The Electoral College and the Constitution: The Case for Preserving Federalism

The Electoral College and the Constitution: The Case for Preserving Federalism

The Electoral College and the Constitution: The Case for Preserving Federalism

The Electoral College and the Constitution: The Case for Preserving Federalism


This study examines how the Electoral College actually works, how it is supposed to work, and how it might be reformed. Robert Hardaway first looks at the Constitutional Convention, the Twelfth Amendment, and historical elections where the Electoral College has come into play, providing the historical background to the present-day College. Next he examines the electors themselves--how they are chosen in the states and the laws relating to the obligations of electors in casting their votes. The election of the president and vice president by the House of Representatives is also examined. Finally, Hardaway discusses and analyzes the proposed reforms to the Electoral College, including those before the Congress at present. Professor Hardaway's book makes a strong case for the preservation of the federalist principles incorporated into the constitutional framers' plan for election of the president of the United States. The book richly documents its case with examples from past elections, while at thesame time providing the reader with all information needed to make an independent judgment.


There have been more proposals for constitutional amendments in the area of electoral reform than in any other area. And perhaps no other aspect of government is more important than the selection of a head of state.

The debate over electoral reform has been going on ever since the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Every few years a new crop of reformers in Congress launches a new effort to alter the constitutional scheme for electing a president. After every presidential election in which a third party creates uncertainty, calls for reform inevitably resound in the halls of Congress. The 1992 election, in which Ross Perot's candidacy initially caused uncertainty about how the Electoral College would choose the president, was no exception. Dozens of bills advocating electoral reform are now pending in Congress.

I recall that as a high school senior at the St. Albans School in Washington, D.C., the question of reforming the Electoral College was the hot topic in the school's Government Class, which was held every Thursday evening. Speakers from Congress were invited to make a presentation on each side of the issue, and the rest of the evening was devoted to debate. The class was divided into two parties, and I recall my classmate, Al Gore, arguing vigorously on the side of the reformers (although I confess to having no idea what the vice president's views on electoral reform are today).

This book attempts to add something to this perennial debate by addressing the topic with a heavy historical perspective and analysis of the principles of federalism, as well as an examination of the most modern theories of political science and government. One fact that became very apparent in the course of my research was that many Americans are not well acquainted with how the Electoral College works. In one recent poll, a citizen asked to give an opinion on the Electoral College responded by saying that he thought it had an excellent football team!

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