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ERIC Number: EJ791651
Record Type: Journal
Publication Date: 2007-May
Pages: 6
Abstractor: ERIC
ISSN: ISSN-0018-2745
One Vote for the Electoral College
Turner, John J., Jr.
History Teacher, v40 n3 p411-416 May 2007
For students of history, the acrimonious and contentious 1876 presidential canvass came to mind during the 2000 election imbroglio. Democrat Samuel J. Tilden won the popular vote, but to the dismay of outraged Democrats, an electoral commission of eight Republicans and seven Democrats decided along strict party lines to give twenty disputed electoral votes to the Republican Rutherford B. Hayes, and thus the presidency. The hotly contested 2000 presidential campaign produced similar howls of protest when Republican George W. Bush won the election with a controversial majority in the Electoral College even though his Democratic challenger Al Gore received approximately 500,000 more popular votes. Scholars, pundits, editors, politicians, and others called for the abolition or reform of this "ridiculous setup, which thwarts the will of the majority, distorts presidential campaigning and has the potential to produce a true constitutional crisis." The current demand for change has deep historical roots dating back to 1796 when William Smith, Federalist of South Carolina, urged a revision of the electoral system because "it had been discovered that great inconveniences might arise." Since that time, hundreds of proposals have emerged and yet, with the exception of the adoption of the Twelfth Amendment in 1804, all have failed. It is likely that present efforts will meet the same fate. Why? The attempt to answer this question offers American History instructors secondary and college classrooms an opportunity to examine the merits of various reform proposals and how they might impact the "whole solar system of governmental power." Proposals address issues of one person-one vote, differences between large and small states, interest groups, political parties, federalism, checks and balances, separation of powers, majority rule, and minority rights. The purpose of this brief article is to stimulate the discussion by suggesting that the answer to why there has been no change is rooted in the reasons for the adoption of the Electoral College in 1787 and the evolution of the two-party system during the early years of the republic. It is this history which explains why the Electoral College should be preserved. (Contains 10 notes.)
Society for History Education. California State University, Long Beach, 1250 Bellflower Blvd, Long Beach, CA 90840-1601. Tel: 562-985-2573; Fax: 562-985-5431; Web site:
Publication Type: Journal Articles; Reports - Descriptive
Education Level: Elementary Secondary Education; Higher Education; Postsecondary Education; Secondary Education
Audience: N/A
Language: English
Sponsor: N/A
Authoring Institution: N/A