Getting the Facts Straight on the Electoral College

Getting the Facts Straight on the Electoral College

The most misunderstood institution in our constitutional government is the Electoral College. Most recently, the Chair of the Democratic National Committee claimed that “the Electoral College is not in the Constitution.” Others on the right of the political spectrum claim that the process by which the members of the Electoral College are selected is our “founders’ vision for our Republic” and constitutionally mandated. Both are dead wrong.

Let’s begin with the actual words of the Constitution: “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…” That’s all the Constitution says about how the members of the Electoral College are to be selected. There is other language in the Constitution about the EC beyond this one clause, but it is all administrative process language about the House contingent election, not selecting the electors. All decisions about the method of selecting members of the Electoral College is left to the states.

On the right side of the political spectrum, opponents of reform confuse the current “winner take all” method of choosing electors in effect in 48 of the 50 states with the power granted to the states by the Constitution. In the Federalist No. 45, Madison described the power to appoint electors as an important state power, making the Federal Government “dependent” on actions of the state. “Without the intervention of the State…

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