The Framers of the Electoral College

Some Republicans Want to Count Votes by Hand. Bad Idea, Experts Say.

WASHINGTON — In the years after the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Marbury v. Madison in 1803, when the country moved from one monarchical to one republican form of government, the framers of that system understood that they needed to count the votes of the Electoral College.

Their problem was that no one could be absolutely certain how the Electoral College would work—just as they couldn’t be sure if the founders had intended for each state to have a vote in the national government by congressional delegation, or if they had intended each state to be able to decide for itself. So the framers had to figure out a way to make the system fair—both in the context of counting votes and in the context of representation.

The problem was, they really didn’t know what the Electoral College count of votes would be. The framers had given the Electoral College the task of deciding who had the votes to win. And while they considered the system to be the best they could give their country, once the election was over, they had to figure out who was elected president. Then they needed to have someone else write the laws for all the states to follow.

The outcome was one of the most complex, and still ongoing, problems governments face in defining their authority. What were the constitutional boundaries of federal power? Who had the authority to do what? How did you reconcile the need to account for the states’ sovereignty with the need to keep all of America’s citizens safe from harm?

There was no question that the founders did not intend for the federal government to usurp the power of the states to determine whether states had enough votes to elect the president. And to even the argument of the states over who got represented at the Electoral College, the framers had the genius to create a method that gave each state the authority to decide for itself.

“The fact that the U.S. had no written constitution when the U.S. was founded did not stop the Framers from providing for a system that guaranteed the citizens of the new nation the rights they enjoyed as

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