In the article, “The Proslavery Origins of the Electoral College,” Paul Finkelman argues, “Over one hundred and thirty-five years ago the United States rid itself of slavery. Perhaps it is now time to rid ourselves of the last constitutional vestige of the peculiar institution: the electoral college. After all, it is surely the most peculiar aspect of our political system. Moreover, as the election of 2000 shows, it does not seem to be working very well. Now that slavery is no longer an issue, perhaps it is time to reexamine James Madisonâ€™s original statement, ‘The people at large’ are ‘the fittest’ to choose the president, because ‘The people generally could only know & vote for some Citizen whose merits had rendered him an object of general attention & esteem’â€ (1156).
Just as there was controversy following George W. Bush winning the electoral college after losing the popular vote in 2000, the 2016 general election again saw a Republican presidential candidate, this time Donald Trump, win the electoral college despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton. So, not only is the electoral college a vestige of the proslavery Constitution, but it’s been responsible for two highly controversial presidential campaigns in the last 16 years.
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What are your feelings about the electoral college? Do you think it should continue to be used, even though as we’ve seen it can lead to contested elections? Who benefits by maintaining the electoral college? Is there a better way to elect presidents that you’d prefer to see put in place?