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A Defense of the Electoral College

The article below was authored by IWP alumnus Michael Maibach and published by the National Endowment for the Humanities.

America’s Constitutional system aims not merely for majority rule, but rule by certain kinds of majorities…  All 537 of those elected to national offices – the President, Vice President, 100 Senators, and 435 Representatives  are chosen by majorities that reflect the Nation’s federal nature.   George F. Will, 2004   

“To the people belongs the right of electing their Chief Magistrate; it was never designed that their choice should in any case be defeated, either by the intervention of Electoral College or by… the House of Representatives.” – President Andrew Jackson, December 8, 1829, first Annual Message to Congress

Americans elect a president through the state-by-state mechanism of the Electoral College rather than direct nationwide popular vote. Today, all but two states award all of their electoral votes to the statewide winner. Ever since Andrew Jackson was denied the presidency by the House of Representatives in 1824, some have called for its abolition. It is timely to consider the value of this vital and controversial institution devised by our founders in 1787 in the world’s oldest constitution.   

Three criticisms of the College are made:

  • It is “undemocratic;”
  • It permits the election of a candidate who does not win the most votes; and
  • Its winner-takes-all approach cancels the votes of the losing candidates in each state.

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