“What was its purpose, and has its purpose run its course?”
The setting, a country recovering from a long and painful war with England gaining their countries independence. With the Articles of Confederation still in effect, our founding fathers devised a plan for a stronger federal government with three branches, Executive, legislative and Judicial giving us a checks and balance system so no single branch would have too much excessive power. Starting on May 25th of 1787 the constitutional convention convened in Philadelphia, 55 delegates were in attendance this day representing all 13 states, except Rhode Island. Delegates like Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson, John Adams were tasked by congress with amending the articles of confederation. Once deliberation started it was clear that an entirely new form of government was needed. During these debates one of the hot topics was the amount of representatives each state could have in the lower house and the upper house, The Connecticut compromise was proposed. This allows the larger states to have more representatives in the lower house based on the population of that state, while only an equal representation was allowed in the Upper house. By September 1787 the committee had drafted the final text of the constitution compromised of some 4,200 words. The constitution was finally ratified on May 29, 1790 by the last holdout Rhode Island.
The constitution holds the building blocks for the United States government structure. Article 2 of the Executive branch in Section 1 states, “The executive Power shall be vested in a President of the United States of America. He shall hold his Office during the Term of four years, and, together with the Vice President, chosen for the same Term, be elected, as follows; Each State shall appoint, in such manner as the legislature thereof may direct, a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator, Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”
The 12th Amendment to the constitution defines the reasonability of the Electors and how they are supposed to meet and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President.
With the 14th amendment section 3, the definition of who may serve as an elector, “No person shall be... elector of President and Vice President ... who, having previously taken an oath, as a member of Congress, an officer of the United States, a member of any State legislature, or as an executive or judicial officer of any State, to support the Constitution of the United States, shall have engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the same, or given aid or comfort to the enemies thereof. But Congress may by a vote of two-thirds of each House, remove such disability. “
The term Electoral College came into general usage as the collective for the electors in 1845. Establishing the “Electoral college” was a part of the original building blocks of the Constitution, 12th & 14th amendment.
Today we find ourselves questioning if this established structure might require some fine tuning. Has a presidential candidate ever lost the nationwide popular vote but been elected president in the Electoral College? Yes, this has happened 3 times in 56 presidential elections, it occurred in the Hayes/Tilden election of 1876 and the Harrison/Cleveland election of 1888 due to the statistical disparity between vote totals in individual state elections and the national vote totals. This also occurred in the 2000 presidential election, where George W. Bush received fewer popular votes than Albert Gore Jr., but received a majority of electoral votes. Electoral colleges track record vs. the popular vote receives a grade of A (95%), 3 out of 56 times the electoral college has chosen a different candidate than what the popular vote