Free the Electoral College from State Mandates

As media, both traditional and social, continues to blow up with American infighting over Mr. Trump or Mrs. Hillary’s bid for the White House, the eyes of the nation turn to the Electoral College to delineate how the battle lines shall be drawn and the war chests filled. Indeed, passions have grown to such a degree that there has been discussion on whether the Electoral College should be abolished. To these arguments, I offer a different solution, because the principles upon which the Electoral College was established are still relevant today. The solution is to return the Electoral College to its original purpose, free of State intervention in their decisions. And this return must happen now, even if it means breaking a State law, because our country and its future demands such action.

Republicus, in writing Anti-Federalist Paper №72, argued against the Electoral College on simple grounds. “Is it necessary, is it rational, that the sacred rights of mankind should thus dwindle down to Electors of electors, and those again electors of other electors?” Granted, Republicus was criticizing the Electoral College based on his understanding that the electors would know nothing about the candidates, thereby completing negating the choice and preference of the People. Yet, this question still rings true today, rephrased as, “Is it necessary, is it rational, that the sacred right of mankind should thus dwindle down to the State law of electors, and those again electors of other electors?” The answer is the same now as it was then, “No.”

Indeed, the error does not lie within the duties of this body of electors, but in each individual State’s decision to remove the judgment of the electors by forcing that State’s electors to vote for a certain party, even when, as shown by the polls, the State itself is almost evenly split between the Republican and Democratic candidates. Effectively, electors are no longer able to exercise their own judgment and deliberations, but are chained to the popular vote, even in the face of slim victory. And it is this very outcome the Founding Fathers sought to avoid. Then, as now, some states are more populous than others, and their combined populations can easily outweigh the populations and needs of the remaining states. Thus, all a candidate need do is continue to pander to the most populous states, where even only a slim margin grants that candidate all of the electoral votes in that state. The decision of the electors is made by the popular vote, thereby removing the stopgap purpose of the Electoral College.

To understand the true purpose of the Electoral College, which should be restored, Anti-Federalist Paper №72 by Republicus and Federalist Paper №68 by Alexander Hamilton must be analyzed. Republicus’ main concern was his misunderstanding of the mechanics of the Electoral College, errantly believing that the electors were to be shielded from any knowledge of the candidates and the contents of their respective campaigns. His objection was premised on the conclusion that since this body of electors would be chosen so as to prevent bias, then the Electoral College would necessarily not have any knowledge of the candidates. As a result, the electors, elected by their state, would not speak for the People, because to avoid bias would mean to effectively shield the electors from the election. To this, he responded:

To conclude, I can think of but one source of right to government, or any branch of it-and that is THE PEOPLE. They, and only they, have a right to determine whether they will make laws, or execute them, or do both in a collective body, or by a delegated authority. Delegation is a positive actual investiture. Therefore if any people are subjected to an authority which they have not thus actually chosen-even though they may have tamely submitted to it-yet it is not their legitimate government. They are wholly passive, and as far as they are so, are in a state of slavery. Thank heaven we are not yet arrived at that state. And while we continue to have sense enough to discover and detect, and virtue enough to detest and oppose every attempt, either of force or fraud, either from without or within, to bring us into it, we never will.

To address his concerns, Alexander Hamilton laid out the method by which bias could be avoided while still having an informed body of electors, for the only purpose of each elector was to choose the new president from among the candidates, and their appointment as elector only lasted for that election. “No senator, representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States, can be of the number of electors.” By making the position temporary and solely in the hands of individuals “chosen by the people for the special purpose, and at the particular conjuncture,” the electors would be free to focus solely on the election at hand and frame their decision according to the issues and controversies at that particular time. For, “the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favourable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements that were proper to govern their choice.”

In other words, the Electoral College was always supposed to be free to deliberate upon and analyze the candidates from their unique perspective within their individual States. There was no requirement that all of the electors from each state were to vote for only one candidate. In fact, that very premise was rejected by Alexander Hamilton as a reason for why a magistrate was not appointed in each State. “The choice of several, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community, with any extraordinary or violent movements, that the choice of one, who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes.” Yet, this is what the States have done, conglomerated several into one, even when the community is sharply divided.

It is this aspect of the Electoral College that we should demand be removed. It is this removal of the discretion and careful thought of the electors, distinctly placed to hear the concerns of their fellow citizens and the attributes of both candidates, that has derailed our electoral process. Each elector has been given the duty of selecting our next president and is to be free of bias for either party. They must be given the opportunity to fulfill their duties and deliberate upon which candidate would best serve the interests of the country and their individual State. And they should be instructed upon the guidelines set forth in Federalist Paper №68.

This process of election affords a moral certainty, that the office of president will seldom fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honours of a single state; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole union, or of so considerable a portion of it, as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States. It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters preeminent for ability and virtue. And this will be thought no inconsiderable recommendation of the constitution, by those who are able to estimate the share which the executive in every government must necessarily have in its good or ill administration. Though we cannot acquiesce in the political heresy of the poet, who says

“For forms of government, let fools contest. . . .

That which is best administered, is best;”

yet we may safely pronounce, that the true test of a good government is, its aptitude and tendency to produce a good administration.

The candidate best suited for the position of president is the individual who is endowed to “an eminent degree” with “the requisite qualifications,” who possesses “ability and virtue.” More succinctly, the president should be capable of producing a good administration.

In a contested race such as the one before us now, we implore the electors to throw off the shackles of the State and act in the interest of the republic. We ask that you deliberate upon the results of the election and its current fallout. Will Mr. Trump or Mrs. Clinton produce a good administration, serving in the interest of our country? Is this the energy we seek in our future executive branch? To answer this question, Alexander Hamilton provides your criteria in Federalist Paper №70. “The ingredients which constitute energy in the executive, are, unity; duration; an adequate provision for its support; competent powers.”

Mr. Trump has been named the President-elect according to the forecasts of the Electoral College, and Mrs. Clinton has carried the popular vote by over a million votes at present. Neither candidate will bring forth unity upon their immediate taking of office. However, given Mr. Trump’s current cabinet selections, we can expect to see a greater divide in our country. As to duration, both candidates face the threat of impeachment. Mrs. Clinton for her private server and foundation, and Mr. Trump for his numerous conflicts of interest, desire to register all Muslims in this country, and attempts to chill the First Amendment. Both candidates have their supporters. In terms of competent powers, however, Mr. Trump does not hold a candle to Mrs. Clinton. She has served this country in numerous government positions, withstood several Congressional investigations and hearings, and has an understanding of the law. Mr. Trump has already shown that nepotism will be part of his administration, an unwillingness to permit any criticism of himself or Mr. Pence, a lack of understanding of the law, particularly the Constitution, a penchant for lifting himself by harming others (bilking investors through bankruptcy, refusing to pay contractors and then litigating them into silence, disparaging comments, etc.), and that his strategic advisor will be a man who has made a name for himself by publishing racist, mysogynistic, anti-semetical, anti-muslim, and other intolerant articles.

The answer to the question will take much deliberation on your part, for neither candidate is ideal in the eyes of the people. If the reaction of this country is any indicator of what lies ahead, then please take it into consideration. We have seen emboldened hate groups flexing their muscles, increasing reports of assault, and rampant protests, while Mr. Trump is only the President-elect. Groups are already preparing to combat him in the court system and in Congress. As to Mrs. Clinton, her email server and foundation have not seen the light of day since election night.

The position of the electors is unenviable. We insist that the Electoral College adhere to the law of the United States as embraced and understood by our Founding Fathers, because this country is at stake, and if too large a rift is created among the country, the States can only follow. The popular vote is in, and now it is the electors turn to decide who will do the most damage to our country.