The topic of discussion for this Constitution Monday concerns the need for all Americans to know what is in the Constitution of the United States and what is not. Two problems caused by people making incorrect statements about what is and what is not constitutional are (1) the person looks foolish and (2) the person may lead other Americans to wrong conclusions.
One would think that a person who was chosen to lead a national committee would desire to make sure that their comments are correct. However, Democratic National Committee chairman Tom Perez recently made an incorrect statement, one that indicates he does not know what the Constitution really says.
Kate Scanlon at The Blaze recently reported that Perez said that the Electoral College is not “a creation” of the Constitution while speaking at a law school. The Electoral College is embodied in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution and the Twelfth Amendment (Amendment XII) because both parts of the Constitution speak of the electors who vote for the President and Vice President. This statement comes directly from the Constitution.
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.
Tadahisa Kuroda, Professor of History at Skidmore College, wrote about the Electoral College in a chapter of The Heritage Guide to the Constitution. Here are some of his comments on this subject, starting with a direct quote of Article II, Section 1, Clause 3.
At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, delegates had expressed concern that a meeting of a single body in the nation’s capital to elect a President opened the door to intrigue and undue influence by special interests, foreign governments, and political factions. Meeting in their home states, electors would find it difficult to collude or buy and sell votes.
Kuroda explains that there was some discussion about “how to structure the voting within the Electoral College.” The decision was finally made to require “each elector to cast two votes for President” in the hopes that a “Majority of the whole Number of Electors Appointed” could be reached. He adds an interesting tidbit about New York failing to appoint electors in the first presidential election and George Washington winning the “unanimous vote of the electors appointed.”
In case of a tie in votes, the Framers decided that the U.S. House of Representatives would choose the President. However, each state delegation was given only one vote. Kuroda explains how the Framers expected the electoral votes to work.
Finally, under this clause, whoever was runner-up in the electoral vote, with or without a majority vote, presumably a national figure competent to serve as President, became Vice President. Clearly, the Founders did not anticipate rival national political parties whose top candidates could be the top two vote recipients. In the 1796 election, Federalist John Adams became President and Republican Thomas Jefferson (Adams’s bitter political opponent) became Vice President. Four years later, both Jefferson and his Vice-Presidential running mate, Aaron Burr, received an equal number of votes. The House ultimately voted in favor of Jefferson, but only after thirty-six ballots. Hence the Twelfth Amendment, ratified in 1804, also hanged this method of choosing the Vice President. In the contingency election for Vice President, the Senate makes the choice. Senators do not vote as state delegations; thus, disagreements between the two Senators from a state do not lead to a stalemate. Only one time in U.S. history, in 1836, did the Senate choose the Vice President, Richard M. Johnson, who served under Martin Van Buren.
Kuroda explains that there some complications in the original plan, so, the Twelfth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution added some rules to solve those problems.
The Electoral College is not a place. It is a process established by the Founding Fathers as a compromise between having the President elected by a vote in Congress and having the President elected by a popular vote. The Electoral College equalizes the population because the electors from each state equal the total number of Senators and Representatives of each state.
Calls to abolish the Electoral College have increased since the election of November 2016 when Donald Trump won the electoral votes and Hillary Clinton won the popular votes. The same thing happened when Al Gore won the popular vote and George W. Bush won the electoral vote.
People who want to abolish the electoral vote are naïve if they think it will solve problems. The Framers of the Constitution gave us the Electoral College as a way to balance the nation during elections. It protects the minorities from the majorities. The Electoral College protects the presidential election process by insuring that all areas of the nation are represented in the votes. Without the Electoral College, the President of the United States would be decided by the people who live in highly populated areas such as New York City and Los Angeles County. The votes in the rest of the nation would not count. Therefore, the politicians would completely ignore the other areas of the country.