Shortly after the Democratic presidential candidate won the White House last November, Pennsylvania state Senate Majority Leader Dominic Pileggi (R) announced a plan to keep that from happening again in the future. Under Pileggi’s plan, the blue state of Pennsylvania would award electoral votes proportionally according to the popular vote, so that a percentage of it electors will go to the Republican candidate even if a majority of Pennsylvania’s voters prefer the Democrat. Meanwhile, red states would continue to award all of their electors to the Republican.
In response to an inquiry from ThinkProgress, state Sen. Mike Folmer’s (R) office explained that he supports this plan to rig the next presidential race because he believes it to be more consistent with the Founding Fathers’ vision. Seriously:
Senator Folmer believes such changes would be consistent with how electoral votes were originally awarded under our constitutional republic.
When the Electoral College was established by the Constitutional Convention of 1787, the individual states were empowered to determine how their electors would be chosen. The Founding Fathers rejected the idea of a national popular vote because they feared the rights and interests of the minority could be trampled by the majority. This is why the term “democracy” does not appear in either the Declaration of Independence or the United States Constitution.
From the first Presidential election of 1788 – 1789 through the election of 1800, the states’ electoral votes were awarded proportionally. After the bitter election of 1800, states began to move to a winner take all system – even though the citizens of that era considered such a change to be blatantly political. By 1836, all states had moved to a winner take all system.
Folmer is correct that Pileggi’s plan is more like the anti-democratic methods used to pick our first presidents, although he is wrong about many of the details of how early elections were run. In the first presidential election in 1788-89, just six states used some form of a popular vote to select the members of the Electoral College. Three states delegated this power entirely to their legislatures, although only about 30 percent of South Carolina’s lawmakers even bothered to show up to choose the first president. New Jersey’s governor unilaterally selected the electors in his state.
Moreover, this pattern of cutting the people out of the presidential election was common in early American elections. Six states held a popular election in 1792; eight held one in 1796; and just five held a popular vote in 1800. And the “popular” elections from this era cannot even vaguely be described as democratic. Just over 13,000 people voted in the 1792 election that reelected President George Washington — out of a nation of 3.9 million people. Needless to say, the 700,000 persons held in bondage at this point in American history did not cast a ballot.
So Folmer is right that Pileggi’s effort to cut the American people out of the opportunity to choose their own president is more like the system that elected our first presidents than our current system. The real question is why he thinks moving back to the anti-democratic days of the past is a good thing.
Sen. Folmer’s full statement is copied below the fold: