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It’s time for the Electoral College to go

REUTERS/Mike Segar
With the final count for 2016 yet to be determined, currently Hillary Clinton has roughly 1.27 million more votes than Donald Trump (1.0 percent of the total vote). Yet Trump will become president.

Every four years, Americans learn something about the Electoral College. On election night, it becomes something of a game, with individual states being “called” for one candidate or another, and the winning candidate getting all of each state’s electoral votes (with the exception of two small states, Maine and Nebraska, which allocate their votes proportionally by congressional district). The candidate who gets a majority of the Electoral College vote, according to the Constitution, becomes president.

Neil Kraus

This year, for the second time in five presidential elections, the winner of the popular vote will not become the president. In 2000, Al Gore got nearly 550,000 more votes than George W. Bush, but Bush went on to become president because of the Electoral College vote. With the final count for 2016 yet to be determined, currently Hillary Clinton has roughly 1.27 million more votes than Donald Trump (1.0 percent of the total vote).  Yet Trump will become president. And let us not forget that in 2004, had John Kerry received 120,000 more votes in Ohio, he would have become president despite losing the popular vote by over 2.5 million.

The Electoral College was created by the Framers of the Constitution as a method of preventing average voters, who were not fully trusted, from directly electing the president. In Federalist #68, Alexander Hamilton defended this system: “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.” The expectation was that states would choose electors, who would deliberate in the state capitols, and each elector would choose the two people best qualified to be president. The candidate with the most votes would be president, and the one with the second highest vote total would be vice president.

Changed by the 12th Amendment

The 12th Amendment changed this system so that electors chose one person for president, and one for vice president. The fact that each state received the number of electors equal to their total number of representatives in Congress was also a way to ensure that slave states had sufficient influence in choosing presidents. The Constitution also mandated that slaves would be counted as 3/5 of a free person for population purposes, and in combination with equal representation in the Senate, the South was poised to have significant influence in the national government.

Beginning with the election of 1820, however, the states began to move toward a winner-take-all slate of electors based on each state’s popular vote. Hamilton and James Madison objected to this, saying it violated the spirit of the Constitution. Nonetheless, the winner-take-all system was in place, and within the context of Jacksonian democracy, in which suffrage was gradually being extended to all white males, there was no going back to the previous, elitist system of electing the president.

While we still have the same basic system of electing the president in place today, all of the other conventions about political participation dominant in the late 18th century have, one by one, been transformed through constitutional amendments, federal and state laws, or Supreme Court decisions. Some of these fundamental changes include: the 14th Amendment, which gave voting rights to former slaves; the 17th amendment, which allowed for the direct election of senators; the 19th Amendment, which established women’s suffrage; the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which prohibited racial discrimination in voting; the establishment of the one-man (one-person) – one-vote principle, which affirmed that all legislative districts have to be equal in population; and the 26th Amendment, which extended voting rights to all 18-year-olds.

Further, the creation of direct democratic processes in 20th century state and local politics — including the initiative, referendum, and recall — would have been unthinkable in the early republic. Considering how we have fundamentally redefined democracy since the founding period, it is remarkable that we still even have the Electoral College.

Untenable: Citing the Framers’ intentions

Those who support the Electoral College on constitutional grounds, specifically the intentions of the Framers, are in the untenable position of defending every other law and practice of the founding period that limited suffrage and participation. Besides, no one would even seriously think of arguing that we ought to have the Electoral College function the way the framers actually intended, as a group of free agents filtering public sentiment and coming to their own conclusion about who is most qualified to be president.

The main political argument, one I have heard repeated too many times recently to count, is that it is too difficult to change the Constitution. As a political scientist, I know the difficulties of the amendment process. But this is not a principled argument in favor of the Electoral College, and does nothing to advance public debate on the issue. Rather, this admission simply fuels anger toward the government and the political process. Moreover, because the text of the Constitution gives states substantial latitude in terms of how they allocate their Electoral College votes, we can reform the current system in any number of ways without a constitutional amendment. For example, the national popular vote model would guarantee that the states award their electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote. In no way does the Constitution mandate the winner-take-all system.

Keeping the Electoral College because it helps smaller states is also dubious when one considers all of the votes for losing candidates in smaller states that are either solidly Republican or Democratic (think about all the Democrats in states like Idaho and Republicans in states like Vermont). And the majority of the largest states are also dominated by one party, such as California, Texas, Illinois and New York. Those voting for the losing party in each of these four states make up a significant percentage of the American electorate, yet with the Electoral College, one could reasonably claim that the nearly 3.9 million Texans who voted for Clinton or the 3.2 million Californians who voted for Trump may as well not have voted at all. As my late father always used to ask me each presidential election, “Neil, as a Republican, why do I bother voting in New York?”

If Trump had lost …

Let us imagine for a moment what would be happening if Donald Trump were on the losing end of a split between the popular and electoral vote. In the last several weeks of the campaign, Trump repeatedly refused to state unequivocally that he would accept the results of the election if he lost, and the question assumed he would lose both the electoral and popular vote. If Trump were in Clinton’s position now, the usual voices would browbeat the issue onto the political agenda, and legislative bills and constitutional amendments would be introduced and formally considered in the very near future.

Powerful institutions and individuals have known for decades that if you want to change laws, policies, and government in significant ways, you first have to engage in an extended public relations campaign. Recent examples of this are numerous, including the systematic effort to convince the public of alleged voter fraud, thus the need for voter ID laws, and the ongoing effort to cast doubt on all scientific claims about global warming. Both of these campaigns have been enormously successful in terms of influencing public opinion and ultimately laws and policies. Unlike both of these efforts, however, which are based largely on falsehoods and misleading claims, making the case against the Electoral College is relatively easy because it is based on basic historical events that we all learned in high school within the context of the evolution of our definition of democracy.

The office of the presidency is the only elective office in the United States that one can win without winning a plurality – without winning a plurality – of the vote. With the population continuing to move to the nation’s larger metropolitan areas, which are predominately located on the coasts, the possibility of another 2000 or 2016 happening in the near future remains very real. Advocates of democracy should not wait until this happens again, or simply throw up their hands in defeat. If we choose not to engage in this debate, we choose to accept an anti-democratic institution that has not functioned according to the expressed rationale of its creators for nearly 200 years and bears no relationship to our contemporary understanding of democracy. We will continue to sacrifice democratic legitimacy, public cynicism and distrust of government will grow, and tens of millions of Americans will not be able to meaningfully participate in electing candidates to the highest office in the land. 

Neil Kraus, of St. Paul, is a professor and chair of political science at the University of Wisconsin, River Falls. He is the author of “Majoritarian Cities: Policy Making and Inequality in Urban Politics.”


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Comments (55)

  1. Submitted by joe smith on 11/22/2016 - 09:32 am.

    Thank goodness for the Electoral College!!

    If you had popular vote, you would see campaigns only talk about social issues, just like HRC…. I never did hear her say how she was going to help the middle class besides taxing the rich. Agree or not, most States agreed, Trump said to help middle class he will lower corporate taxes and remove silly regulations that prohibit small business growth. He also said he would unleash our natural resources to be used to help middle class grow. That helped him carry the mid-west, upper Great Lakes states and coal country. HRC talked social issues only and won the popular vote. The 2016 race was mostly devoid of substance and long on divisiveness. The working class carried Trump to 290 electoral votes and he is now the new President. If not for electoral college all those working class folks (all colors of people) do not have a voice… It will be East/West coast elites electing all Presidents…. No thank you!!!

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/22/2016 - 01:54 pm.

      Thank Goodness!

      It sounds like you’re a big Electoral College booster because it reached a result you like, based on the issues you want discussed. The fact that most of those who voted thought the country should go in a different direction doesn’t seem to bother you much (I find this ironic coming from one who liked to cite polls showing how dissatisfied Americans are with the direction of the country).

  2. Submitted by Bob Petersen on 11/22/2016 - 10:54 am.

    I Would Expect More From A Professor

    The points being picked out leaves this professor needing to research history more. The fact that he teaches politics with such limited points leaves much to be desired. Basing the Electoral College from those that left out suffrage? That peoples’ votes do not matter because of being in states that are strong with only one party? (last time anyone checked, Minnesota has the longest such streak with one party – even California used to go to the Republicans)

    If the professor did his research, he would find much about how the Electoral College came into being and why. It was created as an agreement with the states, who wanted their own representation and voting into the office. The professor is correct in that there were several that did not want those unknowledgeable voting for the President because there was serious worry that a majority of people, no matter how large or small, can have their way on the minority. The Framers wanted to ensure that there is power for the minority. They knew the Electoral College was not perfect. But they knew a straight popular vote for the most powerful position on Earth is fraught with many problems. But the thing this professor fails to mention is that the Founders wanted to ensure there was power in those in the minority as to why they were thinking along the lines they were. They did not want mob rule. Yes, they did not want just anyone voting because they would be uninformed voters. But it was not merely on the facts this professor is stating.

    The Electoral College works because it ensures that all states are being considered. Otherwise, politics would only be in California, Texas, New York, Illinois, and Florida. The map I know of has 45 other states. It would be a shame that only a few states would decide every election.

    As an aside, methinks that maybe this professor might be just another upset liberal because Trump won. After all, professors are beyond a supermajority that are liberals.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/22/2016 - 11:41 am.

      Pretty much agree

      that the Professor seems to be teaching a high school social studies lesson in a four-year college political science course. Why is that? If so, why is he apparently teaching his preferred view rather than the balanced introductory course it should be?

      My classmates discussed these issues thoroughly in 10th grade summer school social studies. Some wrote papers on the topic. Then we went into the parking lot for behind-the-wheel driver training. That was 1964, in an excellent school with excellent teachers. Although half expected by me, hauling out this sophomore topic here is ever more irrelevant. Just a tired reflex from populist knees.

  3. Submitted by Jim Million on 11/22/2016 - 11:49 am.

    First things first:

    Let’s just forgo any deriguere slavery postulation for this discussion. Not needed here.

    Instead, let’s examine only a few reasons the Electoral College system, providing mechanism to prevent Constitutional crisis, is an excellent backstop for various election anomalies. That’s why we got it, and need to keep it, especially in this era of electronic data dysfunctions.

    2016 may form the most visible argument for the EC relief valve: Possible corruption charges and indictments of any President elect prior to official January ceremonies. We could have theoretically gone either way this year, given the HRC State Dept./Clinton Foundation cyber spaghetti mess, and the Trump issues of Trump U and other investment issues. What then?

    Who believes the best result of HRC’s theoretical situation would be the ascension of Tim Kane? Nobody voted with thought of his ascension. Come on, we know that. While some may have seen Mike Pence as a stable and seasoned replacement, he was not the ballot focus either. Who can dispute this?

    So, HRC finally develops acute medical symptoms revealing some truly dismal prognosis. Or, she is indicted for past actions–all before January. Isn’t it more reasonable for Electors to review everything to assure positive transitions without domestic chaos?

    Let’s consider a Trump indictment or some other disqualification. Clearly, his votes were for Trump, not for Pence. Although Pence might have the ability to pull things together, nobody voted for him to do so–immediately, for sure.

    Some here will say the Electors would make narrow decisions of state-specific interest pressured by outside groups to rectify the crisis, thereby elevating a truly bad choice for “all the people.” I don’t buy into any of such expected conspiracy theory. How’d you like these same suspects to spend months ripping our fabric into more tatters? The Electors would curtail much of this chaos. We could never stand another immediate election and its chaotic time line. Imagine all the bad actors out there acting on this uncertainty.

    The Electors of the College would meet their responsibility to maintain orderly continuation and progression of our national government, avoiding-at least easing- financial crises spurred by foreign doubts regarding a stable government in place. In only a few days. And that’s vital, because delays would exacerbate civil unrest, fear and possible revolutionary dysfunction.

    Time and professional conduct would save the country from many immediate negative outcomes.
    The new government might, indeed, be provisional until some orderly popular solution is devised–perhaps an off-schedule national election declared after things settle into some better certainty.

    Can everyone here understand the public outrage fueled by panic and media disinformation? That would truly promote revolution of some degree, I do believe. The Electoral College serves to anchor the ship of state in such times.

    One other benefit of taking the resolution of the Electors simply regards the suspension of manipulated recount after recount, still not providing certainty. The national chaos of that would be disastrous. International markets and mischief by others would be viciously political in any interim.

    This Electoral College topic has been a popular high school debating question for decades. And, it remains rightly as such: a question.

    • Submitted by chuck holtman on 11/24/2016 - 09:42 am.

      You describe a role for the electoral college

      in extraordinary circumstances (which to my possibly stunted historical knowledge have never been at hand).

      If we believe it is critical to have a mechanism such as the electoral college in place in the event such circumstances arise, that is fine. But that is not an argument for the electoral college to decide elections under “normal” circumstances.

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/27/2016 - 09:45 am.

        seem to be more “abnormal” with time…

        Oh, I don’t know—seems to me 2016 brought us quite close to the need: criminal allegations/investigations of significance regarding both main candidates, clear evidence of cyber manipulations of information if not yet of electronic vote gathering (do we really know yet?).

        If any Presidential election begged for the human review and possible utility of the EC, this one was the one in my mind. One cause for the EC remains (to me) its presence to help measure “normal.”

        • Submitted by Roy Everson on 11/27/2016 - 01:01 pm.

          Sure, we’re all about “normal”

          The nation that purports to lead the free and democratic world is about see a new leader, a rightist nationalist populist, elected by an almost all-white party that has failed to elect a new president with the popular vote since 1988. Americans willing to let this stand own the inevitable result: the end of that era of global leadership.

          The mantel will fall to German and EU shoulders very soon.

        • Submitted by chuck holtman on 11/28/2016 - 08:17 am.

          For the historical record

          Both candidates didn’t have “criminal allegations/investigations of significance.” Ms Clinton was rightly critiqued as a corporatist candidate (like every other major party candidate in my lifetime), but the braying of Mr Trump and his minions aside, no measurable evidence of any misdeed of a criminal or comparable nature by Ms Clinton has come to light. The candidate carrying a bottomless handbag of corruption and illegality is Mr Trump. So per your view of the electoral college, in this case, its role would have been (would be) to prevent the popular vote from placing him in office. But if the popular vote controlled, Ms Clinton would have been elected, so the electoral college would not be needed.

          • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/28/2016 - 09:04 am.

            Interesting one-eyed view

            Based on “criminal allegations” HRC was subject to an “investigation of significance,” if one considers a very thorough and rather public FBI investigation “significant.” Where were you this Fall, Charles?

            Historically speaking here, of course.

            • Submitted by chuck holtman on 11/28/2016 - 10:37 am.

              Yes there was an investigation

              Those who carefully examined and parsed the allegations did not expect the investigation to find anything, and it didn’t.

              Don’t make me into a defender of Ms Clinton. I did not support her in the primary and have understood for years that the corporatist centrism of the Democratic establishment creates the opportunity for fraudulent populists like Trump to emerge from the authoritarian Right. But let’s not lose all capacity for distinctions. There has been no evidence of Clinton crimes or corruption in any sense in which those words are popularly meant. There certainly is nothing to distinguish Clinton from any other major party candidates of the past as would justify an electoral college intervention to deny her a presidency earned by the popular vote.

  4. Submitted by Nick Foreman on 11/22/2016 - 12:16 pm.

    Note that the usual

    Suspects support the Electoral College since it has benefitted them twice in the last 16 years – for 2 lousy candidates.

    • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/22/2016 - 01:26 pm.

      Forgot the obvious “usual suspects” denigration

      Do you mean those with balanced perspectives and rational assessment?
      Or simply those who discomfort others?

  5. Submitted by Frank Phelan on 11/22/2016 - 05:54 pm.

    It’s Really Rich

    To hear conservatives speak so reverently, almost in hushed tones, about The Founders and their infinite wisdom, so many levels above us mere mortals. Many Christian conservatives seem to almost forget that idolatry is a sin, such is their near deification of The Founders.

    And yet, they have such little real knowledge of those same Founders, and their actual beliefs and motivations. These orientalists should be lamenting that electors don’t submit two names for the presidency, as the Founders ordained.

    I guess change that serves modern day conservatives is good, and that which does not serve them (or which they perhaps are unaware of) is bad or at least not discussed.

    Were The Founders as omniscient as we’re told, we should elect presidents exactly as they were originally.

  6. Submitted by Greg Kapphahn on 11/22/2016 - 07:05 pm.

    So If the Electoral College Electors

    followed the “original intent” of the founders,…

    they would feel completely free to vote “faithlessly” if they were convinced that the voters had made a poor choice for President/Vice President.

    THAT would make for interesting times, indeed.

    A deeper question for me, however, has to do with economic activity.

    It seems to me that the areas of the nation where the most economic activity,…

    especially the most innovation,…

    is taking place,…

    deserve a greater role in electing those who govern our nation,…

    because they are now often hamstrung by politicians elected by rural folk,…

    many of whom seem to resent all those folk who moved to more active places,…

    feel as if they aren’t getting a fair shake (which, at least here in Minnesota, is completely wrong),…

    and seem to want nothing more than to punish city folk for being,…

    city folk.

    My next thought will sound extremely paternalistic,…

    and it is.

    The current functioning of the Electoral College was designed, at least in part, to keep the high density metropolitan areas,…

    from running roughshod over the rural areas,…

    ensuring that the government would be forced to act in the interest of rural folk even though there are far fewer of them.

    But what’s happened, instead, is that the rural folk being generally less sophisticated,…

    and less well educated,…

    make very easy targets for slick big city guys like Donald Trump to talk them into voting against their own interests.

    In the current sophisticated media environment,…

    where rural folk, being UNsophisticated, are such easy targets,…

    for con artists and charlatans (some of whom are found on national radio and cable TV networks),…

    perhaps moving in some way to election by popular vote would restore balance to our democracy,…

    and reduce to some extent the influence of those voters who are most easily (and tragically for themselves and the rest of the nation),…


    • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/24/2016 - 07:54 am.


      As you said, that was very paternalistic, condescending and misguided.

      Now I agree that there may be fewer college degrees in rural America, but I am pretty sure these rural individuals, many of whom are business owners, are much more intelligent than many of the people who live in the cities.

      Risk alienating your food producers, power generators, and fellow citizens at your own peril. Besides, remember that we don’t talk much about the “rural achievement gap”.

  7. Submitted by Ilya Gutman on 11/22/2016 - 09:57 pm.

    Not a guarantee

    Just a note: The fact that Clinton won the majority of the votes this election is not a guarantee that she would have won a real popular election because it would be a different game. If I won my tennis match 7-6, 3-6, 7-6, it doesn’t mean that I would lose if the goal of the game were to win the most games rather than two out of three sets….

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/23/2016 - 01:45 pm.

      Well, Yes

      There is a saying some environmental scientists use: “You can’t change just one thing.” A presidential election is a complex thing, and making a change like eliminating the Electoral College will shake up and alter the entire system. If a President were elected by the popular vote, we can expect that primaries would be conducted differently, possibly leading to different candidates being nominated. The general election campaigns would have been conducted differently, so it seems only logical that the end result could have been very different (it could have been the same, for that matter). Would Senator Clinton have won? Maybe–it’s an open, and unanswerable, question. Would she have been nominated in the first place? That is even more speculative.

      Focusing on which candidate would have been elected is not the point. The real point is that the Electoral College has, once again, worked against the collective will of the majority of voters.

      Years ago, when I was in school, we were taught that a presidential election going to the loser of the popular vote was possible, but it was an anomaly. Of the three times it had happened up to then, one election involved electoral situations such as we had in 2000 and 2016, one election was decided by the House of Representatives, and one election (1876) was brokered in the proverbial “smoke-filled room.” It was supposed to be a very rare event. Now, it has happened twice in the space of sixteen years. An anomaly has become the norm.

  8. Submitted by Kris Troske on 11/23/2016 - 04:10 pm.

    I Would Reform the Electoral College Rather than Discard It

    My idea is to keep the present structure of the EC but add additional delegates to each state in proportion to its population. I can see a value in protecting the rural states, but that protection has gone too far when a presidential vote in Wyoming has about 30 times the weight that one in California does. Adding some delegates (and it wouldn’t have to be a lot) based on population would even out the balance.

    • Submitted by chuck holtman on 11/24/2016 - 10:00 am.

      The electoral college deviates from a popular vote in two ways

      First, as you note, it causes the votes of those in smaller states to count more. There’s no argument to support this. I don’t know what you mean by “protecting the rural states” – the interest of each citizen in her own well-being, the well-being of her family and the decency of her society should count the same whether she lives in a city or on a wind-swept plain. Frankly, I think this sort of statement (as made popularly, I’m not criticizing you) carries a whiff of the True (White) Americans out on the land being more worthy than the people of color and furtive urban liberals scurrying about in the crowded cities. (The Senate of course is particularly egregious – a profound Founding Flaw where 20% of the population can carry a Senate majority.) If the electoral college is to be used, there is no principled argument against having EC votes match population, with updating at each census.

      Second, the EC turns a single national election into a competition of 51 weighted elections. This is more subject to argument pro and con, but it does distort both campaigns and outcomes. One can see a historical basis, when states were more loosely confederated and populations were smaller, but at this point the vote of my fellow Minnesotan in a national election doesn’t and shouldn’t mean any more to me than the vote of someone in Arkansas.

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/26/2016 - 11:09 pm.


        Please remember that our country consists of 50 “united” states and DC. We are more like the European Union than one of their member countries. Therefore it is critical that each State / region gets it’s voice heard. Long live the EC and it’s weighting that ensures the highly populated areas do not run rough shod over the lower population density regions of the country.

  9. Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/28/2016 - 07:06 am.

    What of this development?

    The Professor ponders the question, “If Trump had lost …”

    Because Hillary lost, we can see what she would do; three weeks post election, she would join a recount effort in Wisconsin, a state in which she had not campaigned since the primaries. Just like Minnesota, she mailed it in. Unlike Minnesota, she lost. Next, Pennsylvania and Michigan. A concession doesn’t mean what it once did.

    Trump election: Clinton campaign joins Wisconsin vote recount

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/28/2016 - 09:17 am.

      “A concession doesn’t mean what it once did.”

      A concession has no legal force. The election is not decided officially until the presidential electors meet to cast their votes.

      Lately, I’ve been hearing about Republicans being big fans of electoral integrity. They are willing to go so far as to create practical barriers to the exercise of the franchise just in case there is some fraud in the electoral process. Surely, the folks who are so big on fair and honest elections would join in a recount that investigates whether there was illegal interference in the process, wouldn’t they?

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/28/2016 - 09:57 am.

        Of course they would…

        given probable cause, that is. I suppose, however, we must continue to dwell on nouns rather than adjectives.

      • Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/28/2016 - 10:49 am.

        Electoral integrity is good. My comment chides the author for speculating what President-elect Trump would have done had he lost. While, we can clearly see what election losing Hillary is doing. Imagine the outrage if an election losing Trump was firing up the recount engine.

        No qualms here; let the recounting commence.

  10. Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/28/2016 - 07:36 am.

    8th Grade Civics Lesson

    I do recall a Electoral College lesson from my 8th grade Civics class. The electoral college still functions to balance states’ powers. In a “fair” population based system, a popular vote would choose the President, and California would get 18 senators, while Wyoming and both Dakotas would get one each. California would store their nuclear waste in Wyoming, because they could. California would also choose the President, and those of us dwelling in the sparsely populated fly-over (no campaign stops) would have nothing to say about it. Let’s not do that.

    • Submitted by chuck holtman on 11/28/2016 - 08:10 am.

      Why not?

      You don’t offer any reasoning for your position. Some peoples’ views count less because they live closer to other people?

      • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/28/2016 - 10:01 am.

        Possibly why…

        Because a Constitutional convention of sorts would likely be required to do all of this. Each State has 2 Senators because they represent the State of Minnesota, etc. with respect to the Federal structure. Each State has equal weight of representation.

        The House represents The People of our States, therefore based on demographic distribution/population. Check the California House count against most any other State. There the views count fairly equally (more, some would say) because they do “live closer to other people,” at least in SoCal.

        “The number of voting representatives in the House is fixed by law at no more than 435, proportionally representing the population of the 50 states. Currently, there are five delegates representing the District of Columbia, the Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands.”

        For Example: California: 53, Minnesota: 8, Idaho: 2

  11. Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/28/2016 - 09:13 am.

    Checks and balances are good, and an integral part of our constitutional (not pure) democracy.

    I think that California choosing our President would be bad. I think that California storing their nuclear waste in Wyoming would be bad. When I stated, “let’s not do that”, that is clearly what I meant. Let’s hear your reasoning for your position.

    President John Adams, regarding the tyranny of the majority:

    “If a majority are capable of preferring their own private interest, or that of their families, counties, and party, to that of the nation collectively, some provision must be made in the constitution, in favor of justice, to compel all to respect the common right, the public good, the universal law, in preference to all private and partial considerations… And that the desires of the majority of the people are often for injustice and inhumanity against the minority, is demonstrated by every page of history… To remedy the dangers attendant upon the arbitrary use of power, checks, however multiplied, will scarcely avail without an explicit admission some limitation of the right of the majority to exercise sovereign authority over the individual citizen… In popular governments [democracies], minorities [individuals] constantly run much greater risk of suffering from arbitrary power than in absolute monarchies…”

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/28/2016 - 02:36 pm.


      “I think that California choosing our President would be bad.” Why? Why would it be any worse than he less-populous states choosing the President?

      • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/28/2016 - 03:24 pm.


        As noted above, we are a group of States that are United for a common purpose. (ie not a national democracy) It would become problematic if the States / Areas / Populations with large populations could Lord over the States / Areas / Populations with small populations. (ie destabilizing)

        The current system lets the States with smaller populations band together when necessary to push back. It is an excellent system !!!

        It forces our political parties and government to represent the majority of people in most States, not just the majority in the biggest States. And the Democratic party has some work to do in the rural areas of the USA.

      • Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/28/2016 - 03:55 pm.

        Because they are a state …

        Because they are a state, their voters do not represent the interests of voters all across the nation.

        Because of their large population, they have the largest number of electoral college votes of any state, which gives them a great deal of clout. The less populous states do not choose the President; it is the swing states (like the three being recounted) that determine who is President.

        If the President were selected by popular vote, all of the campaigning would occur in the dense population centers. No attention would be given to the rest of the nation before the election nor after the election. That makes it a bad idea, which is why it will not receive serious consideration.

        If elimination of the EC was the right thing to do, the beginning of the current administration would have been the time to do it. As I recall, the issue was never raised.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/28/2016 - 04:14 pm.

          Because they are a state . . .

          . . . with more people than any other state. I thought our government was for the people, not land masses.

          The states are legacies of a system of 17th century colonial land grants. They were not meant to be the basis of a unified government. They are an anachronism.

          “If elimination of the EC was the right thing to do, the beginning of the current administration would have been the time to do it.” Again, why? President Obama was elected and re-elected with a majority of the popular vote, as well as a majority of the electoral college vote. There was no anomaly distorting the expression of popular will, so why was that the time to get rid of the electoral college?

          • Submitted by Jim Million on 11/28/2016 - 04:42 pm.

            Yes, Spanish Land Grants

            in this case of California. Can’t remember: Is the Texas land mass greater than the California land mass?

            Then again, would California now produce much more than produce, had it not been for Pearl Harbor?
            For that matter, should we have allowed Texans to leave Fort Worth for Dallas, leaving cattle for oil?
            And, damn that Louisiana Purchase! That’s what started the whole mess.

          • Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/28/2016 - 04:48 pm.

            The year was 2000, the candidate was Al Gore

            Our’s was never a pure democracy; we have a unique Constitution that sets out the rules, including checks and balances. The EC is a component of our democracy that checks the tyranny of the majority.

            In 2001, the Democrats controlled both houses of congress and the Presidency. If the Democrats were still whinging regarding Al Gore winning the simple majority, they had a golden opportunity to right the wrong. It seems they weren’t interested.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/28/2016 - 05:13 pm.


              I hardly think complaining about undemocratic institutions is “whinging.”

              I also thought that “checks and balances” referred to three co-equal branches of government. I don’t know what one might call the institutionalized disdain of wealthy land-owning aristocrats for the masses.

              • Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/29/2016 - 08:37 am.

                Whinging Indeed, Checks & Balances Indeed

                Were EC complaints following the Gore loss in earnest, the party whinging would have taken up the cause and corrected the wrong while empowered. Didn’t happen.

                The EC is no more “undemocratic” than every state being represented by two Senators.

                “Article II of the Constitution lists the specifics of the Electoral College. The Founding Fathers included the Electoral College as one of the famous “checks and balances””


                • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/29/2016 - 11:41 am.


                  My readers pointed out that in all but 2 States, the winner gets all the delegates. Apparently the States control this and can change at anytime.


                  So why hasn’t MN changed to this much more logical method?

                  Could it be that a certain party benefits from this?

                  • Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/29/2016 - 12:04 pm.

                    I see what you are saying

                    Why should Hillary, who received 47% of the popular vote, get 100% of Minnesota’s electoral votes?

                    The Democrat’s have had all of Minnesota’s votes since Nixon’s landslide victory of 1972. I think they like it that way, their own special brand of fairness.

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/29/2016 - 01:21 pm.

                  The Famous Checks and Balances

                  Not to denigrate “Social Studies for Kids” as a source, but the term “checks and balances” originated with the French philosopher Montesquieu, who used the term to justify his idea for a tripartite government. Each branch would be a “check and balance” on the other, and keep any one branch from becoming too powerful. Justice Story set out an excellent explanation of this in chapter VII of his Commentaries.

                  In Federalist 68, Hamilton said that the electoral college would afford “a moral certainty, that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.” Oops.

                  • Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/29/2016 - 02:21 pm.

                    Basic Sources for Basic Concepts

                    Regarding Federalist 68 and the Hamilton quote, does your “Oops” refer to the sitting President? He became Chief Executive of the United States without any executive experience, having never run anything of significance.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 11/29/2016 - 02:53 pm.


                      I was referring to the recent election in which a thin-skinned internet troll won election through the oddity of the electoral college, even though he was rejected by most voters. I’m sure that’s the sort of fellow Hamilton had in mind.

                    • Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/29/2016 - 03:43 pm.

                      If your claims are true …

                      If your claims are true, then you can rest assured that the electors will do your bidding.

          • Submitted by John Appelen on 11/28/2016 - 05:14 pm.


            I like this from the cover letter that accompanied the Declaration of Independence…

            “Gentlemen, Altho it is not possible to forsee the consequences of human actions, yet it is nevertheless a duty we owe ourselves and posterity in all our public councils to decide in the best manner we are able and to trust the event to That Being who governs both causes and events, so as to bring about his own determinations.

            Impressed with this sentiment, and at the same time fully convinced that our affairs will take a more favorable turn, The Congress have judged it necessary to dissolve all connection between Great Britain and the American Colonies, and to declare them free and independent States as you will perceive by the enclosed Declaration, which I am directed to transmit to you.”

            Free and Independent States… Not national democracy like France, etc. More like the EU…

    • Submitted by chuck holtman on 11/28/2016 - 05:04 pm.

      One who asserts a point should support it,

      But here are a few reasons why I’m not seeing your point as self-evident:

      1. The notion that there should be some checks on majoritarian tyranny doesn’t mean that any means of magnifying minority political power is sound. It needs to be supported by reason (e.g., the Bill of Rights rests on a sound concept).

      2. If you believe that a state should have the built-in political power to resist the majority imposing on it as to a parochial concern (e.g., designating it for nuclear waste storage), every state is a minority with respect to the rest of the nation and every state therefore should have this power. Not just Wyoming but also Minnesota, New Jersey and even California. But there’s no way one can read this rationale into the Senate or electoral college scheme.

      3. Even if you believe that a small state should have magnified minority power to protect itself from parochial impositions by the majority, having the votes of those in small states count more in the electoral college and the Senate are astronomically overbroad ways of accomplishing that. For every federal decision about where to store nuclear waste, there will be ten thousand decisions that concern the nation generally or concern those in more populous states more strongly than those in small rural states. There’s no possible rationale to give Wyoming residents three times the political voice of California residents in electing a president and in every matter that the Senate takes up.

      4. Put another way, allowing a state to protect itself from certain parochial impositions is a choice that a rational legislature can make when legislating concerning the matter in question, not something to be baked into the constitutional framework to distort basic principles of equal representation at every turn.

      5. I’m not a historian, but I’d wager that the Senate/electoral college framework of overweighting small states resulted from pure expedient bargaining, not from any universal reasoned principle.

      • Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/28/2016 - 07:05 pm.

        I am not proposing to amend the Constitution

        The burden to make a case rests on those who propose a make a Constitutional amendment. Last month, nobody seems to care about such a thing. Failing a compelling argument, we will press on as we have been pressing.

        Your “every state should have this power” proposition, while good in theory, ends the minute the majority says so.

  12. Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/29/2016 - 09:10 am.

    Unpredecedented Vote Concentration

    I found this to be an interesting side note.

    “Both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton received their substantial popular vote tally while receiving an all-time low percentage of U.S. counties. Barack Obama set the record for the lowest number of counties won for a successful presidential candidate. President Obama established an all-time low percentage of U.S. counties for a successful presidential candidate: just 689 of more than 3,000, or a paltry 22%. NBC News notes that Barack Obama won with less than a 25 percent victory rate across all of the U.S. counties, scrapping in with a county victory rate of just 22 percent. Should Hillary Clinton have won the race based on popular vote alone, she would have beat Obama’s record of an all-time low with just a 15-17 percent success rate of the county-level vote.”

  13. Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/29/2016 - 11:29 am.

    Remember when it was Hillary and Bernie?

    In the primaries, when Hillary was losing states like Minnesota, Hillary didn’t seem concerned that she was gathering delegates at a higher rate than she was earning the popular vote. In Minnesota, she captured 48% of the delegates but only 38% of the popular vote. In Wyoming, she pulled down 61% of the delegates but only 44% of the popular vote. If not for non-linear math and DNC collusion, Hillary wouldn’t have been on the November ballot.

  14. Submitted by Steve Rose on 11/29/2016 - 11:08 pm.

    Hillary: Not Accepting Election Results Was Direct Threat To …

    Hillary Said Not Accepting Election Results Was Direct Threat To Democracy; she also invoked the term “sore loser”.

    See it here on one 27 second clip:

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