Venerators of one-man one-vote democracy have long groused about the Electoral College. They think the President should be elected by a strict tally of individuals. But the Electoral College is a remnant of the old world, and as such needs to be preserved against the modern attack on it. Indeed, it should be beefed up.
When democracy started to re-emerge in the Middle Ages centuries after the demise of Athens, the idea was that two classes of men — nobles and clergy — would meet amongst their own to approve — or not — measures proposed by the king. The estates were active throughout the duchies and principalities of the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, and the Emperor himself was elected. Later, a third “estate” — the townsmen — emerged in response to socio-economic developments. No estate could levy a tax on a different estate, nor could the king, without that estate’s cooperation. Similar developments took place in France and England. The United States were based on the model of people organized into, not estates, but states. This is what the Electoral College is all about.
One advantage is resisting regional domination. Suppose one candidate promises the westerners that he will create a water pipeline from the east to permanently solve their water problem. So nearly 100% of their population votes for that one, while the rest of the states are closely divided on this side or that, because other issues are more important to them. The Electoral College tends to minimize the imbalance: a modest but wide-spread majority will tend to overcome an overwhelming majority in one region. This remedy failed in the election of Lincoln with 40% of the popular vote, but that was due to the division of conservatives into three factions. No system is fail-safe.
Another reason why the Electoral College was sensible, nay absolutely necessary, can be illustrated very easily.
Many people think that before the 19th Amendment, women were not allowed to vote. This is not quite true. Before the 19th Amendment, each state could permit women to vote or not. Women voted in some states quite a while before the passage of the 19th Amendment. What the 19th Amendment did was say: you are not allowed to be a state unless you permit women to vote. That, and only that, is what the 19th Amendment accomplished.
Now imagine the situation before the 19th was passed, and let us suppose a populous state like New York allows women to vote, but the others do not. Instantly, there are twice as many eligible voters in New York than there were before. Yet the number of residents stays the same.
What the Electoral College does is quarantine each state, so that no matter how crazy they become internally, their overall effect on the vote is not exaggerated. The Electoral College prevents a competitive situation arising between states to expand their number of voters.
It might be thought that by making the qualifications for voting uniform nationally, this problem goes away. However, why should we want national uniformity of voting standards? The 26th amendment gave 18-year-olds the right to vote, based on a specious argument about the draft: if you can be forced to die for your country, you ought at least to be able to help choose those who can start wars. (But girls and pointy-heads were not drafted: if the reasoning were honest, it would have said instead, “anyone who has served in the military is eligible to vote.” Moreover, why does the Left think 18 year-olds are wise enough to choose a President, but cannot be trusted to buy beer?) Let such reasoning be confined to the sillier states — but without increasing their share of the total vote. A uniform standard doesn’t help anyway. A crazy place like California can invite millions of aliens in and let them vote. Dead people have been voting in Baltimore and Philadelphia for decades. We don’t want those deads and aliens canceling out our votes.
Of course, the Electoral College as currently defined is only a partial sandbag against California craziness — every ten years, a new census leads to a greater apportionment of delegates, even if they don’t vote. So the Electoral College as currently defined is not enough of a sandbag against unjust influence of the crazies. Here is my modest proposal for reforming it therefore. Let each state have exactly one vote in the Electoral College. That would be better.
The Californians scream, that’s not fair! look at all the people we have!