With the Monday meeting of 51 Electoral Colleges, there is an important opportunity to better understand how and why the unique structure is in place.
With Hollywood now summoning their familiar spirits of Alexander Hamilton; we need to study the views of Hamilton in proper context.
Here is a concise essay on Federalist 68, the letter Hamilton wrote, to explain the vision of the college and what important role it serves. Wikipedia published the essay.
Federalist 68 outlined
Hamilton's understanding of the Electoral College
Federalist No. 68 is the continuation of Alexander Hamilton's analysis of the presidency, in this case being concerned with the method of electing the President. Hamilton argues the advantages of the indirect electoral process described in Article II Section 1 of the Constitution although, in the case of a tied vote in the Electoral College, the House of Representatives was to make the choice.
- First, he recognized, the "sense of the people should operate in the choice", and would through the election of the electors to the Electoral College.
- Second, the electors would be:men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice.
Corruption of an electoral process could most likely arise from the desire of "foreign powers to gain an improper ascendant in our councils".
To minimize risk of foreign machinations and inducements, the electoral college would have only a "transient existence" and no elector could be a "senator, representative, or other person holding a place of trust or profit under the United States"; electors would make their choice in a "detached situation", whereas a preexisting body of federal office-holders "might be tampered with beforehand to prostitute their votes".
Also, a successful candidate for the office of president would have to have the distinguished qualities to appeal to electors from many states, not just one or a few states:
Talents for low intrigue, and the little arts of popularity, may alone suffice to elevate a man to the first honors in a single State; but it will require other talents, and a different kind of merit, to establish him in the esteem and confidence of the whole Union, or of so considerable a portion of it as would be necessary to make him a successful candidate for the distinguished office of President of the United States
Hamilton expressed confidence that:
It will not be too strong to say, that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters pre-eminent for ability and virtue.
Rules on the electors
Hamilton lists specific rules for the electors, which include:
- The electors meet only within their own specific states to select the president.
- No individuals who have "too great devotion of the President in office"
- No individuals who currently hold elected positions within the [U.S.] government may serve as electors.