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September 2015 Policy Study, Number 15-8


The Electoral College: Explaining a Constitutional Mystery and Defending American Constitutionalism


Executive Summary



The Electoral College is one of the least-understood elements of the United States Constitution. For many Americans it is a mystery, and it is often viewed as antidemocratic and archaic. This is especially true in recent years when the Electoral College has come under fire, and with the approaching 2016 presidential election calls to reform or abolish the Electoral College will once again become more prevalent in political discourse.  The most recent attempt to undermine the Electoral College is from the National Popular Vote Movement (NPV).


When the Founding Fathers met in Philadelphia in 1787, they designed a republican form of government that was based upon a written Constitution that limited the power of the federal government. The Constitution was a document that contained separation of powers, checks and balances, and federalism. The Founding Fathers were students of history and political philosophy and understood the dangers of democracy. Therefore, in deciding how to elect the executive, the Framers designed perhaps one of the most inventive and clever designs — the Electoral College. Rejecting the direct popular election of the President, the Framers of the Constitution looked to a more improved way to select a President by ensuring the protection of the states and providing every citizen with an equal vote. The Electoral College must be preserved, because it not only reflects the traditions of American constitutionalism, but provides the best avenue to elect the President and Vice President.




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