The Electoral College When the Constitutional Convention gathered in 1784 they had the difficult task of determining how our government should be assembled and what systems we should use to elect them. They quickly decided congress should have the powers to pass laws and the people should elect these people to ensure they are following the will of the people. But who should elect the president? Congress was the initial choice of most of the framers, but then they realized they first dilemma; by having congress elect the president, he would be loyal only to congress and not the people. The second and most logically thought was to have the people elect the president. However, this too was a problem in the eyes of most of the framers.
They felt that people were prone to being rash and emotional and therefore could not be trusted to make a wise decision. So then congress settled on the final choice, which was to be a compromise between the smaller and larger states, which would ensure that the president would be fairly and wisely selected and that smaller states would have the same power as larger states. This system is called the Electoral College. In the Electoral College, each state is granted one vote for every representative and one for every senator, thus ensuring that each state would be equally represented when electing the president. However, the same question arises every four years, are the ideals that were used to create the Electoral College system over 200 years ago still applicable today or have that outlived their intended purposes? In order to answer that we must first explore the purposes for setting up the Electoral College and then determine how relevant it is to today. The first purpose for setting up the Electoral College was to ensure that congress did not have too much power.
When the system of government was finally decided on, our founding fathers understood the importance of the balance of power within the three branches of the government. They called this system checks and balances. This system was set up to ensure that the government would remain loyal to the people and loyal to their states (Hamilton). In The Federalist Papers, No. 68, Alexander Hamilton discusses the importance of having the president elected by the Electoral College.
He said that in order to ensure that we do not end up with the same problems that America had with the monarch of England, it was important that the balance of power was spread throughout the government and that no one portion have too much power. Another reason Alexander Hamilton gave for not having congress elect the president was that the founders wanted to reassure states that they had not given up all their power to a federal government. In order to ratify the constitution, the framers knew that it would have to be approved in each of the thirteen states. They also knew that these states would be skeptical of a powerful central government that would have the ability to take away all their rights. So, they would have to make sure that each of these states was comfortable with the amount of power given to each branch of the central government.
This point is also clearly evident today. During the election this year, the Republican Party ran on a platform that included the premise of a smaller government. This platform was in line with an MSNBC poll that was taken in July 2000, which asked this question, “Do you think it is important to limit the size of the federal government?” Over 72 percent of the 4,143 people surveyed said they believed that it is important to limit the size of the government. So even in the age of government programs which help support the citizens of this nation, people still understand the importance of keeping our government small. The second purpose for the Electoral College was to give smaller states the same rights and powers as the larger states.
There are two primary reasons why the smaller states have the same, if not more, power than the larger states when it comes to electing the president. The first is, a presidential candidate must receive 270 Electoral votes in order to win the presidency (Law). To do so that means that he would need to receive Electoral votes from a wide range of states and cannot limit himself to a certain region of the country. This means that some of the smaller states will receive the attention of presidential candidates. The second reasons smaller states have the same, or more power, as larger states is in how the Electoral votes are distributed (Law). If you take a state such as Alaska, with a population of 619,500, which has three Electoral votes, this means that they have one vote for every 206,500 in population.
Compared to California, which has a population of 33,145,121, and 54 Electoral votes. That works out to be one Electoral vote for every 613,799 in population. That means that someone who votes in the state of Alaska has three times the voting power of someone who votes in California. This is what ensures that candidates for president do not ignore these smaller states. Another way to see the effect of size is to look at the analogy of a coin toss. For a simple example, let’s assume that only two candidates are running, A versus B, and each vote is like a random coin toss, with a fifty percent chance of going either way. In your state of three, there’s a fifty percent chance that the other two votes will split, one for A and the other for B, and thus a 50 percent chance that your single vote will determine the election. Therefore candidates will give each of the three of you a lot of respect.
As a nation gets larger, the citizens voting power shrinks. If you are part of a five-voter nation, the other four voters would have to split, two for A and two for B – for your vote to turn the election. The probability of that happening is 3 in 8, or 37.5 percent. As the nation’s size continues to go up, individual voting power continues to drop. …