly and finally count are the votes cast by the electors we chose on November 8.
In fact, the only direct election provided for in the Founders’ Constitution is for members of the House of Representatives. By design, every other office in the national government was to filled by the elected representatives of the people acting on their behalf. In the Founders’ Constitution (since amended), senators were not chosen by direct vote but by state legislatures. The president is not chosen by direct vote of the people but by a vote of the electors, whom we have chosen for that purpose.
Federal judges are not selected through a direct vote of the people, but by a president who was chosen not by the people but by the electors. His nominees must be confirmed by the Senate, made up originally of men who were chosen not by the people but by state legislatures. That’s the way a representative democracy, that is a republic, is designed to operate.
Since there are 538 electors (one for every member of the House and two for each state’s senatorial delegation), what we should be having in the run-up to November are 538 separate elections for the office of elector. The campaigns for the office of elector should be about candidates convincing us that they have the wisdom, worldview, and judgment. not to be president but to choose a president for us.
Then, once we have picked our electors on the first Tuesday in November, the actual presidential campaign would begin, and last about six weeks, until the electoral college meets in December. The people who would need to be persuaded are the 538 electors, not the 320 million Americans who make up the general populace. We should right now be in the heat of the actual presidential campaign as candidates make their case to the electors rather than the public.
Currently, the office of elector is just symbolic, a perk, a rubber-stamp reward for service to a political party. If we recaptured the vision of the Founders, the campaigns for the office of elector would be real, genuine, high-stakes elections.
Each state can decide for itself how to pick its electors. Right now, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, it’s winner-take-all by state. But it would be far better to have each congressional district choose its own electors, as Maine and Nebraska do now, with two electors (representing the Senate seats) chosen statewide.
This would mean that folks in every part of every state would be meaningfully involved in the selection of a president. There are conservative districts in California and New York which right now have no say in the outcome since their votes are swamped by liberal electorates in those states. Likewise, there are liberal districts in Texas (the Austin area, for example) which should be able to choose electors to vote on their behalf.
Republicans control both the legislatures and the governor’s mansion in 25 states. They thus could immediately make the change to awarding electoral votes by district rather than by statewide results. As unlikely as that outcome may be, it is perfectly possible, as Maine and Nebraska illustrate.
It is quite likely that, from a constitutional perspective, electors can vote for anyone they want on December 19, even if they pledged to vote for somebody else on November 8. Keeping their word to the people who voted for them on November 8 is a matter of character and honor and integrity rather than law (no “faithless elector” has ever been punished, and probably cannot be). Faithless electors would not be the first elected officials to break a campaign promise, nor will they be the last.
All the brazen attempts by the left to overturn the election results by monkeying with the electoral college through intimidation and delay have zero chance of working. The truth is that the vast majority of electors will vote for the candidate they are pledged to, and will choose a candidate who represents the will of the people who chose them to be their elector. And Donald Trump will be sworn in on January 20 as the legitimately elected president of the United States.
(Unless otherwise noted, the opinions expressed are the author’s and do not necessarily reflect the views of the American Family Association or American Family Radio.)
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