The Case for the Electoral College

Founding fathers

JMC fellow Allen Guelzo argues that, despite its recent unpopularity, the U.S. ought to preserve the Electoral College. He looks to the founders’ reflections on the Electoral College to show how it, rather than elections by popular vote, best befits character of the American regime.

In Defense of the Electoral College

By Allen Guelzo

From National Affairs

There is hardly anything in the Constitution harder to explain, or easier to misunderstand, than the Electoral College. And when a presidential election hands the palm to a candidate who comes in second in the popular vote but first in the Electoral College tally, something deep in our democratic viscera balks and asks why.

Some argue that the Electoral College should be dumped as a useless relic of 18th-century white-gentry privilege. A month after the 2016 election, and on the day the members of the Electoral College met to cast their official votes, the New York Times editorial board published a scathing attack of this sort, calling the Electoral College an “antiquated mechanism” that “overwhelming majorities” of Americans would prefer to eliminate in favor of a direct, national popular vote. Others claim it is not only antiquated, but toxic — Akhil Reed Amar wrote in Time magazine that the Electoral College was deliberately designed to advance the political power of slaveholders:

[I]n a direct election system, the North would [have outnumbered] the South, whose many slaves (more than half a million in all) of course could not vote. But the Electoral College…instead let each southern state count its slaves, albeit with a two-fifths discount, in computing its share of the overall count.

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