After winning the popular vote but losing the presidency twice in 16 years, Democrats are determined to make a majority of the Electoral College contingent on which candidate wins the popular vote, but one expert says we might want to remember why the founders set things up this way before we change them.
This week, Colorado became the twelfth state to enact legislation requiring it’s electoral votes to be awarded to the winner of the national popular vote, regardless of the outcome in those states. Right now, those 12 states total 181 electoral votes.
So why did the founders create the Electoral College?
“The founders didn’t fully trust the idea of democracy yet also wanted to give some leeway to the states to have their own voting system. They wanted to protect the idea of federalism and leave to them how their elections would go,” said Jarrett Stepman, an editor and commentary writer at the Daily Signal, which is affiliated with the Heritage Foundation.
He says it also gives smaller states a slightly larger voice in the presidential election. Electoral votes are awarded to states based on the number of senators and representatives they have. Since all states have two senators, smaller states receive a bit more of a percentage of the electoral vote than their populations would indicate.
In the early decades of the United States, state affiliation often trumped national affiliation, prompting the founders to put a premium on state power.
“They all had this general concept that the concept of federalism really protects the idea of liberty and self-government, especially in a broad-based republic like ours,” said Stepman.
In addition to principle, says Stepman, is practicality. He says as ugly as the 2000 Florida recount was to determine whether George W. Bush or Al Gore would win the state and the presidency, imagine a nationwide recount to settle such a dilemma.
“It would have been a giant national nightmare, even beyond what it was. This would have looked like a mass national recount. It was so bad as it was in Florida itself, you can only imagine what this would be across the country,” said Stepman.
Listen to the full podcast to hear Stepman explain the legal hurdles awaiting this movement to circumvent the Electoral College, what Alexander Hamilton said about it in Federalist 68, and why we badly need to improve civics education.