On December 15, the Electoral College will meet and cast their votes for President and Vice-President in accordance with Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution. An effort has been underway for years to do away with the Electoral College and substitute in its place the popular vote as the means for electing the President and Vice-President.
The following is a reprint from our Illinois Conservative Blog of April 9, 2008. The original is no longer available due to a computer crash that wiped out our database.
Illinois Nixes Electoral College
On Monday (4/8/08) Illinois became the third state to attempt to dump the Electoral College by state law rather than by Constitutional amendment. The elimination of the Electoral College has long been a goal of progressives, socialists and the Democratic Party. Attempts to get it abolished in the past by amending the Constitution has failed.
As a Congressman in 2000, Rep. Rod Blagojevich co-sponsored a proposed constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College. Today, as Governor of Illinois, he signed into law a measure designed to bypass the Constitution and elect the President by popular vote.
The new law is largely the result of efforts by the California-based advocacy group National Popular Vote Inc. Similar laws have been passed in Maryland and New Jersey. The idea is to bind by law, each state’s electors to vote for the candidate who gets the most popular votes in the national election. Once enough states have passed similar laws to equal the 270 electoral votes necessary to elect a President the Constitution would be effectively rendered impotent without the need for a Constitutional amendment.
Such an attempt illustrates the contempt many politicians have for the Constitution they are sworn to uphold. It also illustrates a colossal lack of understanding concerning our form of government. The founders certainly were not unfamiliar with the meaning of democracy and probably understood the meaning of “popular vote“. If they wished the President to be elected by the popular vote of all the people throughout the United States they certainly had the knowledge and means to have written it into the Constitution. — Although they probably could not have gotten it ratified by the states.
Article Two of the Constitution which sets forth the manner of choosing a President was not written in a day and not without considerable discussion among the convention delegates. The first debate record I found on this question was on July 24, 1787. It was still under debate on September 4, six weeks later.
There were a number of proposals put forth by the delegates for selecting a President. One of the first being the popular vote of the people. Another was to elect the President by vote of the Legislature. Another by the state legislatures. Still another was to elevate a member of the Legislature to the office of President by a vote of the Senate. All were rejected for what seems to be good and valid reasons, having to do mostly with corruption and partisanship.
Aside from the founders’ distrust of pure democracy from fear of “tyranny of the majority”, they wanted the President to be able to make independent decisions not unduly influenced by others. They believed that if elected by popular vote he would be influenced too much by the popular whims of the people at any given time. Not much different from the attempt to “govern by polls” we see so often today.
By the same token, they believed that a choice by either the national or the state legislative bodies would place the office at too much risk of coercion by those bodies or subject the President to undue temptation to bribery or other unsavory influences by special interest groups. The method they finally adopted was the Electoral College.
Article II, Section 1: “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.
The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves. And they shall make a List of all the Persons voted for, and of the Number of Votes for each; which List they shall sign and certify, and transmit sealed to the Seat of the Government of the United States, directed to the President of the Senate. The President of the Senate shall, in the Presence of the Senate and House of Representatives, open all the Certificates, and the Votes shall then be counted. The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President, if such Number be a Majority of the whole Number of Electors appointed;…
The Congress may determine the Time of chusing the Electors, and the Day on which they shall give their Votes; which Day shall be the same throughout the United States.”
Advocates for the National Popular Vote (NPV) claim their proposal is constitutional because the Constitution grants to the states the power to “appoint, in such manner as the Legislature thereof may direct…electors”. NPV not only violates the text of the Constitution, it also violates the spirit. This is evident from the careful way in which the language was constructed and also in considering the overall nature of the Constitution and the government it establishes.
The U.S. government is a constitutional republic not a pure democracy. Furthermore the same form of government is guaranteed to each state by the same Constitution.
Article IV, Section 4: “The United States shall guarantee to every State in this Union a republican form of government…”
Exactly what is meant by “a republican form of government”, although well understood by the founders, is not well understood today. The definition agreed on universally is that it means the rule of law as opposed to rule by a monarchy, oligarchy or dictatorship, with the same law applying to government officials as to the people. Under our form of government, the Constitution is the supreme law of the land and trumps all others.
Another feature of our form of republican government is that the people do not, by popular vote, make decisions of law or policy. Instead, we elect representatives who make those decisions for us. If we do not like the decisions they make we do not re-elect them. This is evident from considering two hundred plus years of history and also viewing the Constitution in its entirety. From the Village Board, to the City Council, to the Federal government this principle applies. The modern practice in some states of referendums is a fairly new device introduced by the progressive movement.
Getting back to the Constitution, Article II, Section 1: Notice that the authority of the State Legislature is limited to determining the manner in which electors are to be appointed and nothing else. Also notice, “No Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector“. Only by understanding that the framers did not intend for any member of the state legislature or other official of the state to influence the outcome of the electoral vote, does this restriction make any sense at all.
Furthermore the fact that the electors were to meet once, at a time and place prescribed by federal law and cast their votes “by ballot”, the tally of which was to be sealed and delivered to the Senate of the United States along with certification as to their authenticity. It is evident from these facts that the vote of the electors was to be based on their own judgment, independent of the influence of those who appointed them, whether elected by the people or appointed by the legislature. The current practice of many states to cast all their electoral votes for the candidate receiving the most votes statewide, notwithstanding.
The main reason why the founders rejected the election of a President by popular vote was because such an arrangement would disenfranchise the smaller states and give undue weight to the votes of the more populous states where the vote is more easily controlled by political machines in major cities like Chicago, New York, Los Angeles, etc. That still seems like the most valid reason to me.