Argument: The US electoral college is an appropriate federal-state-people power-sharing deal

Issue Report: US electoral college


  • John Samples. “Keep the Electoral College”. on December 21, 2000 – “James Madison said that writing a Constitution is hard work because you have to set up a government that is strong enough to control its citizens and yet limited in scope and powers. Madison and the other Founders feared unchecked power of any kind. They believed elections were the primary control on government. But they also knew that pure democracy – the unchecked will of the people – was as much a danger to liberty as any autocrat.
Our Constitution places manifold checks on political power, including the arbitrary will of the people. Power at the national level is split among the three branches, each reflecting a different constituency. Power is divided yet again between the national government and the states. Madison noted that these twofold divisions — the separation of powers and federalism — provided a ‘double security’ for the rights of the people. The Electoral College fits well into this picture.
How does the Electoral College constrain political power? Direct election of the president would reflect the will of a majority. In contrast, the Electoral College provides representation for both the population at large and the states. It thereby tempers and limits the power of majority rule, which has two other advantages.
…So, what about the principle of ‘one person, one vote’? Diane Feinstein, the senior senator from California, opined recently on ‘Larry King Live’ that the Electoral College should be abolished since it violated “one person, one vote.” If that’s true, Ms. Feinstein and her fellow senators should start looking for new jobs.
In the Senate, a state like Montana, with 883,000 residents, gets the same number of senators as California, with 33 million people. That’s not ‘one person, one vote.’ Consistency would require that if we abolish the Electoral College, we rid ourselves of the Senate as well. Are we ready to do that?
If the Founders had wished to create a ‘pure democracy,’ they would have done so. They created instead what Madison called “a complex polity” to restrain government. If we abolish the Electoral College, we will take a step away from that constraining design and a step toward a plebiscitary presidency driven by unchecked majority rule.”