The Electoral College Causes Controversy (Again)

The Electoral College system is frequently called into question, particularly when the winner of the Electoral College is not the winner of the popular vote. The Post editors found fault with the system back in 1934, yet not much has changed in the last 84 years.

Truman meeting with General Clark and Chief Justice Vinson
The winner with General Clark and Chief Justice Vinson. "The pattern of Truman's victory," the author states, "emerges clear and unmistakable."

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The idiosyncrasies of the Electoral College system come into sharp focus every four years, as Americans scratch their heads over the fact that, in presidential elections, one person does not equal one vote. It becomes particularly fraught when the winner of the Electoral College is not the winner of the popular vote. That was the case in the 2000 election of Bush vs. Gore, and appears to be the situation in 2016, where Donald Trump surpassed the 270 electoral votes needed to secure the presidency, but Hillary Clinton squeaked by President-elect Trump in the popular vote (as of this writing, votes are still being counted).

The Electoral College system was a worry even in 1934, as this editorial in The Saturday Evening Post shows. The editors write, “No subject troubled the framers of the Constitution more than the election of a President.” They consider amendments to the process and conclude that changing it is a complex business. Some issues that plagued them then are less worrisome today, such as our ability to quickly ascertain results of a popular vote. Other considerations, such as the impact of popular voting on small-population states, may still be contentious.

The way the Electoral College works has indeed been tweaked over the years, in the Twelfth, Fourteenth, and Twenty-Third Amendments. And while dramatic overhauls have been demanded, none have been implemented. Even in 1932, the editors emphasized that there was “no need of hasty action.” 84 years later, our method of choosing our president remains a steadfast, if imperfect, part of our American story.

Electoral College
Read the editorial, “The Electoral College,” from the pages of the August 18, 1934 issue of The Saturday Evening Post.

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