Why the Electoral College Matters

When the United States Constitution was ratified in 1787, the Framers were afraid of tyranny. Having recently secured their independence from England, the Framers did not want to trade one dictator for another.  However, as much as they feared the tyranny of the minority, they were also worried about mob rule. After all, one demagogue leading the masses would be no different than a king issuing decrees for all to follow.

To prevent tyranny of any form, the Framers created a four-tier system for the selection of our national leaders, to-wit:

  • The House of Representatives would be elected by the people, directly.  Every two years the people of each State would pick the members of the People’s House.  Thus, the people would be one (1) step removed from the members of the House of Representatives.
  • Members of the Senate, though, would not be picked directly by the people. Although this method has since changed, the people would select the members of their State legislatures; the State legislators, in turn, would appoint the Senators to six-year terms.  Thus, the people would be two (2) steps removed from their Senators.
  •  The President also would not be popularly elected.  The people would select the members of their State legislature; the State legislators, in turn, would appoint electors (i.e., the Electoral College); the electors, in turn, would select the President. Thus, the people would be three (3) steps removed from their President.  (Although every legislature has opted to appoint the electors based upon a popular statewide vote of the people, the Constitution does not mandate this procedure.  In fact, if a State legislature ever wanted to appoint the electors directly, they absolutely could.  So while it appears as if the people are picking the electors, technically they are not.)
  • Finally, the Judges would be selected by the President and confirmed by the Senate.  As such, the people would select their State legislators; the State legislators would appoint the Senators and the electors; the electors would appoint the President; the President and the Senate would pick the Judges.  Thus, the people would be four (4) steps removed from their Judges. 

Because the Constitution incorporates the Separation of Powers Doctrine — by delegating Legislative power to the House of Representatives and the Senate, Executive power to the President, and Judicial power to the Judges — no single person or group could make all of the decisions in our federal government.

However, even if one faction could control all federal power, the Constitution utilizes other safeguards to liberty–by restricting federal power and by reserving all other rights to the States and to the people.

Per the Framers, every election put before the people would be on a State-by-State basis.  This is because our Framers recognized the need for compartmentalization of power.  As long as the States remained sovereign — and as long as the people voted as States — our nation would remain a free people.  But as soon as we concentrated power in the hands of a central government, by limiting the role of the States, liberty would be placed in peril.

Since the recent defeat of Hillary Clinton, liberals have lamented about the Electoral College, lambasting its archaic nature.  They are absolutely wrong.  Put simply, we are a free people because we are the United STATES of America.  Any change to the Constitution that would marginalize the critical and sovereign role of the States would signal the very demise of our way of life.  Creating a national referendum for the most important position in the federal government would do just that.

The Electoral College forces the President to look at the needs of fifty sovereign States (and the District of Columbia).  However, if the President is elected by a national popular vote, the State lines will blur quite rapidly.  And if this happens, the delicate balance created by the Framers — and the liberty that it protects — will be gone forever.