The Electoral College: Is it Still Necessary? Dawn Moore SOC 315: Cross-Cultural Perspectives Mitra Rokni May 4, 2009 Electoral College: Is it Still Effective? Article II, Section 1 of the United States Constitution established the Electoral College, although, at the time, it was not specifically referred to as the Electoral College. That term did not appear in any federal statutory law until 1845 (Cain, Basciano & Cain, 2007). The Electoral College as we know it today, is not the same as that original Electoral College developed by the Constitutional Convention of 1787 (Neale, 2004).
Originally, the Electoral College was set up so that each state would choose electors by a method decided upon by the state legislature and it was the electors that decided which candidate would become the president. Over the years the College has had some constitutional and statutory changes, evolving into the system we know today. The question is whether a system developed over 200 years ago is effective and relevant in the modern political landscape.
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The Electoral College was the result of a compromise between the election of a President by popular vote and election of a President by the Congress (National Archives). Each state’s number of electors is equal to the combined total of its Senate and House of Representatives memberships with each state being guaranteed a minimum of three electoral votes (Neale, 2004). Each state legislature was given the ability to decide who the electors are and how the votes are allotted.
Forty-eight states and the District of Columbia electoral votes are awarded on a winner-take-all basis in which the candidate who wins the popular vote is given all of the state’s electoral votes. In Maine and Nebraska, the popular vote winner is awarded the two electoral votes that correspond with the two state senators. The remaining electoral votes are awarded to the winner of the popular vote in each congressional district. While this is not generally a winner-take-all approach, neither state has ever divided its electoral votes (Issacharoff, 2005).
As with the ability to decide how the electoral votes were awarded, the states were also empowered to decide how the electors were chosen. Generally, electors are selected at each political party’s state convention. Often, electors are chosen as “measure of gratitude for long devoted service and dedication of the political party” (Cain, et al. , 2007). In 1845, Congress established that the electors were to be chosen on the Tuesday following the first Monday in November in years that are divisible by four.