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History of the Electoral College

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posted on Dec, 7 2015 @ 02:35 PM
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THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE

Every presidential season we go through the same thing. “Why is there an electoral college?” “The electoral college is not fair!” “We should elect by popular vote!” and on and on. There appears to be a woeful lack of understanding why this situation developed, with many members fabricating or misunderstanding the reasons for it.

IN THE BEGINNING

The “United States of America” was a collective noun. It meant the original thirteen colonies united for a common purpose. Each colony was separately governed and there were many issues of discontent between them, so many that the United States Constitution is a document of compromise that barely passed. Each colony had good reasons for not joining and none of them wanted to sacrifice their own self-governance to the new “federal” government.

The biggest state by far was Virginia, which included West Virginia at the time. It was big in terms of size, in terms of population, and in terms of influence. It dominated early American politics. Indeed, four of the first five presidents were from Virginia and, except for John Adams’ single term of four years, Virginians controlled the presidency for 32 of the 36 years until 1825. Many of the early issues revolved around slavery and, of course, Virginia was a slave state. Basically what happened with the slave issue was that they kicked the can down the road for the next generation to deal with, the result of which was the Civil War, which killed more people than all the other American wars combined.

The biggest issue, then, was states’ rights. Today we tend to think this meant the right of the southern states to keep slavery, but that’s not really true. It was the opposite. The southern states are large; the northern states generally are not. ‘States’ rights referred just as much to Rhode Island being smothered by the other states as it did Georgia. Of the original 13 colonies, half of them were tiny and they were all northern. Delaware and Rhode Island are smaller than many western counties.

And they all demanded their rights! And the biggest way they got them was through the biggest compromise in the US Constitution: The House of Representatives versus the Senate. The House, of course, is elected via popular vote according to the size of the population, so a populous state gets way more representatives than a non-populous state. But the Senate is composed of two senators for each state, no matter how large or small. So in the Senate Virginia was “no bigger” than Rhode Island.

Further, the Senate was elected NOT by a vote of the people, but by the State legislatures. Now you could say there was a connection to “the people” because the legislators themselves were elected by the people, but the message there was that the Senate represented the States themselves where the House represented the people directly. That was how the United States (plural) came to be.

THE EROSION OF STATES’ RIGHTS

When the next generation caught up with the can the issues were still smoldering, and this resulted in the Civil War. Today we think and even insist that the war was all about slavery. This is one of the biggest public relations coups in history that is still believed by the majority even today. But slavery as an institution was in a tailspin. It wasn’t economically viable. The old “plantation model” instituted by Great Britain was eroding.

The real reason was “states’ rights” and when the south seceded, Lincoln invaded and forced the south back into the fold. For the first time the “United States of America” became a singular noun. It was one country, not a collective of separate countries with a loose and limited federal government. This was the beginning of the end because the federalist weren’t finished.

Next on the list was the Senate. A campaign started to change the very idea of the Senate into another House with direct election of the Senators. The campaign painted the Senate as group of cronies chosen by corrupt legislatures which chose Senators because of vote buying and corruption. If we chose senators by popular vote, it was stated, this would eliminate that corruption and clean house. This whole issue started in the early 19th century and was later promoted by none other than William Randolph Hearst, who called senators every name in the book. Even by today’s low standards the politics of the situation were harsh. It was another PR coup as the 17th amendment was passed in 1914.

THE EFFECT OF THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE

The formula is straightforward. The number of electoral college members is s simple addition of the number of legislators in the House plus the number of Senators in the state, so Alaska, and Wyoming each have a single representative in the House plus two senators for a total of three Electoral College votes. California, on the other hand, has 53 legislators and two senators for a total of 55 votes.

One of the provisions of this process is the “winner take all” rule where if 50% +1 of the popular vote goes to candidate X, that candidate gets all the electoral college votes. This is a state-controlled issue. It is NOT an overall rule and there are a couple of states that do not allocate electoral college votes in this manner.

The overall result of this is that it gives a very slight edge to the less populous states. It’s enough of an edge that a candidate cannot get away with campaigning in New York, Pennsylvania, and California and calling it a wrap. And in a very tight campaign where both candidates are approaching the winning number of 270, any single state could provide the margin for victory.

The Electoral College was designed to prevent an all-powerful central government. That is, of course, what we already have. States’ rights have been eroded to the point where states by themselves are ineffectual and virtually powerless against the huge central government. The fears of the Founders have been realized. It took about 100 years to do it, but it’s just about done.

The amazing part of this story is that we actually have people who believe they are being disenfranchised BECAUSE of the Electoral College which, if it went away, would result in these very same voters being MORE disenfranchised than they are today. At least today there is a chance for a voter’s choice to have an effect, but without the Electoral College, people in the vast majority of states may as well not even vote, because the election will be decided by city dwellers in California, New York, and Pennsylvania, both coasts, where the fly-over states may as well be a different country.




posted on Dec, 7 2015 @ 02:46 PM
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a reply to: schuyler

Good job on explaining this. I have tried to explain it a few times to people, however I have always been to lazy to give a history lesson.

I used to be like a lot of people and felt popular vote was the best way until I took the time to understand the issue. There may be a better way or a more refined way of going about it but if it went to popular vote it would be far worse than it is now.



posted on Dec, 7 2015 @ 04:03 PM
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a reply to: schuyler

Great OP Sir,
This was a much needed topic with the upcoming election. Though it still doesn't matter when our only choices are the current scumbags being blasted at us through the stupid box.

The game is rigged from both ends and inside out.



posted on Dec, 7 2015 @ 04:39 PM
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What is your take on the fact that we have the same number of reps that we have had since 1910/1929? Do you not think this would change things? I imagine an awful lot of demographic and population shifts have occurred in 106 years. People are fleeing some of the liberal states because of the taxation currently so I wonder how the country would be represented if things had not been essentially stuck in time for 100+ years. How does this affect the electoral college? I used to be more knowledgeable about these things but haven't had a refresher in some time.



posted on Dec, 7 2015 @ 06:02 PM
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originally posted by: NihilistSanta
What is your take on the fact that we have the same number of reps that we have had since 1910/1929? Do you not think this would change things? I imagine an awful lot of demographic and population shifts have occurred in 106 years. People are fleeing some of the liberal states because of the taxation currently so I wonder how the country would be represented if things had not been essentially stuck in time for 100+ years. How does this affect the electoral college? I used to be more knowledgeable about these things but haven't had a refresher in some time.


The number of representatives is updated every 10 years with the census and they're awarded proportionally. After the 2010 census (so beginning with the 2012 election) these were the changes

Illinois –1
Iowa –1
Louisiana –1
Massachusetts –1
Michigan –1
Missouri –1
New Jersey –1
New York –2
Ohio -2
Pennsylvania –1

Arizona +1
Florida +2
Georgia +1
Nevada +1
South Carolina +1
Texas +4
Utah +1
Washington +1
edit on 7-12-2015 by Aazadan because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 7 2015 @ 08:05 PM
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a reply to: schuyler
Great post, thanks for the Education.



posted on Dec, 7 2015 @ 08:50 PM
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a reply to: Aazadan

he's talking about the 435 total seats since 1911

the only exception was in 1959 - 437, then back to 435 in 1960

it's the population per district that matters




posted on Dec, 7 2015 @ 09:41 PM
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a reply to: schuyler

you laid it out so well I had my teen read your post.


The unintended consequence of the EC is an apoplectic voter demo that stays home because they aren't politically aligned with that states majority. The irony is the number of voters staying home is often most significant in states with the most EC votes. S+F



posted on Dec, 7 2015 @ 11:27 PM
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originally posted by: schuyler
THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE

Every presidential season we go through the same thing. “Why is there an electoral college?” “The electoral college is not fair!” “We should elect by popular vote!” and on and on. There appears to be a woeful lack of understanding why this situation developed, with many members fabricating or misunderstanding the reasons for it.

IN THE BEGINNING

The “United States of America” was a collective noun. It meant the original thirteen colonies united for a common purpose. Each colony was separately governed and there were many issues of discontent between them, so many that the United States Constitution is a document of compromise that barely passed. Each colony had good reasons for not joining and none of them wanted to sacrifice their own self-governance to the new “federal” government.

The biggest state by far was Virginia, which included West Virginia at the time. It was big in terms of size, in terms of population, and in terms of influence. It dominated early American politics. Indeed, four of the first five presidents were from Virginia and, except for John Adams’ single term of four years, Virginians controlled the presidency for 32 of the 36 years until 1825. Many of the early issues revolved around slavery and, of course, Virginia was a slave state. Basically what happened with the slave issue was that they kicked the can down the road for the next generation to deal with, the result of which was the Civil War, which killed more people than all the other American wars combined.

The biggest issue, then, was states’ rights. Today we tend to think this meant the right of the southern states to keep slavery, but that’s not really true. It was the opposite. The southern states are large; the northern states generally are not. ‘States’ rights referred just as much to Rhode Island being smothered by the other states as it did Georgia. Of the original 13 colonies, half of them were tiny and they were all northern. Delaware and Rhode Island are smaller than many western counties.

And they all demanded their rights! And the biggest way they got them was through the biggest compromise in the US Constitution: The House of Representatives versus the Senate. The House, of course, is elected via popular vote according to the size of the population, so a populous state gets way more representatives than a non-populous state. But the Senate is composed of two senators for each state, no matter how large or small. So in the Senate Virginia was “no bigger” than Rhode Island.

Further, the Senate was elected NOT by a vote of the people, but by the State legislatures. Now you could say there was a connection to “the people” because the legislators themselves were elected by the people, but the message there was that the Senate represented the States themselves where the House represented the people directly. That was how the United States (plural) came to be.

THE EROSION OF STATES’ RIGHTS

When the next generation caught up with the can the issues were still smoldering, and this resulted in the Civil War. Today we think and even insist that the war was all about slavery. This is one of the biggest public relations coups in history that is still believed by the majority even today. But slavery as an institution was in a tailspin. It wasn’t economically viable. The old “plantation model” instituted by Great Britain was eroding.

The real reason was “states’ rights” and when the south seceded, Lincoln invaded and forced the south back into the fold. For the first time the “United States of America” became a singular noun. It was one country, not a collective of separate countries with a loose and limited federal government. This was the beginning of the end because the federalist weren’t finished.

Next on the list was the Senate. A campaign started to change the very idea of the Senate into another House with direct election of the Senators. The campaign painted the Senate as group of cronies chosen by corrupt legislatures which chose Senators because of vote buying and corruption. If we chose senators by popular vote, it was stated, this would eliminate that corruption and clean house. This whole issue started in the early 19th century and was later promoted by none other than William Randolph Hearst, who called senators every name in the book. Even by today’s low standards the politics of the situation were harsh. It was another PR coup as the 17th amendment was passed in 1914.

THE EFFECT OF THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE

The formula is straightforward. The number of electoral college members is s simple addition of the number of legislators in the House plus the number of Senators in the state, so Alaska, and Wyoming each have a single representative in the House plus two senators for a total of three Electoral College votes. California, on the other hand, has 53 legislators and two senators for a total of 55 votes.

One of the provisions of this process is the “winner take all” rule where if 50% +1 of the popular vote goes to candidate X, that candidate gets all the electoral college votes. This is a state-controlled issue. It is NOT an overall rule and there are a couple of states that do not allocate electoral college votes in this manner.

The overall result of this is that it gives a very slight edge to the less populous states. It’s enough of an edge that a candidate cannot get away with campaigning in New York, Pennsylvania, and California and calling it a wrap. And in a very tight campaign where both candidates are approaching the winning number of 270, any single state could provide the margin for victory.

The Electoral College was designed to prevent an all-powerful central government. That is, of course, what we already have. States’ rights have been eroded to the point where states by themselves are ineffectual and virtually powerless against the huge central government. The fears of the Founders have been realized. It took about 100 years to do it, but it’s just about done.

The amazing part of this story is that we actually have people who believe they are being disenfranchised BECAUSE of the Electoral College which, if it went away, would result in these very same voters being MORE disenfranchised than they are today. At least today there is a chance for a voter’s choice to have an effect, but without the Electoral College, people in the vast majority of states may as well not even vote, because the election will be decided by city dwellers in California, New York, and Pennsylvania, both coasts, where the fly-over states may as well be a different country.


Now you just hang on one tic, there bub. There's allot of people around here with vested emotions all puffy about the Civil War was fought mostly for slaves. HOW DARE YE SAY OTHERWISE WITH LEGITIMATE HISTORY!



posted on Dec, 8 2015 @ 01:01 PM
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a reply to: schuyler

Many moons ago when I was in American History at my university of choice, I did a paper on the electoral college and why I see it as an antiquated and unnecessary system for modernity. I did acknowledge in that paper that the original reason for its creation and existence was necessary at the time, but as time and voting and technology has changed the election process, it's a system that is no longer necessary. That was over a decade ago, and my argument keeps getting stronger and stronger with the changes in technology and the speed at which results of voting are certified and sent to the FEC.

I still believe that the EC is currently unnecessary, and for the main reason that it is in no way bound by federal law to reflect how the general populace votes in the election, and if popular vote is good enough for everything else in our nation, it should be as well for the office of the presidency.

As of right now, only 27 states (from my research) have laws that say an elector MUST vote for their party's candidate if that part wins the majority of the popular election. That's still a LOT of room for fraud and abuse during presidential elections--except, it wouldn't be fraud and abuse, because it would be legal.

Therein lies my disdain for the EC system--it's open to the ability to rig elections against what the actual people of the nation want.

And yes, Southern states were huge in comparison to New England states, but at the same time, they were much less populated and much farther away from the action in D.C., meaning that their influence was diminished during that time period, regardless if they had representatives and senators up there.


edit on 8-12-2015 by SlapMonkey because: (no reason given)



posted on Dec, 8 2015 @ 01:05 PM
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a reply to: schuyler

Awesome post. Sadly I doubt many ATS'ers will actually read it.

Interesting what you said about the civil war as well. Be prepared to be called a racist though for speaking the truth.



posted on Dec, 8 2015 @ 07:55 PM
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a reply to: SlapMonkey

I think it still has merit because it gives smaller states some power in elections. If we went purely by population only a handful of swing areas would matter. It would be an even worse situation than we have now where entire swing states can receive attention.



posted on Dec, 9 2015 @ 10:04 AM
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originally posted by: Aazadan
a reply to: SlapMonkey

I think it still has merit because it gives smaller states some power in elections. If we went purely by population only a handful of swing areas would matter. It would be an even worse situation than we have now where entire swing states can receive attention.


But it is the system of electoral votes that gives the power to these few swing states to begin with.

My problem is like I said--if popular vote is good enough for every other office in this country, why should the presidency be any different. It's not the states who elect him, it should be a country without state borders for that process. Plus, I think that if the EC was abolished, more people would participate in the voting system. I know quite a few politically knowledgeable folks who don't vote right now because they consider the existence of the EC--a body not legally bound to vote with the majority or the party for which they registered with.

It doesn't take much to understand why that type of a system does not embody the spirit of a free election.



posted on Dec, 31 2015 @ 04:10 PM
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Thanks for these replies. One of the issues people get hung up on is the idea that the Electoral College somehow nullifies their vote or that it is contrary to the "popular" vote which people think is the only fair way to count. But States' Rights was a much bigger deal 200 years ago. It was the States that voted to form a federal government and the resulting country was named the "United States," not the "United People." States were seen as entities and people belonged to their State--not so much and often begrudgingly to the country as a whole.

You can see this very clearly as the Civil War started. The US Army had just won a decisive victory in the Mexican War. Officered largely by West Point graduates, the Army's victory was so complete that there were calls to annex Mexico into the United States, which would have been easy to do. But Congress balked at the idea, largely because Mexico was a Catholic country, and lots of people thought there were too many Catholics as it was and they certainly did not want more Catholic representation in the House and Senate.

The Army was a "band of brothers." I don't know how many of you have served in combat, but there is a camaraderie fostered there that is extremely strong. Facing enemy bullets together tends to do that. And when the States began to secede, Army officers made their stand with their respective States. Robert E Lee was asked to command the United States forces, but he felt he had to go with his State, Virginia. So these officers, who had won the Mexican War together, found themselves opposed on the battlefield. Schooled in the same tactics at West Point, it was a matter of materiel and resources--not brains--that would win the war. It's also one of the saddest things ever to happen. And few people at the time thought, "I'm fighting to free the slaves." They didn't care about the slaves. They were fighting to free their States.

And when you look at all those regiments, they came from the States. Soldiers fought with their own States. Have you ever toured Gettysburg? It is an awesome eye-opener. Surrounding the battlefield are monuments from every State to their fallen. And at this point it hardly matters what "country" they fought for. They fought for their States. So once you see how people thought not all that long ago, it's a lot easier to see how and why the Electoral College happened.
edit on 12/31/2015 by schuyler because: (no reason given)



posted on Mar, 11 2016 @ 07:48 AM
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I'm bumping up this thread because it needs to be read. I learned this in school, but that was eons ago. 😄 There is so much misinformation out there, and people don't make the effort to find out the real reasons behind things.

Excellent post! Thank you!



posted on Mar, 11 2016 @ 03:44 PM
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originally posted by: SlapMonkey
My problem is like I said--if popular vote is good enough for every other office in this country, why should the presidency be any different.


The entire country doesn't collectively vote on any other office.



posted on Mar, 11 2016 @ 04:44 PM
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a reply to: Aazadan

The untimeliness of this comment aside, that doesn't matter at all. Well, it shouldn't. In my opinion. You are free to differ in yours.




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