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Why Was the Electoral College Created?

July 15, 2019 in History

By Dave Roos

The Founding Fathers had to compromise when it came to devising a system to elect the president.

Five times in history, presidential candidates have won the popular vote but lost the

Slavery and the Three-Fifths Compromise

But determining exactly how many electors to assign to each state was another sticking point. Here the divide was between slave-owning and non-slave-owning states. It was the same issue that plagued the distribution of seats in the House of Representatives: should or shouldn’t the Founders include slaves in counting a state’s population?

In 1787, roughly 40 percent of people living in the Southern states were black slaves, who couldn’t vote. James Madison from Virginia—where slaves accounted for 60 percent of the population—knew that either a direct presidential election, or one with electors divvied up according to free white residents only, wouldn’t fly in the South.

“The right of suffrage was much more diffusive [i.e., extensive] in the Northern than the Southern States,” said Madison, “and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.”

The result was the controversial “three-fifths compromise,” in which black slaves would be counted as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of allocating representatives and electors and calculating federal taxes. The compromise ensured that Southern states would ratify the Constitution and gave Virginia, home to more than 200,000 slaves, a quarter (12) of the total electoral votes required to win the presidency (46).

READ MORE: 8 Founding Fathers and How They Helped Shape the Nation

Not only was the creation of the Electoral College in part a political workaround for the persistence of slavery in the United States, but almost none of the Founding Fathers’ assumptions about the electoral system proved true.

The signing of the Constitution of the United States at the Constitutional Convention of 1787.

For starters, there were no political parties in 1787. The drafters of the Constitution assumed that electors would vote according to their individual discretion, not the dictates of a state or national party. Today, most electors are bound to vote for their party’s candidate.

And even more important, the Constitution says nothing about how the states should allot their electoral votes. The assumption was that each elector’s vote would be counted. But …read more

Source: HISTORY

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