Faria: The Electoral College in the U.S. Constitutional Republic

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Wednesday, August 24, 2011

This summer at least three editorials have appeared in my local, Georgia newspaper, the Macon Telegraph, about how the Electoral College process works and explaining why our Founding Fathers created that system for presidential elections. They were not always accurate. One writer, for example, wrote, "The framers... felt the common, everyday, average, eligible voter was not intelligent, well-versed, well-read and knowledgeable enough to vote for the most qualified and best candidate.”

Although that statement is certainly another good reason to maintain the process of presidential elections today, it is historically incorrect. While it is true the Founders distrusted the idle mobs of the cities, the vast majority of Americans in the late 18th century lived in rural districts as farmers and yeomen, working the land and living from the fruits of their labors. These Americans were almost idolized by the Founders, particularly the Virginians Thomas Jefferson and James Madison.

Moreover, from their knowledge of history, the Founders knew the tragic fate of Athenian democracy and the death knell of the Roman Republic at the hands of Rome's notorious mobs, who incited by popular demagogues eventually sold their votes for "bread and circuses" (i.e., panem et circenses) in the forms of free gladiatorial games and other sordid entertainment.

The framers, including James Madison (photo, left), the master-builder of the Constitution, were in general very eerie of establishing a direct mass democracy on principle and founded a constitutional republic with an indirect presidential and senatorial election, hoping in the words of Benjamin Franklin, "that we can keep it!"

The fact that the framers trusted the vast majority of Americans at the time is evident in that the House of Representatives, which was to represent the people, was, and continues to be, elected by direct popular vote. In the words of Madison (Federalist Paper #57):

"Who are to be the electors of the Federal Representatives? Not the rich more than the poor; not the learned more than the ignorant; not the haughty heirs of distinguished names, more than the humble sons of obscure and unpropitious fortune. The electors are to be the great body of the people of the United States. They are to be the same who exercise the right in every State of electing the correspondent branch of the Legislature of the State...

"Who are to be the objects of popular choice? Every citizen whose merit may recommend him to the esteem and confidence of his country. No qualification of wealth, of birth, of religious faith, or of civil profession, is permitted to fetter the judgment or disappoint the inclination of the people."

Most Americans during the American Revolution and Constitutional Convention were very well informed and devoured political pamphlets, such as Thomas Paine’s “Common Sense” and “The American Crisis” voraciously. Those were the best sellers of the day. Later, political articles published in various newspapers (to become the famed Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers) were equally devoured by the citizenry with the same avidity as today’s trendy Americans consume TV images and online news of the scandalous lives of sport figures and celebrities.

James Madison and Alexander Hamilton (not to mention, John Adams) hoped an informed populace would elect to office the most virtuous and capable public servants, including the President of the United States.

Alexander Hamilton (photo, right), for example, asserted (Federalist Paper #68): "The process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. 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, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue.... we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration."

The additional reasons the Founders created the Electoral College system (and why it has been preserved) centered on the issues of federalism and fairness — e.g., preserving the delicate geographical political balance among the various urban and rural populations of the small and large states of the federal union.

Thus, the Electoral College as it stands today is more fair and more conducive to encourage candidates to campaign more equitably throughout rural areas as well as urban centers, smaller states as well as larger states, because not doing so may result in the candidates’ loss of an entire state and its slate of electoral votes, rather than just losing small clusters of votes.

Another reason concerning fairness, even more acutely, is the occurrence of natural catastrophes, such as floods or hurricanes, which can disastrously depress the turnout of voters of a region of a state or several states. Yet, with the Electoral College system, these voters are not penalized, because their states would still contribute the same number of electoral votes toward an election.

And yet, the same earlier commentator further opined, "The biggest problem with the current system is the propensity for an election to take place that would elect a candidate who did not represent the demographics and wishes of the entire county, and only the sentiments of voters in the 11 most populous states."

But there was more; two of the writers suggested drastic solutions, either changing to a proportional representation or a popular election system. The former would be accomplished by individual state legislation, as has already been the case in the states of Nebraska and Maine. Popular election, on the other hand, would be implemented by the more difficult process of amending the U.S. Constitution by the usual process or by calling a convention to that effect. Either one of these radical options would establish a solution that essentially dismantles the Electoral College system to exorcise a boogieman and solve a non-existent problem!

Proportional representation with the fractional casting of a state’s Electoral College votes would drastically dilute the voting strength of the individual state that foolishly adopts it, making that state irrelevant in a nationwide presidential contest. If this proposal were to be uniformly adopted by the nation either by state choice or by constitutional amendment, it would defeat the purpose for which the Electoral College was wisely created by the framers, negating all of the previously outlined benefits.

Likewise, direct popular elections would dilute the power of rural areas and less populated states, so that a heavily populated section of the country, such as the Northeast, could realistically and unfairly determine future presidential elections. That is less likely now with the Electoral College system.

The truth is a non-existent boogieman is being conjured up by various political pundits to transform our Electoral College presidential elections into a European parliamentary type system, incorporating features of both proportional representation and popular elections. The boogieman is really a straw man fallacy — namely, that the theoretical amalgamation of 270 Electoral College votes by the eleven most populous but politically disparate states would dominate elections. Such possibility has never and will never happen, and is totally unrealistic and unfounded. Imagine Texas and New York with Georgia and California joining forces to steal elections and enslave the country!

The reality is that the Electoral College process has shown that it has worked as it was intended, and continues to function well. It has preserved the delicate geographical political balance among the various urban and rural populations of the small and large states of the federal union, and it has prevented small but heavily populated urban areas from dominating the process of presidential and vice-presidential elections at the expense of the rest of the nation.

Those are the main reasons we should not tinker with the Electoral College now. Republicans in particular should remember that this great nation was founded as a constitutional republic, “if we can keep it.” The wisdom of the Founders reverberates through the ages!


Dr. Miguel A. Faria is a former Clinical Professor of Surgery (Neurosurgery, ret.) and Adjunct Professor of Medical History (ret.) Mercer University School of Medicine; Former member Editorial Board of Surgical Neurology (2004-2010); Recipient of the Americanism Medal from the Nathaniel Macon Chapter of the Daughters of the American Revolution (DAR) 1998; Ex member of the Injury Research Grant Review Committee (aka the Initial Review Group (IRG)) of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2002-05; Founder and former Editor-in-Chief of the Medical Sentinel (1996-2002); Editor Emeritus, the Association of American Physicians and Surgeons (AAPS); Author, Vandals at the Gates of Medicine (1995), Medical Warrior: Fighting Corporate Socialized Medicine (1997), and Cuba in Revolution: Escape From a Lost Paradise (2002).

Copyright © 2011 Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD

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Comments on this post

Derelict of Duty

The current Benghazi Gate has absolutely floored me. I don't think I've ever seen such an inept Administration. They just simply do not CARE.

For well over 6 hours Obama and company watched that situation unfold. A Navy Seal could not sit back and 'refuse' to aid or assist and he ran to the aid of his Americans in need.

The Obama Administration waited and made certain ALL were DEAD before starting the rounds with all their cover up stories. And we've watched them unfold daily with a different story and a different look on each of their faces.

They should all be tried for treason,derelict of duty and Impeached~!
If I had my way they would all be alined for a firing squad.
This has boiled my blood and this Administration needs to go.
Every single American in this country should be blazing with contempt towards those in this administration that sat out on their October surprise that cost the lives of four innocent Americans in need.

I have never in my entire life time seen the need for prayer to be answered in our country as bad as we need it now.
We kicked our God out of this country and I pray daily He will indeed hear our prayer and plea and return.

How ironic. The DNC denied God three times at their convention.Our American Ambassador and those that attempted to save him were Denied Three times the Aid,air power or assistance they desperately 'pleaded for'!
That brings tears to my eyes and breaks my heart.

Undeserved praise!

Great post uneed! Finally, piecemeal, the truth about the travesty of Benghazi, Libya, and other foreign policy blunders are coming out.

President Obama became editor of the Harvard Law Review without having written anything as required by a purported legal scholar, received a Nobel Prize for achievements that he did not achieve, and given kudos by the media that he did not deserve!

We lost a highly sensitive Drone to Iran. Why wasn't this Drone destroyed before it fell into their hands? Apparently, because President Obama order that it should not be destroyed.

All we have heard from the liberal media, repeatedly, were accolades for the killing of Osama bin Laden. The truth is of course that President Obama was forced to continue the hunt begun by President Bush, and once the terrorist was found, go ahead with the his execution to decapitate Al-Qaeda's mastermind. He wasted no time to score political points and get credit for the mission. In fact, National Geographic, a liberal medium I quit subscription years ago, has planned a program on the hunting of killing of Bin Laden by the Blue Seals (who are protesting) to air this week to coincide with and influence the Presidential election for Obama.

But let us give credit where credit is due, the CIA for their relentless pursuit of Osama bin Laden and the commando Blue Seals who accomplished the mission!

I remember the letter writer, Mr Brogden (9/27/12) who wrote: "When the average American finally learns of the medieval depravities committed on our Libyan Ambassador J. Christopher Stevens, (you would have to read European news reporting to get the awful truth our media refuse to report that reflects badly on their chosen one), they will be properly outraged at our disconnected, perpetually campaigning president and his lousy choice of a secretary of state."

Indeed we must depend on the BBC and other sources to continue to get the truth. We will not get it from our lapdog media, until a time lapse, if at all!

Again Great Post uneed!

But here is more on Benghazi, according to our reliable friend Matti:

Retired Army Lt. Col. Tony Shaffer said Saturday he has sources saying President Barack Obama was in the room at the White House watching the assault on the U.S. Consulate in Benghazi, Libya unfold.

Two unarmed U.S. drones were dispatched to the consulate and recorded the final hours of the attack, which killed U.S. Ambassador to Libya Christopher Stevens and three other Americans.

“This was in the middle of the business day in Washington, so everybody at the White House, CIA, Pentagon, everybody was watching this go down,” Shaffer said on Fox News’ “Justice with Judge Jeanine.” “According to my sources, yes, [Obama] was one of those in the White House Situation Room in real-time watching this.”

Shaffer served as a senior operations officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency in Afghanistan in 2003 and wrote a book critical of the policies there. The U.S. government purchased the entire print run for $47,000 in an attempt at censorship just before its 2010 publication, claiming it contained classified material.

Shaffer said the question now is what precisely Obama did or didn’t do in the moments he saw the attack unfolding. The CIA reportedly made three urgent requests for military backup that were each denied.

“He, only he, could issue a directive to Secretary of Defense Panetta to do something. That’s the only place it could be done,” Shaffer said.

Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said last week the military did not intervene because they did not have enough information about what was happening on the ground.

Col. David Hunt, a Fox News military analyst, said the military could have had jets in the air within 20 minutes and forces on the ground within two hours.

“The issue is always political with the White House, but the secretary of defense gives the order, has to be approved by the White House, they wouldn’t pull the trigger, and it’s disgraceful,” Hunt said. “We’ve got guys dead.”

Also from Matti: "There are reports that General Carter Ham, who was commander of the U.S. Africa Command, was ordered to stand down when he prepared to send in a team to Benghazi. He subsequently stepped down from command because of personal reasons (to take care of his terminally ill wife.)

"President Obama refuses to state that he did not call off requests for help in Benghazi during the terrorist raid. General Petraeus has stated that the order for the security assets in Libya to stand down during the Benghazi raid did not come from the CIA."

I totally agree with every

I totally agree with every word you've written. Thanks.
This has really added fuel to my fire and as we both know I didn't need anymore encouragement.

I continue to pray for a landslide victory so there will be no misunderstandings that America is ready to take control of our own destiny and Refuses to be hijacked by a Marxist regime!

Electoral College

"The framers, including James Madison, the master-builder of the Constitution, were in general very eerie of establishing a direct mass democracy on principle and founded a constitutional republic with an indirect presidential and senatorial election, hoping in the words of Benjamin Franklin, 'that we can keep it!'"

Every single election season the question of why we still use the Electoral College and don't just rely on the popular vote arises. I wish everyone would just read this article so they would finally understand!

The Electoral college provides fairness!

I agree. I believe the (social) democrats are conjuring the boogieman to abandon a system that has served America well:

"The truth is a non-existent boogieman is being conjured up by various political pundits to transform our Electoral College presidential elections into a European parliamentary type system, incorporating features of both proportional representation and popular elections. The boogieman is really a straw man fallacy — namely, that the theoretical amalgamation of 270 Electoral College votes by the eleven most populous but politically disparate states would dominate elections. Such possibility has never and will never happen, and is totally unrealistic and unfounded. Imagine Texas and New York with Georgia and California joining forces to steal elections and enslave the country!"

Thank you for your post! MAF

We need the Electoral College now more than ever!

Excellent article that explains the Electoral College as established in our U.S. Constitution; how it has worked so well; how we need it now more than ever; and how we definitely don't need to tamper with it!

Calls for a Constitutional Convention...

Much has been said about convening a constitutional convention ("con con") to grease the machinery of government and allegedly fix specific shortcomings in our form of government.

One problem is that there is no "political consensus" as to whether a convention of the states can be limited to a single or a few subjects (e.g. a balanced budget, term limits, etc.). There is considerable writing expounding on this subject, and most authorities fear that instead of a single subject on the table, a convention cannot be limited--- in fact, a Constitutional Convention--- could convene, instead, that would scrap and abrogate the entire constitution of the US and a new constitution written!

We can see the danger now. The "extremists" in Congress would be marginalized, but imagine the politically-correct "moderates" in both parties, testing the waters and seeking approval from the liberal media, so they won't be criticized. Compared the pliable politicians of today with the well-read, well-rounded, historically-knowledgeable, principled Founding Fathers. The founders, few as they were (and from a new nation of only 3 million souls) were an assemblage of statesmen unparalleled in history. Compared them to the multitudes of wannabe politicians, charlatans, demagogues, and bureaucrats of today (already milking a nation of 300 million, poorly-informed inhabitants, more interested in the dissolute life of celebrities and sport figures than the family budget and the type of government that best governs least!). Reaching consensus, would be a formidable task today, as public interest and the protection of freedom would be submerged to the expediency of protecting political turf and the attainment of more political power by pandering to the growing, government-dependent "underclass"!

Our founders were well-read, and they based our founding documents on historical precedents of government, political philosophy, and Natural Rights theory.  Today, the politicians egged by the Marxist academics and the complicit media, would be writing a new, "living" constitution to fit the times!

For such a group of gifted men to join together, complimenting each other as they did was a true political miracle unlike anything in history, not even in ancient Greece with Solon (600 BC), Cleisthenes or Demosthenes or in the ancient Republic Rome under Appius Claudius and the Decemvirs  (451 BC) or Cincinatus, or even in England with the Glorious Revolution (1688).

Statistically and historically speaking it will not happen again for a thousand years!

The Annapolis convention of 1786 was called to discuss interstate commerce among the states under the Articles of Confederation.  Instead of interstate commerce, the founders in the subsequent convention wrote and frame a new constitution! Yes, James Madison had immediately seized the opportunity to overturn the Articles of Confederation, which he thought completely inadequate, and the Convention of the states in Philadelphia became in fact the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

 Then it was for the best, but today imagine the outcome, without the intellectual giants who forged our Constitution, without the principled men with firmly planted moral compasses which helped them navigate the political waters without foundering:  James Madison, John Adams, George Washington, Alexander Hamilton, Gouvernor Morris, Benjamin Franklin, James Mason, Richard Henry Lee, etc. Today, although we have a few statesmen in our Congress, for the most part, we only have McCains, Pelosis, Reids, Clintons, Obamas, (Lindsey) Grahams, (Olympia) Snowes, etc!

So, I prefer the first method of Amendment described in the Constitution– i.e., Article V, the calling for specific proposals for Amendments from 2/3 of the members from each House of Congress. The other method convening a Constitutional Convention would be a great tragedy, the death knell of the Republic, and the beginning of a Social(ist) unlimited democracy, the rule of demagogues of the ruling circles, now unshackled by the chains of the formerly, revered document, and bolstered by the multitudes of the dependent class! God forbid!

Fransini Giraldo is a Colombian girl who dances her own style of Salsa. In this video, she dances to the rhythm of Sonora Carruseles de Colombia, presumably in the Colombia countryside. Published July 16, 2013.