UPDATED December 20, 2016: This is a post I originally posted last Presidential election. I thought it would be fitting to re-post it today. I edited it, removing the Electoral College Twitter handle which they seem to have deleted, adding headings, and my current signature block. I also some additional information about why it was established.
In honor of election day, I wanted to post this about the Electoral College. The National Archives holds many interesting things including the records of the Electoral College. You often hear about the Electoral College this time of year, but I think this is a fascinating look at what comes after all the hoopla and the media attention.
Response to YouTube Comment
I first found this about a month ago and someone had commented why can’t we have direct election of Presidents. Here is an edited version of my response.
Because Direct Election of Presidents is not what is specified in the Constitution. It would take a Constitutional Amendment to change it, but as a citizen you are free to start the process. How to do that is spelled out in the Constitution, too.
If the question is why was it set up that way in the first place, there were two reasons. First, it was because the Founding Fathers were trying to balance letting more people than had ever been allowed to vote before with making sure that the people who they felt knew what they were doing getting a vote. Originally Direct Vote didn’t even select the Electoral College votes, state legislators voted on the President and Vice-President. That is as much of a change as is allowable without an Amendment.
Giving Small States a Voice
Second, it was part of a compromise to ensure ratification by small states. If it was direct election numbers then a handful of states with the highest population would run the table so to speak. Even if all of “flyover” country was in favor of a a certain platform or policy that the coasts didn’t understand, it would never even get a hearing. Another part of that was that each state, regardless of population, is given two and only two senators to maintain the voice of those smaller population states.
Roger Lea MacBride
As a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan, I’m sorry they didn’t address Roger Lea MacBride and his role in Electoral College history. MacBride (Rose Wilder Lane’s heir and political apprentice) was chosen as a Republican Elector and switched his vote from the Republican candidate Richard Nixon to the Libertarian Ticket. That gave the Libertarian party its only electoral vote ever and the attention made it a national party even if very small. The ticket he switched to is pretty cool, especially the V-P.
It is a pretty rare thing and electors who don’t support the party that selected them are called faithless electors. There was a large call for them in 2016 and there were some defections, but they are rare. In light of such things some states now require that electors follow the results of voting within their state, but that is a minority of states.
More on the Electoral College
The National Archives also provide a description by the archivist of what the Electoral College is and how it works.
And provides an FAQ on the Electoral College.
Sarah S. Uthoff is the main force behind Trundlebed Tales striving to bring the History, Mystery, Magic and Imagination of Laura Ingalls Wilder and other greats of children’s literature and history to life for a new generation. Uthoff is a nationally known Laura Ingalls Wilder authority and has presented at five of the Wilder homesites, many conferences and numerous libraries, museums, and events around the Midwest. Attend one of her programs, schedule one yourself, watch her videos, listen to her podcast, and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Google+, LinkedIn, and Academia.edu. Professionally she is a reference librarian at Kirkwood Community College and director of the Oxford (Iowa) Public Library.