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We vote for the slate of electors who go on to vote at the electoral college.

Since the 12th Amendment, there have been several federal and State statutory changes which have affected both the time and manner of choosing Presidential Electors but which have not further altered the fundamental workings of the Electoral College. There have also been a few curious incidents which its critics cite as problems but which proponents of the Electoral College view as merely its natural and intended operation.

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Best ideas about College Works on Pinterest Electorial

What does our current presidential stalemate mean for the electoral college?It means more people are aware of the college's existence and that more Americans understand the electoral process.

Should We Reform the Electoral College Cato Institute

The first design of the Electoral College lasted through only four presidential elections. For in the meantime, political parties had emerged in the United States. The very people who had been condemning parties publicly had nevertheless been building them privately. And too, the idea of political parties had gained respectability through the persuasive writings of such political philosophers as Edmund Burke and James Madison.

One of the accidental results of the development of political parties was that in the presidential election of 1800, the Electors of the Democratic-Republican Party gave Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr (both of that party) an equal number of electoral votes. The tie was resolved by the House of Representatives in Jefferson's favor - but only after 36 tries and some serious political dealings which were considered unseemly at the time. Since this sort of bargaining over the presidency was the very thing the Electoral College was supposed to prevent, the Congress and the States hastily adopted the Twelfth Amendment to the Constitution by September of 1804.

To prevent tie votes in the Electoral College which were made probable, if not inevitable, by the rise of political parties (and no doubt to facilitate the election of a president and vice president of the same party), the 12th Amendment requires that each Elector cast one vote for president and a separate vote for vice president rather than casting two votes for president with the runner-up being made vice president. The Amendment also stipulates that if no one receives an absolute majority of electoral votes for president, then the U.S. House of Representatives will select the president from among the top three contenders with each State casting only one vote and an absolute majority being required to elect. By the same token, if no one receives an absolute majority for vice president, then the U.S. Senate will select the vice president from among the top two contenders for that office. All other features of the Electoral College remained the same including the requirements that, in order to prevent Electors from voting only for "favorite sons", either the presidential or vice presidential candidate has to be from a State other than that of the Electors.

In short, political party loyalties had, by 1800, begun to cut across State loyalties thereby creating new and different problems in the selection of a president. By making seemingly slight changes, the 12th Amendment fundamentally altered the design of the Electoral College and, in one stroke, accommodated political parties as a fact of life in American presidential elections.

It is noteworthy in passing that the idea of electing the president by direct popular vote was not widely promoted as an alternative to redesigning the Electoral College. This may be because the physical and demographic circumstances of the country had not changed that much in a dozen or so years. Or it may be because the excesses of the recent French revolution (and its fairly rapid degeneration into dictatorship) had given the populists some pause to reflect on the wisdom of too direct a democracy.

The Electoral College and the 2000 Election

How did the electoral college come about?It was devised by the founders as a means of resolving two concerns.

Students will learn about the electoral process and its history through reading, research, and discussion. They will then convene a constitutional convention to debate altering this process.

But what exactly is the Electoral College

Given its over-200 year legacy, the Electoral College has been greatly distorted by the rose-colored lenses of history, its purposes and its creators’ intentions largely relegated to the background in the popular imagination. Though optimistic views of its origins have perpetuated its support, said origins are not as pure as proponents claim them to be. In fact, while the founders originally considered a presidential election system based solely on the popular vote, they were largely swayed to the Electoral College, according to constitutional scholar Akhil Reed Amar, by the between free states and slave states in the election of a president. Despite popular belief, the Founding Fathers were not magnanimously imagining a balance between small states and large states. Their aim was to put off the slavery problem that plagued them in the creation of the Constitution, because they knew the North would win the popular vote every time.


Luce Professor of the Civil War Era and Director of the Civil War Era Studies at Gettysburg College.

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In defense of the electoral college

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Essay over the electoral college

Today, an honest reflection on the Electoral College’s origins is more important than ever. On November 15, Senator Barbara Boxer (D-Calif.) introduced a bill to abolish it. With the controversial results of this election, and the fact that a candidate who lost by votes won the presidency, it is no wonder the faults of the institution have been brought up again. But many misconceptions about the benefits and intended purposes of the institution persist. In order to judge whether the Electoral College should remain, we must examine what it is, what is has achieved, and whether it has lived up to its promises, not merely what it was idealistically designed to do.