Electoral college part of balancing act

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Q: What were the problems our "fathers" saw in a pure democratic form of government?<!—->.

Wednesday, November 29, 2000

Q: What were the problems our "fathers" saw in a pure democratic form of government?

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A: Well, they identified many. First, at the time of the framing of the constitution, the education level of the masses (the general population) was very basic. The framers of our government feared that the public could not always "understand" the problems, the issues and the dangers that might be facing the country. They felt that electing "educated" electors could strengthen the overall process and give the infant republic an opportunity to grow and survive. In reality, the Electoral College is a safeguard for the system. Second, communication was a problem. In our present "electronic information explosion" we have little appreciation for the shear frustration the founding fathers faced in trying to get information from one point to the other in this country. No matter what method, sending messages took days, even weeks! "Real time" communication occurred only when you were conversing with another face to face. Otherwise, a person waited and watched for a messenger, mail wagon or even carrier pigeon to arrive. This lack of communication caused the fathers to fear that a mass vote by the people might not ever arrive in the nation’s capital. More suited to the times, representatives, once elected, traveled to the appointed destination and "voted" the wishes of the people and the state. The electoral college concept, in reality, was the lesser of other "evils." In fact, Winston Churchill once wrote "the electoral college system is probably the worst possible method for selecting a president except for all the other alternatives." Another reason, and maybe the most important, was to give small states "bigger" rights. If the framers based the selection of a president purely on direct, public vote, then the small, less populated states would be totally ignored during the campaigns. These folk would have little opportunity to meet or hear the presidential candidates and certainly little or no effort would be made to win their support. With the Electoral College, however, even the smallest of states (in population) has something to offer the presidential hopeful. That’s because even the smallest populated state is guaranteed three electoral votes.

Q: Who picks these electoral representatives?

A: That’s a really good question and difficult to briefly answer. That’s because the constitution clearly states that the choice of electors is to be made by the states. So, as in many other cases, the practice varies from state to state. Once again, remember, the founding fathers tried to keep a special balance between individual rights and states’ rights. Generally, however, the political parties nominate electors at their State party convention. Sometimes, some states allocate the responsibility by the power of the political party’s central committee. Either way, the electors are generally selected to recognize their service, dedication, participation and activity in their respective party. These electors could be State elected officials, party leaders, or people who have an affiliation or friendship with the presidential candidate. When we vote for our president, we are actually selecting "representatives" who pledge to go vote for that particular candidate. So in our current political circumstances, if more Ohio voters select a Democrat party candidate, then the Democrat electors (21 of them) go and vote for the Democratic candidate. If more Ohio voters select the Republican candidate, then the Republican electors go to vote for the Republican candidate. In almost all cases, it is a "winner-take-all" situation.