The Origins of the US Electoral College

In 1787, the U.S. popular vote was made merely advisory. The actual choice was left to elites who comprise the Electoral College.

March 2, 2020

In 1787, the U.S. popular vote was made merely advisory. The actual choice was left to elites who comprise the Electoral College.

America was the first republic to dramatically expand the franchise beyond elites. In doing so, 18th century founders had two specific worries. The poor quality of information to voters and their gullibility to “pretend patriots,” narcissists and authoritarians like Donald Trump.

Their remedy in 1787 was to make the U.S. popular vote merely advisory. The actual choice was left to elites who comprise the Electoral College.

Worse, its membership was skewed giving undue weight to Southern slave states to ensure they would join the new nation.

The result is an Electoral College malapportioned in favor of less populated states that selected George HW Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016 over popular vote winners. In 2016, for instance, Hillary Clinton received 3.4 million (2.1%) more votes than Trump.

Takeaways

America was the first republic to dramatically expand the franchise beyond elites.

The Electoral College is malapportioned in favor of less populated states.