Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Additional comments on the Electoral College

Here's my CNBC article shedding some light on the history of the Electoral College. The actual origins of the Electoral College and the reasons for it seem to be misunderstood, which is the focus of my piece.

A couple of additional points and some links for those interested:
  • The father of the Electoral College -- Philadelphia's James Wilson -- was the delegate who was most focused on democracy. Wilson appeared to really want direct elections, but after seeing no support (outside of his fellow Pennsylvanians), he came up with the Electoral College framework. Wilson, an Associate Justice of the Supreme Court died in disgrace due to his debts, but he is clearly one of the most important figures at the Convention.
  • On July 24, Wilson also suggested a system of "picking lots" -- whereby they would randomly choose 15 members of the legislature who would choose the executive (not called a president at that time).
  • There was significant debate of whether (after the narrowing to five candidates by the EC) the president should be chosen by the Senate or the House. The decision to give the choice over to the House was seen as a nod to the larger states -- though since each state has one vote, that doesn't seem to be much of a benefit.
  • The original idea of Congress choosing the executive may have resulted in a quasi-parliamentarian system, though the existence of a powerful Senate makes it a black box as to what that would have meant. One important variable would have been the vice president. Unanswerable historical possibility under this system -- with the VP heading the Senate, would the VP have become a more important figure than the President? This is not as outlandish as it seems -- Texas has a weak Governor/strong Lieutenant Governor model.
  • Among the changes made by the 12th Amendment was limiting the amount of candidates sent to the House from 5 to 3. This may seem like a minor point, but it has huge repercussions on US history. Henry Clay came in 4th in the 1824 election and was eliminated from contention. If Clay had been sent to Congress and won instead of Adams or Jackson. Since the Adams/Jackson's battles can be seen as the birth of the two party system, what would have changed if the far better politician Clay had been elected instead of Adams?
  • To get any understanding of the Electoral College, it is important to look at the elections of 1796, 1800, 1824 and 1876. 
Some links here:

Some of the State Constitutions

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