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Teaching American History: The Electoral College

November 22, 2012

by Amy Davis

In Federalist 68, Hamilton defended the institution of the Electoral College

In the previous two posts, this blog has attempted to provide teachers with lessons from PBS and C-SPAN that can explain the basics of the Electoral College system to students.  Implied in both lessons were opportunities for students to ponder the advantages and disadvantages of this uniquely American institution.  This current post is designed to provide teachers with ammunition to defend the utility of the Electoral College.

Hamilton defended the Electoral College in Federalist 68.  If not perfect, he said, it is at least very proper in its constitution. The system is much different today than it was designed to be.  Many states have winner-take-all provisions, in which the electors are required to cast their votes for the popular vote winner of that state.  With such changes, one cannot blame many Americans for desiring a switch to a simple nationwide popular vote system.  However, the original system was not intended to be constructed in that manner.

Dr. David Foster has written a very insightful piece that analyzes Hamilton’s Federalist 68.  In it this Ashland University professor explains the original intent of the constitutional method of choosing a president and explains Hamilton’s defense of it.  Allowing students to read this article and to read Hamilton’s essay may not change their mind on the utility of the modern electoral system, but at least it can help explain what so manysound it’s seem to be missing: the elegance of the original intent of the Electoral College.

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