Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Electoral College Debate

Today, Massachusetts joined five other states, New Jersey, Maryland, Hawaii, Washington and Illinois, in attempts to bypass the United States Constitution's provision that the President of the United States be elected by delegates of each state equal to the number of representatives and senators combined (Article II Section 1).

As they have done in the past, supporters of the elimination of the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote claim that the Presidency, being a national office, should be determined by a national popular vote. However, that's not how our Founding Fathers saw it.

The founders' primary debate in creating our system of government was whether to establish a national government or a federal government. Virtually every issue debated by our Founders in creating this system centered upon the debate as to where a particular power of government is derived, how it is to be executed, and how to check that power and balance it so that the sovereignty and interests of the people and states from which that power is derived are secured to the fullest possible measure. In this particular debate, they seemingly settled on a complex connection of both. So far as our system is a "national" government, Federalist Papers, Number 39 states,

"The House of Representatives will derive its powers from the people of America; and the people will be represented in the same proportion, and on the same principle, as they are in the legislature of a particular State."

In so far as our system of government is "federal", the same Federalist Papers states:

"The Senate, on the other hand, will derive its powers from the States, as political and coequal societies; and these will be represented on the principle of equality in the Senate, as they now are in the existing Congress."

However, when it came to the electing of the President, the Founders considered this to be a mix of both "national" and "federal" ideals. The same Federalist Paper states:

"The immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters. The votes allotted to them are in a compound ratio, which considers them partly as distinct and coequal societies, partly as unequal members of the same society. The eventual election, again, is to be made by that branch of the legislature which consists of the national representatives; but in this particular act they are to be thrown into the form of individual delegations, from so many distinct and coequal bodies politic. From this aspect of the government it appears to be of a mixed character, presenting at least as many federal as national features."

The degree to which each individual within a state is empowered to vote for their state's choice of President, the election of the President is "national", but only to that degree. To remove the Electoral College element of the election of the President would swing the balance our Founders gave us between a "national" and a "federal" government unduly towards the sides of a "federal" government.

The argument by those in favor or eliminating the Electoral College that the Presidency, being a national office, should be determined by a nationalist popular vote is skewed by the obvious hypocrisy that these same people would never even remotely agree to extend such thinking to issues of national interest:

1. would Americans vote to end the war, without question?
2. would Americans have voted in favor of Obamacare?
3. how would Americans, as a whole, vote regarding tax issues?

To convert the election of the President to a national popular vote seems, on the surface, to be a truly democratic process. But to do so ignores the fact that our Founders did not give us a democracy, but rather a representative republic with a constitution designed to protect the interests of those in the minority. The interests of the smaller, less populated states and regions of the country are protected by the use of an Electoral College system. Without it, why in the world would small states like Montana, North Dakota, Wyoming and the like even want to be a part of the United States. They would have little or no influence on the Executive Branch of government.

This is exactly one of the of the primary debates that ensued during the Constitution Convention, and the implementation of our current dual legislative branch and the use of the Electoral College is the exact balance the large and small states in 1787 demanded. And despite the far left's agenda to color the constitution of the United States as "a living document" and insufficient for our current times, I argue that it is exactly what this country needs, without deviation from the intentions of it authors.