WEIGHING THE ALTERNATIVES:
REFORM OR DEFORM?
Alexander Hamilton began Federalist No. 68 by awarding Electoral College credits to the Framers. He noted, “The mode of appointment of the Chief Magistrate of the United States is almost the only part of the system, of any consequence, which has escaped without severe censure or which has received the slightest mark of approbation from its opponents.” The modern reader is astonished! Since then, there have been more than seven hundred proposals to change or abolish the Electoral College. In fact, more constitutional amendments have been proposed on this subject than for any other part of the Constitution.
At the time Hamilton was right, because the Electoral College was that rare type of compromise that actually addressed the concerns of all. For those who wanted an independent and energetic executive, it provided a method of selection that left the president independent of any unified and continuously existing body—such as Congress. The College exists for only one day, each set of electors meeting separately in its own state capital. Thus it addressed the concerns of those who feared corrupt bargains between candidates and the selecting body. It also eliminated the need to limit the president to one long term in order to preserve the energy of the office. By requiring electors to cast two votes for president, one for a man not from their own state, it addressed the favorite son problem and gave the College a nominating function as well as a selecting function. By tying the number of electors to a state's congressional representation and by establishing the state unit rule in the House contingency election, it addressed the fears of the small states. Special state electors also answered the objections of Southern states where the right to vote was limited by slavery. And supporters of popular choice, such as James Wilson and James Madison, correctly anticipated that the states would soon use popular