The quadrennial bad idea.

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Pages lead a Senate procession carrying two boxes holding Electoral College votes through Statuary Hall to the House Chamber on Capitol Hill on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. re-election. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Pages lead a Senate procession carrying two boxes holding Electoral College votes through Statuary Hall to the House Chamber on Capitol Hill on Capitol Hill in Washington, Friday, Jan. 4, 2013. (AP Photo – Jacquelyn Martin)

Listen To You Tell Me Texas Friday 4/22/16

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Controversies surrounding how states choose delegates to the political conventions will segue inevitably into calls to abolish the Electoral College. The supporting arguments will be in equal measure seductive and naive.

Recent GOP candidate for president Dr. Ben Carson – who should know better – is quoted recently as saying the Electoral College disregards “the will of the people.” Dr. Carson joins those in saying that the President of the United States should be elected by a simple majority of American voters.

My respect for Dr. Carson aside, he couldn’t be more wrong.

The very creation of the United States was rooted in a profound skepticism toward centralized, concentrated government power. The American colonists rose up in rebellion against a king, one must remember.

It was Thomas Paine who said,

It is the duty of the patriot to protect its country from its government.”

So much did the founders distrust government that the fledgling country’s first attempt at forming one was a failure. The national government under the Articles of Confederation was so weak that the country couldn’t hold its own among other nations and in fact, couldn’t even pay its bills.

Thus delegates from the 13 states met in Philadelphia in 1787 to draft a new constitution. In that setting, the states were being asked to surrender a great deal of the sovereignty they enjoyed under the Articles of Confederation in return for a central government strong enough to function effectively.

The states didn’t acquiesce lightly. In return for what they gave up, the states retained the constitutional power to elect the president. The mechanism for that function is the Electoral College. The Electoral College imposes upon a presidential candidate the necessity of winning a majority of the states rather than a majority of the people.

Until 1824, electors in the Electoral College were appointed by state legislatures. Today – though state legislatures still retain that constitutional authority – all 50 states appoint electors to the Electoral College via popular vote.

The Electoral College is one of the most farsighted of all constitutional provisions. Who knows if the founders foresaw the nation one day spanning the North American continent. They nevertheless understood that in order to effectively govern, the president must enjoy more than just popular support. He must enjoy support across a majority of the country.

It is the Electoral College that keeps high population states from running over low population states. It ensures that every state has a voice in the national government.

Doing away with the Electoral College would amount to a gross and irreversible surrender of the state sovereignty that the founders were so careful to protect – an altogether bad idea.

At this moment in our history, states need to be reclaiming power from Washington. Getting government closer to home in the hands of state legislatures would result in a more modest, more thrifty and more accountable federal government. Exactly what the founders had in mind and exactly what we once had.

All of us would be better off and happier – including the misinformed Dr. Carson.

Paul Gleiser

Paul L. Gleiser is president of Gleiser Communications, LLC, licensee of radio stations KTBB 97.5 FM/AM600, 92.1 The Team FM & KYZS in Tyler-Longview, Texas.

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3 Responses

  1. Getting people to appreciate the value of the Electoral College can be difficult. Your explanation is the clearest and most concise I’ve read. After reading this column, anyone should be able to understand why the Electoral College should be maintained. Than you.

  2. Linda E Montrose says:

    There should be a way to eliminate the blatant bribary that goes on for delegates. This is NOT what the founders had in mind either. There should also be a way to see that people are not running that are not eligible according to the CONSTITUTION. A way to not let them slip by or have someone qualify them knowing they are not eligible! Our Founders would be HORRIFIED to see how far away from their ideals we have allowed this Country to go.

  3. Harry Seldon says:

    There is a growing split in the U.S. Which could be exemplified by simply labeling it as Conservatives vs. Liberals. Obviously the split is much more complex than this over simplification. However, the differences in the two belief systems is a good place to begin understanding the split and what the implications are for the near future of the USA. In a nutshell, the U.S. Will not be able to continue as one nation containing two such widely divergent belief systems. It is a false hope to think that these two groups will be able to peacefully co-exist for much longer. My question, why is this issue not being addressed in any way, by anyone who has a Public voice?

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