Debating Voting Issues, Representativeness, and Reforms
Background Info. on the Electoral College
The Founders were deeply concerned about whether the masses had the wisdom to select their representatives directly. They feared that the people would fall prey to unscrupulous individuals who knew how to sway votes to their own advantage. As a result, the Founders decided that both the president and senators should be elected indirectly, by representatives of the people rather than by the people themselves. Only members of the House of Representatives would be directly elected by voters.
Each state legislature elected two senators to Congress until 1913, when the Seventeenth Amendment was ratified; it allowed for direct election of senators, as with the House. An Electoral College was created to elect the president. Candidates would have to win a majority of Electoral College votes in order to become president. State legislatures elected the electors. The Electoral College still exists. Each state plus the District of Columbia is allocated a number of electors equal to the size of its total congressional delegation (House delegation plus two).
Criticisms of the Electoral College began early on, after the political parties began to emerge. State legislatures began to be organized by the parties, and the selection of electors became strongly influenced by the political party system. If a party dominated a state legislature, that party dominated the state's electors.
By the twentieth century, pressures mounted for reform, leading to a more democratic process. By the second half of the century, most states had to give all their electors to whoever won the popular vote in their state, no matter how many candidates were on the ticket or how the votes split. Today, a presidential candidate can win the popular vote overall but lose the electoral vote. Criticisms of the 2000 presidential contest show that views on whether and how we elect the president are varied and hotly debated to this day.
For more info., see:
Student Central | Students in Action | Debating Voting Issues, Representativeness, and Reforms
Whose Voice Is Heard? | Do Our Judges "Represent" the People?
*How Should U.S. Elections Be Managed?*