Mount Vernon News

By Mount Vernon News
October 19, 2012 9:41 am EDT


Al Gore won the popular vote for president in 2000, but George W. Bush won the election. Samuel Tilden won the popular vote in 1876, but Rutherford B. Hayes was elected. In both cases, the loser of the popular vote won by getting a majority of the electoral votes.

Those are votes in the system the framers came up with in 1788 to put a layer of insulation between the voters and the president, to reduce the chances of corruption and to continue the practice of balancing the interests of large states and small states in the Constitution.


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In trying to decide how to choose the nation’s chief executive, the framers feared the direct election of the president because they feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power. They saw the electors as being a protection against this, as they would meet only once (and separately in each state) and could not be manipulated over time.

The college would also be another way of balancing large and small states, much as the structure of Congress does.

They felt that having Congress elect the executive would upset the balance between the branches of government, or that it would cause unseemly political bargaining. (Political parties had not yet formed.)

Having the state legislatures elect the executive was rejected due to fears of states having undue influence and that it would erode federal authority.

Direct election was rejected because of the fear people would vote only for candidates from their state or region and the choice would always be determined by the most populous states.

Theoretically, the electors would be the most knowledgeable and informed individuals in a state and select the president solely on merit.

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