The Electoral College: How It Got That Way and Why We're Stuck With It

It was never designed to actually elect a President, it’s awkward, cumbersome, and confusing, and almost no one likes it. Americans have been trying to get rid of it for more than two centuries. Yet it’s still here. Now we are seeing renewed efforts to reform or eliminate the Electoral College. Will they succeed? Don’t bet on it.

So it has happened again. A close presidential election has led to recriminations, cries of fraud, and talk of tainted mandates. Just as predictably, the 2000 election has inspired calls to reform the Electoral College—predictably, that is, because such proposals have followed every close presidential contest since the beginning of the Republic. The only difference is that this time no one asked why there’s such a long delay between election and inauguration.

It Happens Every Four Years

The political convention was devised to meet an unforeseen need, and now and then it has an unexpected result

The national political convention is a device not provided for by the nation’s founding fathers. It came into being only after a number of presidential elections had been held, it was originally an occasional convenience rather than an established habit, and it became an essential part of political life only after the electoral machinery had developed ominous creakings. The truth of the matter seems to be that the founding fathers, who had foreseen much, had not precisely foreseen the rise of political parties.

 
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