Today’s Government Lesson; The Electoral College

Ultimately there were thirty-nine white, mostly educated, mostly wealthy, and mostly propertied men who signed the US Constitution in 1787. In spite of this commonality they differed in many ways, one of which was how much power the typical American citizen should have.

How trustworthy was the common man when it came to making correct political choices for the nation? Should each man’s vote count the same as another man’s vote? The answer to this question is what gave us this thing we call the Electoral College.

While there is much more to the story I’m going to attempt keeping it simple and a good way to do so is to simply say, the Founding Fathers didn’t have much faith if the intelligence of the common man. So, if we were to be a republic, in which the common man had a say in who his elected representatives would be, something to curtail that power need to be created. That something was a middle man, sitting between those in power and those at the bottom. That middle man was the Electoral College (EC).

Basically three things have to be decided. One is, who will be the president? Second, who will be the two Senators each state is entitled to? And finally, who will be the state’s members of the House of Representatives?

It was decided that since House members were chosen every two years it would be okay to allow the common man to vote directly for their House representative.  After all, how much damage could be done in just two years?

Regarding the Senate, it was allowed that each state would decide how their two Senators would be chosen and most left the decision up to the legislatures in each state. It wasn’t until April 8, 1913, and the passage of the 17th Amendment that the Senate was opened to the direct vote of the people.

The position of president was considered so important that from day one that position has been chosen by a group of electors, the EC, who act as middlemen for the people.

The size of each state’s EC membership is decided by the number of seats each state has in Congress. Currently, Ohio has eighteen total seats so it has eighteen votes in the EC.

When the electorate votes for president on the first Tuesday following the first Monday in November, every four years, they are casting their vote for which group of eighteen people will go to a meeting in their state’s capital on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.  Each party has chosen who it’s EC members will be and it the party that wins the popular vote gets the right to send its EC delegates to this December meeting. It is assumed that those winning delegates will vote for their party’s nominee for president and vice president.

Following the individual states EC meetings the sealed results are sent to Washington DC and on January 6th the President of the Senate opens the sealed envelopes, tallies the votes, and confirms the actual winners. So, the people vote in November but the actual winner is not known until January 6.

If you’re still following here are the main points to remember:

  • The Founding Fathers did not believe the common man could be trusted to make the best choice when it came to picking members of the US Senate, the Vice President, and the President.
  • They created the Electoral College as a means to keep ultimate control of who holds the top positions in government in the hands of the elites.
  • The 1913 17th Amendment gave the common man the right to directly choose who their state’s Senators would be.
  • The EC still decides who will be the Vice President and President.
  • On occasion, the EC has overridden the decision of the people. This is what happened in 2016 when Hillary Clinton received 3 million more popular votes than Donald Trump but Trump received more electoral votes and thus, won control of the White House.

Here’s a current video that delves deeper into some aspects and maybe has a different slant on why the EC was created in the first place.

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