The Electoral College and the Vote…Why An Electoral College?
Americans have no constitutionally protected right to vote in a federal election.
We have the right to not be discriminated against in voting, based on race, color, previous condition of servitude (15th amendment), sex (19th amendment), failure to pay a poll tax (24th amendment) or age, if at least 18 (26th amendment). But there is no right to vote in a federal election.
How the electors for President are chosen is determined by each state’s legislature
Following the 2000 presidential election, there was a dispute as to how votes were to be counted and recounted in Florida. The case went to the U.S. Supreme Court, twice.
In one of those cases, entitled Bush v. Gore, the U.S. Supreme Court majority noted that initially, the electors from several of the states were chosen by that state’s legislature, rather than by a popular vote. The majority opinion also noted that this method is still permissible under the Constitution.
The Constitution also does not require a popular vote for U.S. Representatives or U.S. Senators.
Those who elect members of the House of Representatives must have “the same Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature.” Under the 17th amendment, the language for those who choose Senators is virtually the same. So, if a state decided to have the mayors of the state choose the members of the lower house of the state legislature, the mayors would also choose the U.S. Representatives and Senators.
If it decided the Township trustees should select the members of the lower house of the state legislature, the Township Trustees would also choose the U.S. Representatives and Senators. If it decided to have the members of the upper house of the state legislature (except Nebraska which has unicameral or one house legislature) choose the members of the lower house of the state legislature, the members of the upper house would also choose the U.S. Representatives and Senators. The federal Constitution leaves that entirely to the states.
Why An Electoral College
The Electoral College is a process, not a place.
The Electoral College was created for two reasons. The first purpose was to create a buffer between the population and the selection of a President. The second as part of the structure of the government that gave power to the smaller states.
The founders created the Electoral College for reasons, which may seem hard to understand today. The founding fathers were afraid of direct election to the Presidency. They feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power.
Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers:
“It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations. It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief.”
Protection from Tyrants and Foreign Influence
America’s founders believed that the electors would be able to ensure that only a qualified person becomes President. Hamilton and other founders believed the Electoral College would protect the nation from would-be tyrants. It would act as a check on an electorate that might be duped. The founders also believed that the Electoral College had the advantage of being a group that met only once and thus could not be manipulated over time by foreign governments or others. America’s founders foresaw this problem, even before having the example of Germany’s Third Reich.
The Electoral College is also part of compromises made at the Congressional conventions to satisfy the small states. Under the system of the Electoral College, each state had the same number of electoral votes as they have a representative in Congress, so no state can have less than 3.
Electoral College Versus Popular Vote
One aspect of the electoral system not addressed in the constitution is that the winner takes all votes in the state. Therefore, it makes no difference if you win a state by 50.1% or by 80% of the vote you receive the same number of electoral votes. This can be a recipe for one individual to win some states by large pluralities and lose others by small number of votes, and so this makes it possible for one candidate to win the popular vote, while another wins the electoral vote.
This winner take all methods used in picking electors was established by each state. Recall that the U.S. Constitution says each state bears the power to determine how polling (voting) is handled. The only requirements each state has is that they must comply with the federal guidelines for security and safety, as established by the nonpartisan Election Commission and CISA (Cyber-security & Infrastructure Security Agency).
See These TFP Articles:
Polling in the United States, Safe? https://thefoundingproject.com/polling-united-states-safe/
National Archives- The Electoral College; Democracy Docket; History Central: https://www.archives.gov/electoral-college/about#:~:text=The%20Electoral%20College%20is%20a,popular%20vote%20of%20qualified%20citizens; https://www.democracydocket.com/analysis/what-does-the-constitution-say-about-the-right-to-vote/; https://www.historycentral.com/elections/Electoralcollgewhy.html; https://www.cisa.gov/about