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In recent years the operation of the Electoral College, as specified in Article II of the Constitution, has come under repeated attack by Congressional representatives and others throughout the United States. The following material from Section 1 contains what are considered the most contentious provisions in this Article.

Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in Congress…The Electors shall meet in their respective States, and vote by Ballot for two Persons, of whom one at least shall not be an Inhabitant of the same State with themselves….The Person having the greatest Number of Votes shall be the President…after the Choice of the President, the Person having the greatest Number of Votes of the Electors shall be the Vice President.

Beyond these words the only other time “Electors” was mentioned in a major way in any of the constitutional documents was in the twelfth amendment and here only for the purpose of clarifying how the occupants of the two offices were to be selected. How the electors themselves were to be chosen was left to the state legislatures to decide, which is what has given rise to the following course of action that today is of central concern.

Electors are nominated in a different manner in different states, but they are most commonly elected at state party conventions or are otherwise appointed by the political parties. They obtain their positions because of their loyalty and hard work for the party. [1]

The current outcry from the opposition to this process holds that the final decision for President and Vice President should be made not through electors chosen by political parties but through an open election in which the population as a whole are asked to decide.

As an illustration of the highly divisive nature of this issue, between 1889 and 2004 it has been estimated that the number of proposals for change in the operation of the College was approximately 595 [2] and it has even been claimed that by 2017 the number may have reached as high as 752.[3] With regard to this need for change, the number that endorsed the replacement of Section 1 with what are referred to as direct election plans literally exploded during the 1980s and 1990s. [4] Between 1981 and 2010 of all the bills that dealt with the Electoral College, 86.8% called for the use of nation-wide popular election results in one form or another in deciding who should become the chief executive officers of the United States. In fact, as recently as 2016 Senator Barbara Boxer introduced a joint resolution in the

An abbreviated version of this article will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of the American Revolution.

114th Congress to abolish the College and replace it with the direct election of the President and Vice President of the United States. [5] Her proposal was then followed by two others in the 115th Congress that addressed this same matter. [6] Over the years, however, Congress as a whole have repeatedly shown a decided unwillingness to endorse these initiatives. To explain this unwillingness, Thomas H. Neale, in his concluding remarks in a Congressional Research Service Report for Congress, drew upon the following comments by John F. Kennedy, who was a leading defender of the College.

In the course of Senate floor debate on this question in 1956, he [Kennedy] paraphrased a comment by Viscount Falkland, a 17th century English statesman, declaring of the electoral college, “It seems to me that Falkland’s definition of conservatism is quite appropriate [in this instance]--When it is not necessary to change, it is necessary not to change.” This aphorism may offer a key to the future prospects of the electoral college. To date, policymakers have generally concluded that it has not been necessary to change the existing system, or perhaps more accurately, there has been no compelling call for change. [7]

Contrary to Neale’s conclusion, and as the above review indicates, there is now a growing as well as a compelling call for change. Rather than employ a strategy used in past and attack the political method for selecting electors, it would seem a more appropriate way to address this issue might be to consider the original purpose for electors as revealed in the words and actions of the Framers, ask if this purpose still exists, and if not, whether it is time to re-evaluate the actual need for electors.


An abbreviated version of this article will appear in a forthcoming issue of the Journal of the American Revolution.