MORE ECV Facts, Background

Faithless Elector, by James McCrone, is a timely, compelling novel for our turbulent times. Available now, at

  • The method of selecting a President was the subject of long debate at the Constitutional Convention of 1787. Unable to agree on a plan, the system finally adopted by the Convention was a compromise born out of problems involved in differing state voting requirements, the slavery problem, big-vs.-small state rivalries and the complexities of the balance of power between different branches of the government. It also was apparently as close to a direct popular election as the men who wrote the Constitution thought possible and appropriate at the time.
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Author, James McCrone
  • Only once since ratification of the Constitution had an amendment been adopted which substantially altered the method of electing the President. In the 1800 Presidential election, the Republican (anti-Federalist) electors inadvertently caused a tie in the electoral college by casting equal numbers of votes for Thomas Jefferson, whom they wished to elect President, and Aaron Burr, whom they wished to elect Vice President. The election was thrown into the House of Representatives and 36 ballots were required before Jefferson was finally elected President. The 12th Amendment, ratified in 1804, sought to prevent a recurrence of this incident by providing that the electors should vote separately for President and Vice President.

  •  Other changes in the system evolved over the years, as strong political parties began to appear and electors came to be chosen merely as representatives of the parties. The existing Electoral College system, under which the entire electoral vote in a state is given to the candidate whose electors have won a plurality of the popular vote, has long been a matter of controversy.

  • The direct election plan of choosing the President, considered at the Constitutional Convention in 1787, was first introduced in Congress as a constitutional amendment by Rep. William McManus (N.Y.) in 1826. Many other proposals for changing the existing system were introduced in Congress. Hardly a session passed without the introduction of one or more proposals.
The U.S. National Archives & Records Administration (NARA) offers even more information and background on the Electoral College.
  • Public interest in a change in the Electoral College system was spurred on by the close 1960 and 1968 elections, a series of Supreme Court rulings [need link] and introduction of unpledged elector systems [need link]in the southern states. Opposition to the popular vote method was based chiefly on concern that smaller states would lose the advantage of getting two electoral votes—corresponding to their Senators—regardless of population.
    [citation: "House Votes for Direct Election of President." In CQ Almanac 1969, 25th ed., 895-901. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1970.]

The National Popular Vote website has other important background information on the Electoral College, and even something to say about FAITHLESS ELECTORS
  • The closest Congress has come to amending the Electoral College since 1804 was during the 91st Congress (1969–1971). H.J. Res. 681 (1969) proposed the direct election of a President and Vice President, requiring a run off when no candidate received more than 40 percent of the vote. The resolution passed the House in 1969 by a vote 338-70, but failed to pass the Senate. ["House Votes for Direct Election of President." In CQ Almanac 1969, 25th ed., 895-901. Washington, DC: Congressional Quarterly, 1970.]