Introduction: The following material is drawn mostly from the work of Gary and Carolyn Alder in their 54-page work entitled The Evolution and Destruction of the Original Electoral College . We use it here with their permission. Once again, it shows how the Founders original formula would solve many problems today. - Earl Taylor, Jr.
Elections in America - Battle of the Parties!
Now that the battle of the parties in the election of 2010 is over, the winners will be savoring their victory and the losers will be plotting a comeback for the next contest. The recent election was all about strengthening the President's agenda or opposing it. The big political war, the election of 2012, will be starting soon, to determine who will be the next "King of the People". Let us pause from the tumult long enough to contrast our current methods and madness of electing a president with the Framers formula of choosing the leaders of our nation.
The Framers designed a Formula for Freedom -The United States Constitution
The Formula for Freedom is found in the structure of the U.S. Constitution, including:
- Limited, delegated powers. (Enumeration)
- Vertical distribution of powers. (Federalism)
- Horizontal separation of powers. (Separation)
- Checks. (Bridle usurpation)
- Balances. (Representation of all interests)
- Secured rights. (Individual sovereignty)
Each branch of the federal government (the House of Representatives, the Senate, the President and the Supreme Court) was to be selected by a different method, a different set of people, for a different length of time, to represent different interests. Each branch was assigned specific enumerated powers.
The federal government was not to be a consolidated national government as we often think of it today. The Framers wisely designed the United States of America to be a complex (or compound) constitutional representative republic, not a democracy!
Under the Articles of Confederation, Congress represented only the state governments. The Constitution added a new innovation-a bi-cameral Congress with one chamber representing the people (being elected directly by the people), and the other representing the state governments (being chosen by the state legislatures). The Constitution allowed only the House of Representatives to be elected directly by the people.
Why would the Framers restrict the people to elect only one Federal position?
Some might think that the Framers were being mean or distrustful not to let everyone vote for Senators or the President. Today we think that we have a "right" to vote for them. The Founders studied very carefully many forms of ancient and contemporary governments. They knew that democracies were short lived and soon became "mobocracies." It was not a government that would function well for a large body of people as they expected the United States would become. The Framers designed a system for freedom to last for many generations. They knew that different interests had to be represented and protected and that a "balance" can only be achieved when the different branches are elected by those who represent those different interests. These separate branches can then "check" each other from usurping undelegated powers.
Direct vs. Indirect Elections
Direct election is popular vote by the whole electorate (all voters) as in a democracy. As individuals we vote for our own interests. Indirect election by delegates chosen by the people, forms a representative republic. They are trustees of the people to do the work of maintaining freedom and protecting the rights of the people. Each state legislature has been elected by the people of that state as part of the state government. The Constitution authorized the state legislatures to choose two Senators to represent their state government in the Senate, (prior to the ratification of the 17 th Amendment). The Framers designed a method of election using a completely separate set of delegates to participate in each phase of the election for selecting a president and vice-president for the United States.
A Unique Method of Choosing a President
The Framers intelligently designed a unique Electoral College system to select the best possible presidents. As the intent of the Constitution was ignored and the Constitution was inappropriately amended, the Electoral College became nothing more than a rubber stamp for political parties and for a popular vote for president. Dr. W. Cleon Skousen in his book The Majesty of God's Law describes the early destruction of the Electoral College as political parties gained political power, in these words:
The whole concept of the Electoral College lost its meaning when the political party system began to evolve around 1800. It not only shattered the Founders' original plan to get our best leaders into top position but it destroyed any inclination to go back to the original Electoral College system.
Our purpose is to help people discover and explore the ingenious system that the Framers designed. In our booklet The Evolution and Destruction of the Original Electoral College we describe in detail the original system, its evolution, and destruction. Here we will briefly describe the highlights.
The Electors are only to Nominate
The secret to understanding the original system is that the Electors were to nominate presidential candidates-not elect the president. Imagine a system where wise individuals are seeking qualified people of integrity to nominate for president, where there is no personal aggrandizing, no campaigning, and no campaign financing. The Electors were to nominate outstanding statesmen who had proven themselves through service and dedication to their country-not promises of what they would do, but evidences of what they had done.
The Phases of an Election Process
There are three phases of any election process. They can be described as:
- Nomination-the possibilities
- Candidate Selection-the probabilities
- Final Vote-the ultimate selection-the pick
To select the president and vice-president of the United States, the Framers chose indirect election by separate sets of delegates in each of these phases.
Phase 1 - Nomination
Each state was to select a number of Electors equal to the total Representatives and Senators allocated to that state. The Electors were not to be elected officials or employees of the government. Each Elector was to submit two names. This would be done at the same time in each state capital, not in a national convention. One of the most effective means of preventing the Electors from campaigning for a particular individual was for each of them to nominate two individuals. An Elector would have no way of knowing if either would be a candidate to be voted on later by a separate body of men. Designating which of his nominees was to be only a vice-presidential choice was not an Elector's prerogative. There were to be no candidates running for office. The Framers felt that the office should seek for the man not the man for the office.
After the Electors completed their task of nomination, the results from their state were tallied and that list was sent to the seat of government. The job assigned to the Electors was over. Their term of office (one meeting) was complete and they returned to private life. Weeks later, those results would be used in Phase 2.
Phase 2 - Candidate Selection
Candidate selection was accomplished by counting the nominations. At the designated time, the sealed nomination results from each state would be opened in the presence of the Senate and House of Representatives as witnesses. The counting of the electoral votes (nominations) determined the field of candidates to be forwarded to the House of Representatives for their final selection. In a system free from the intrigue and cabal of political parties, it seems rather intuitive that the House would almost always choose the president from a field of five candidates produced by counting the nominations.
If a majority of the Electors nominated a particular individual, he would become President, bypassing the deciding vote of the House of Representatives. A plurality of electoral votes was not sufficient to bypass the election process by the House; nomination by a majority of the Electors was required. Unless one individual is obviously more qualified than anyone else, the Electoral College system will produce many nominations.
Let us describe it another way. If the individual with the highest number of nominating votes was nominated by over half of the Electors-in a situation where the Electors would not know the outcome from other states, no final election is needed. As was the unique case with George Washington, it was obvious who should be president.
Phase 3 - Final Vote
The House of Representatives would choose the president from among up to five individuals who received the highest number of nominations by the Electors with each state casting one vote. The final election retained the principle of federalism by allowing each state one vote regardless of population. This demonstrates that the office of president is not to be confused with a king of the people, but is president of the Union of States. A majority of the states must concur in order to elect the president. Deliberation continued and additional ballots were taken until a decision was reached. After the president was selected, the vice-president was the remaining candidate with the highest number of electoral votes.
Dismantling the Founders' Electoral Process
With the passage of the 12 th Amendment, political parties gained a foothold in the electoral process by expanding the role of electors from merely nominating to actually choosing the president and over time, political parties have completely usurped the choosing of electors. Parties now dictate to their chosen electors who they will vote for, thereby eliminating the independent nominating duty of presidential electors. The original concept of the Electoral College is totally different from what we have seen since the political parties took over the nomination and election processes.
Understanding the Founders' wisdom in choosing a president is a vital step in restoring the Constitution.
There is still a lot of teaching to be done!
Earl Taylor, Jr.