A recent opinion article and subsequent letters misinterpreted the reason for the Electoral College’s inclusion in the Constitution. The reason was not the rights and importance of small states, or fear of the tyranny of the majority. The founders thought that the common man was incompetent to vote for president. Thus, they created the Electoral College as a group of uniquely informed citizens to vote.
In The Federalist No. 68, Alexander Hamilton described the electors as “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation” and as 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.”
The founders’ mistrust of the common man’s vote was evident also in the fact that until ratification of the Seventeenth Amendment in 1913, U.S. senators were elected by state legislatures and not directly by the people.
The Constitution states, “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress.”
Most state legislatures choose to give all of their electoral votes, which are now really electoral points, to the winner of the state’s popular vote. However, any state legislature, including New York’s, has the power to abolish its presidential popular vote and replace it with a panel of electors who would truly vote as each of them wanted, and in my opinion, there would be no valid constitutional challenge to such action.
John Massaro, St. James