Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution established the Electoral College as the body that has only one function – to meet once every four years to elect the president of the United States. This body effectively affirms that the United States is indeed a federation of sovereign states whose voters matter whether the state is large or small.
The founding fathers insisted on the Electoral College because they understood the danger in direct election of the president that effectively subordinates the minority to the majority. As a defense against the suppression of the voices of the minority, the founders instituted a system in which majority rule prevails at the state-level in a national election subject to the limit that each state is awarded votes in the Electoral College based on the number of senators and representatives it has in Congress. Voters in large states matter because they have electors based on the size of their populations. Voters in small states matter because every state has at least two electors. The winning presidential candidate at the state level is awarded all of the state’s electoral votes.
By inserting the Electoral College as an essential intermediate body between the majority and the office of the president, the founders hoped that the majority would see themselves not as the victorious party but, along with the Supreme Court, as the guardians of the rights of the minority.
The founding fathers were fearful that electing the president by direct vote of the people could lead to heated disagreements between the various factions involved in the election campaigning which in turn might incite those in the winning majority to punish those in the losing minority. If nothing else, the Biden-Trump faceoff has demonstrated that the founding fathers were well-advised to take measures to prevent that from happening. The cooler heads of the electors would help protect the republic from the tyranny of the majority.
James Madison in Federalist Paper 51 argued that “In the extended republic of the United States and among the great variety of interests, parties, and sects which it embraces, a coalition of a majority of the whole society could seldom take place on any other principles than those of justice and the general good…” Majorities today are formed and elections are won not on the basis of Madisonian justice and the general good but by political party organizations (“machines”) operating in states with large populations concentrated in central cities that raise enormous amounts of money to support those partisan pollsters who use polling as a means to deliberately misinform the public and those party loyalists in the media who willingly smear their opponents and filter information so that their base constituencies know only what the machine tells them.
The money comes from billionaire donors who know what they want from the machine and the machine is only too happy to see that their demands are addressed. To assure that it gets what it wants from the public, the machine controls the places where ballots are prepared, where voting machines and software are purchased and installed, where votes are cast, and where they are counted. The political machine is the means by which majorities are built and sustained and minorities are crushed and silenced.
More money to make minorities more competitive is not the answer. Ever greater stashes of money in politics only make minority coalitions more likely to become as corrupt as majority machine-organized coalitions. The exercise of free speech in elections ought not to be a right that belongs preferentially to the wealthy.
Men and women of unquestioned integrity are needed in the media to assure that balancing the lies of Republican strategists against the lies of Democrat strategists does not complete their obligation under fairness to the public. Needed as well are pollsters who are not compromised by the parties who pay them to tap the opinions of the public. A basic requirement for releasing the results from an opinion poll to the public should be that the pollster is a member of the American Association for Public Opinion Research and faithfully complies with the Association’s standards and ethical practices.
Needed too are poll watchers who faithfully report what they see without favor to any political interest. Handling and counting the ballots cast calls for persons who are not beholden to any partisan faction. Observers dispatched to the counting room by the Democrat party or the Republican party must put the integrity of the process ahead of any considerations as to how many votes it takes for their party to win.
However, all of this is insufficient if there is no INDEPENDENT auditing process in place to assure that every ballot which meets the requirements of the state election laws is counted accurately and all other ballots are set aside. Fraud cannot be detected reliably by oversight because fraud by definition is secretive. When it is 100 percent successful it goes entirely undetected. That’s why audits are absolutely essential to maintaining trust in election outcomes. Tolerating fraud in a very few instances only encourages the guilty parties to push the envelope even further. In the end, zero tolerance is absolutely necessary.
The lies, smears, and the powerful moneyed interests in contemporary politics should make all of us suspicious about the entire election process for president. Eliminate the Electoral College and voters in small states are disenfranchised at the same time big-city political machines become even more powerful in deciding who presides in the White House.
Edward J. O’Boyle is Senior Research Associate with Mayo Research Institute. He has offices in West Monroe, Lake Charles and New Orleans. He can be reached at 381-4002 or firstname.lastname@example.org.