Why do we Even Need the Electoral College?

If you think about it, our forefathers were some smart people. However, they didn’t think all that highly of the common folks who would be taking part in their great democratic republic experiment. The Electoral College was a means to create a buffer between the people and those who actually voted for the president. It was supposed to be an extra layer of defense from being taken over by a despot who has a way with words and who appeals only to the lower classes.

It’s kind of insulting, isn’t it? Sure, there’s also the fact that it was supposed to prevent cities from having more of a say than rural areas by evening things out according to population, but again—think about the way the country was set up back then—rich landowners in rural areas and lots of common folks in the cities. Then you have issues like this past year where the presidency wasn’t won by the popular vote, which probably seems weird to most of our democratic neighbors.

There has been talk of getting rid of that whole system.Although I don’t know if we’ll ever do it—there are some good reasons to give the Electoral College the old heave-ho. First of all, do you know who gets appointed to the Electoral College? I’ll give you a hint—it’s not regular folks like you and me.

Political parties choose people at their conventions. That’s right—the political parties themselves choose their delegates. In other words, there’s a lot of loyalty and consequences for these people if they don’t vote along party lines. Many of these people get their appointments as a reward for heavy campaign support—usually through active support (union leaders pledging the support of their members) or through financial support. Or, you know, like last year when Bill Clinton was elected as a delegate to vote for his wife.

There are also a bunch of states who have passed laws declaring that their delegates are to vote according to the will of their residents. And while that is all well and good, it strips another layer of autonomy from the delegates. In other words, if they’re forced to vote the same as the people of their state, why aren’t the people of that state voting for the president directly themselves?

Right now, only Maine and Nebraska can split their votes, allowing them to divide up their electoral votes in a matter that is more in line with the way everyone in their states vote. If all states were capable of splitting up their votes the same way, we would either have to change the number you’d need for a majority in order to win, or switch to more of a runoff style election–because it would be incredibly hard to win the 270 votes required to become president. There’s another problem here: we’d likely have to redraw the boundaries of a LOT of districts, thanks to the gerrymandering stranglehold some of them have.

In other words, unless we get rid of it and go straight to a popular vote—which probably won’t happen—there’s way too much to do in order to change the system. So it looks like we’re stuck with the Electoral College for the foreseeable future.