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Electoral College History and Role in Democracy

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Electoral College: History and Role in Democracy

The Electoral College is the process of electing the President and Vice President of United States of America. The mechanisms of the Electoral College were established by the constitution which can only be changed by constitutional amendment. The Electoral College is the byproduct of The Framers of the Constitution in 1787, which was designed to be consistent with a republican form of government. The paper discusses the history and development of the Electoral College and analyzes its functionality in the political system of America.

Defining Electoral College

According to the Act of Confederation, the confederation congress committee, composed of 13 members, dealt with the daily affairs. However, lack of a strong central administrative authority was felt thus leading to the demand of a national administrative leader, mooted in the convention held in Philadelphia in 1787. The framer of the constitution in 1787 sought to elect the President, a politically effective entity, after ensuring his independence and conforming to the public opinion. On the one hand, the Virginia Plan proposed direct election of the president by a group of people in Congress, that would make President vulnerable to and restricted by other branches of legislature and might provoke dictatorship; on the other, direct election of President by people of America could be manipulated by a few conspirators (XIAO & Yao, 2018). The Electoral College was the middle path between the two alternatives.

The Electoral College requires the elector not being a member of the Congress and that the total number of electors equaling the members of both houses of Congress in each state. The candidate who gets the majority vote in the Electoral College is appointed as the President while the second most successful candidate is appointed as the Vice President. In case, none of the presidential candidates wins a majority vote or two or more candidates secure the second place together, the Senate shall elect a Vice President.

Founding Fathers’ Rationale for creating the Electoral College

The Electoral College was established by the Founding Fathers for electing the president in the Constitutional Convention of 1787. The 11-member committee decided to form the Electoral College, based on a number of assumptions and ideas about its implementation. It was decided that the electors of the Electoral College would not be chosen by the voters. States were allowed absolute freedom about the decision process and the electors were let to choose their candidate with no pressure from the state legislature. The Constitution puts down that electors should not be elected from an intra-state popular vote. The Founding Fathers thought that the electoral system might not at all times yield winner and the Congress has to intervene to decide those cases of election and they also did not guess the growth and power of political parties in the American political system (Bonanno, 2018). There was definitely lack of deliberation and prudence regarding the creation of the Electoral College that is evident in the election of the President and the Vice President from the same pool of voters. As a result, the electoral system faced disintegration with the rise of political parties leading to the appendage of the 12th amendment to the constitution. In fact, the Founding Fathers did not favor for the Electoral College to uphold majority rule and promoted a paternalistic institution (Bonanno, 2018). This has resulted in disrespecting the democratic forces and maladjustment to volatile political climate.

Is Electoral College a Positive or Negative Mechanism

The Founding fathers themselves were doubtful of the Electoral College being a perfectly democratic system. The Electoral College fails to realize the “one person, one vote’ standard because of its overwhelming of the seat shares of the smallest seats and the potential for the victor of the Electoral College majority to be a popular vote looser” (Cox, 2018, p. 101). Electoral College is criticized for ignoring the wishes of people by its “winner-takes-all” reward, opposing political equality and majority rule, and encouraging practice of political fraud. The Electoral College can also give rise to a “minority” president, risk of faithless electors, and decreased voter turnout (Cox, 2018). These arguments call for the abolition of the Electoral College.

Despite the limitations of the Electoral College, there is still rationality for the continuation of the system. The Electoral College represents the spirit of the Constitution of the United States. It guarantees the separation of powers and upholds federalism. The Electoral College ensures stability of America’s political system by barring the emergence of a third competitor to the two-party system. It is therefore a positive mechanism of the political system.


The winner-take-all characteristic of the Electoral College has initiated challenges since the popular vote does not match the electoral vote. In order to make the Electoral College a politically appropriate mechanism, it must be modified and amended. The Founding Fathers’ dream to make it a perfect mechanism can only be fulfilled then.


Bonanno, L. (2018). The Electoral College: Flaws and Modifications. PRINCIPLES OF SOCIAL SCIENCE, 114(8), 66.

Cox, A. M. (2018). The Electoral College: A Constitutional Needle in a Political Hay Stack. Int'l J. Soc. Sci. Stud., 6, 94.

XIAO, X. T., & Yao, T. I. A. N. (2018). The Analysis of the Electoral College: An Enduring but Controversial Part of the American Political System. DEStech Transactions on Social Science, Education and Human Science, (emass).

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