The formal voting of the electoral college in the 50 state
capitals and the District of Columbia is the constitutional
conclusion of the U.S. presidential election, but it is not
merely a formality. It is inherently part of the American
system of representative democracy until now.
The founding fathers in 1787 created an incredible document,
albeit one with some flaws. The worst of these flaws was the
prolonging of slavery and the arbitrary limit of voting rights.
Both of these were repaired, although it took a civil war to fix
the former, and more than 100 years to fix the latter.
Twenty-seven amendments to the U.S. constitution have been
made in the past 228 years to fix these and several other flaws.
The establishment of the electoral college as the specific
vehicle to elect the president of the United States was the result
of compromises that preserved a balance between the states
and the federal government overall, and to keep a balance in
the power between the large states and the smaller ones. As a
result, the election of the president is not purely a popular
vote election. After four elections in which the winning
candidate did not receive the most popular votes for president
in the l9th century, more than 100 years passed until this
circumstance reoccurred --- in 2000. Now, in 2016, it has
In recent years, there have been efforts made to change this
part of the constitution, either to eliminate the electoral college
altogether, or to keep it, but make it conform to the national
popular vote. The latter is an ingenious way to bypass the
amendment process, but accomplish the same goal. Its advocates
have been asking state legislatures to pass a law that requires a
a state to cast its electoral votes for the winner of the national
popular vote, regardless of who won that state’s popular vote
for president. If this effort can obtain the support of enough
states to cast at least 270 electoral votes under this method, it
will make the old electoral college method moot, and will have
done it without the difficulties of a constitutional amendment.
If it succeeds, the only remaining obstacle would be a requisite
approval of its constitutionality by the U.S. supreme court.
There are legitimate and serious arguments on both sides of
the question of maintaining an electoral college system or going
to a purely popular vote for president. This debate will now
continue, and should, as the nation seeks to find the best way
to choose its chief executive and commander-in-chief.
What is not legitimate is the argument that a person who wins
the electoral college, but not the popular vote, is not properly
elected president. The system we now have is the one that all
candidates for president know is in place. The strategy of a
presidential election is based on this system. There is no way of
knowing, for example, whether or not Donald Trump would
have won the popular vote, too, in 2016 if he and his campaign
knew that was the only way to win the contest. There can be no
doubt that the Trump campaign would have been different if
the candidate and his campaign knew they had to win the
popular vote and not the electoral vote.
We live in a time when some are eager to discard some of the
traditions of our long and mostly successful form of government.
Some legacies, such as slavery, segregation, limited voter
suffrage, and others, indeed, needed to cast away. Others have
extraordinarily helped preserve our freedom and prosperity.
We have a new president, properly elected. He will now be
subjected to the attention all presidents receive, including praise
by some, and criticism from others, for his performance. And
should he wish for another term of office, he will have to submit
himself to the voters four years from now.
If enough states choose to adopt the popular vote for president,
he will have to abide by that method. Otherwise, we now have only
one way to choose the leader of the executive branch of
Copyright (c) 2016 by Barry Casselman. All rights reserved.