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Origins And History Of The Electoral College

Origins and History of the Electoral College In order to appreciate the reasons for the Electoral College, it is essential to understand its historical context and the problem that the Founding Fathers were trying to solve. They faced the difficult question of how to elect a president in a nation that: Origins of the Electoral College The Constitutional Convention considered several possible methods of selecting a president. One idea was to have the Congress choose the president. This idea was rejected, however, because some felt that making such a choice would be too divisive an issue and leave too many hard feelings in the Congress. Others felt that such a procedure would invite unseemly political bargaining, corruption, and perhaps even interference from foreign powers. Still others felt that such an arrangement would upset the balance of power between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. A second idea was to have the State legislatures select the president. This idea, too, was rejected out of fears that a president so beholden to the State legislatures might permit them to erode federal authority and thus undermine the whole idea of a federation. A third idea was to have the president elected by a direct popular vote. Direct election was rejected not because the Framers of the Constitution doubted public intelligence but rather because they feared that without sufficient information about candidates from outside their State, people would naturally vote for a favorite son from their own State or region. At worst, no president would emerge with a popular majority sufficient to govern the whole country. At best, the choice of president would always be decided by the largest, most populous States with little regard for the smaller ones. Finally, a so-called Committee of Eleven in the Constitutional Convention proposed an indirect election of the president through a College of Electors. The First Design In the first design of the Electoral College (described in Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution): Each State was allocated a number of Electors equal to the number of its U.S. Senators (always 2) plus the number of its U.S. Representatives (which may change each decade according to the size of each State?s population as determined in the decennial census). This arrangement built upon an earlier compromise in the design of the Congress itself and thus satisfied both large and small States. The manner of choosing the Electors was left to the individual State legislatures, thereby pacifying States suspicious of a central national government. Members of Congress and employees of the federal government were specifically prohibited from serving as an Elector in order to maintain the balance between the legislative and executive branches of the federal government. Each State?s Electors were required to meet in their respective States rather than all together in one great meeting. This arrangement, it was thought, would prevent bribery, corruption, secret dealing, and foreign influence. In order to prevent Electors from voting only for a favorite son of their own State, each Elector was required to cast two votes for president, at least one of which had to be for someone outside their home State. The idea, presumably, was that the winner would likely be everyone?s second favorite choice. The electoral votes were to be sealed and transmitted from each of the States to the President of the Senate who would then open them before both houses of the Congress and read the results. n The person with the most electoral votes, provided that it was an absolute majority (at least one over half of the total), became president. Whoever obtained the next greatest number of electoral votes became vice president?an office which they seem to have invented for the occasion since it had not been mentioned previously in the Constitutional Convention. In the event that no one obtained an absolute majority in the Electoral College or in the event of a tie vote, the U.S. House of Representatives, as the chamber closest to the people, would choose the president from among the top five contenders. They would do this (as a further concession to the small States) by allowing each State to cast only one