Wayward Fundamentalist Christian has a post about a movement by some states to bypass the Electoral College. This would be accomplished by a simple expedient that I had never thought of–state laws awarding their electoral college delegates to the winner of the national popular vote. (Here’s a NYT reference for those who may prefer that source to the WorldNetDaily.)
I hate to imagine the legal activity that would take place were enough states to vote this particular change, especially if we had a candidate who won the college, while another candidate won the popular vote. The Supreme Court would be stuck deciding who would be the next president.
I am a great fan of the electoral college, as it was intended to function and as it functioned–once, if I recall correctly. After that it has deteriorated. The original purpose, in part, was this, according to Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist #68:
It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations.[Source: Alexander Hamilton Defends the Electoral College in Federalist No. 68]
There was also the intent of blunting somewhat the power of very populous states and increasing the power of less populous states. The framers of the constitution were not much in love with popular majority. They wanted a government with a basis in the people, but they also included limits on the power of a simple majority of the people.
At this point, the idea of the electoral college as a deliberative body that chooses a well-qualified president is dead. With delegates committed to particular candidates by the popular vote in their states, the only chance there would be for the electoral college to actually do its job would be if nobody got a majority. They could do some negotiating to see if they could keep from sending the election to congress.
As for the route of bypassing, I’ll have to say I’m against this approach. I think it could easily put the presidency in a dangerous state of uncertainty in a future election. It would be much better–I think nearly essential–to change the electoral college through the appropriate means of amending the constitution. Personally, I fail to see the need and wouldn’t support such a change, but if it was done by constitutional amendment, at least there would be no conflict following an election under those rules.