Electoral College Electing the President

The Mode of Electing the President and the Electoral College

by Darold Booton, Jr.

In recent times the manner of electing the President of the United States (and the electoral college) has come under criticism from all sides, but when the Constitution was first adopted, Alexander Hamilton tells us, that this was one part of our system of government which had “escaped without severe censure” (Federalist No. 68). Hamilton further wrote, “I venture somewhat further, and hesitate not to affirm, that if the manner of it be not perfect, it is at least excellent. It unites in an eminent degree all the advantages, the union of which was to be wished for.”

As all Americans should know the President and Vice President are chosen through an indirect election (the manner of this election is prescribed in the U. S. Constitution (Article II, section 1, amended by Amendment 12, and augmented by Amendment 23), so that the President and Vice President are chosen by electors from each state. The number of which in each state is equal to the number of senators and representatives in Congress for that state.

Electoral College Electing the President

Why is this system of Electoral College “excellent”? According to Hamilton,

  • The Electoral College is representative of the citizens of each state, but unlike Congress is widely distributed through the states and exists only for the purpose of electing the President and Vice President, thus minimizing the possibility of influencing or coercing its decision.
  • Through this means of election the President “[is] independent for his continuance in office on all but the people themselves” (Hamilton), and is, therefore, not beholden to any other branch of government.
  • In the case of no presidential ticket receiving a clear majority the election falls back on the House of Representatives (representatives of the people of the various states) where each state receives one vote.
  • Just as Congress is organized so as to balance the relative influence of large and small states, the Electoral College moderates the influence of large population centers and thus makes the choice of President and Vice President a real election among the states.

The outcome of a direct election for these offices would mean that only those centers of population, Los Angeles, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, etc. would determine the election each time.

For further teaching by Darold Booton, check the Pilgrim Institute Online Store:
American Leadership in the 18th Century
Nathaniel Bowditch: Mathematician and Navigator
Mathematics from the Principle Approach

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