Editor’s note: This commentary is by Weiland Ross, a resident of Sunderland.
The recurring proposals that endorse eliminating or subverting the Electoral College by some kind of “interstate compact” is a bad proposal for many reasons. The Electoral College is necessary to help preserve our democracy.
The Founders created a federal republic with a Bill of Rights to guarantee individual liberties. The word ‘federal’ meant, and still means, a union of states. The word ‘state’ was, and is, a synonym for ‘country’ or ‘nation’. There were, in 1783, 13 sovereign states. This did not work out well, and in 1787 these states agreed to give up their sovereignty and form a federal union. ‘Republic’ is a term which means government by representatives, not direct rule of the people. Our republic chooses representatives by free elections, as opposed to some republics (i.e., China or Russia) where the representatives are appointed without input from the voters.
Our Constitution bases its authority on the first three words: “We the people” who ordain this. The mechanism established for the people to ordain the Constitution was to act through representatives of the individual states. When George Washington was sworn in as first president, there were only 11 states. Rhode Island and North Carolina had not joined yet.
What the Founders feared most was a tyranny or a dictatorship by a majority that could and would abuse power against minority opinions and ignore the interests of weaker states. The Electoral College is an attempt to prevent this kind of dictatorship. It is rare that our elections are won by a landslide vote for one party. In elections where there are more than two candidates there is normally no majority vote. Lincoln got 38%, Wilson got 40%, Truman got 40%, and Clinton got 40%. Because the voters gave a plurality of votes to a candidate that person got the electoral votes for a state. The Electoral College chooses the president and prevents the need for an endless series of run-off elections or some other kind of do-over. It serves its purpose well. We should not abandon or subvert the the Electoral College. It protects us from a dictatorship by a majority of voters; it preserves the existence and integrity of each state, regardless of the state’s size or wealth.
Finally, things change. “Blue” states are not always blue. “Red”states are not always red. The possibility that a state may not be permanently committed to one party is a probability. What would anyone’s reaction be if their state voted for a candidate only to be forced to cast their Electoral votes to the other person? Where is the democracy in that scenario? No state should ever be put into a situation that would allow their honest opinion to be arbitrarily overruled.
Preserving the Electoral College as it exists is the only way to keep our elections representative of each state’s preferences. It is our guarantee against dictatorship by a majority.