"The Founding Fathers wanted the people to have a say, there was concern that a charismatic tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come into power. Alexander Hamilton briefly addressed these concerns in the Federalist Papers. The idea was that the electors would be a group of people who would ensure that a qualified person would become president"

Reference.com on Electoral College

If the electors are a group of people who ensure a "qualified president" would make it to the White House, and our Standing President (and many others) believe Mr. Trump is not qualified to serve and Secretary Clinton won the popular vote, why hasn't the Electoral College exercised their right to keep Mr. Trump from winning the general election?


2 Answers 2


There are several reasons that people support the Electoral College system today. One of them is indeed that the electors could choose to vote against a demagogue. That hasn't ever happened. There have been faithless electors—those who don't vote for the candidate they're pledged to—but never very many and never enough to influence the outcome.

Since you're asking why we have the system though, I should emphasize that there are other reasons why it exists. These include the original notions of our federal system and the sovereignty of the states; and balances of power between various groups, such as large vs. small states and urban vs. rural. Further reasons may be debated, such as the idea that it helped entrench slavery.

  • 3
    From Wikipedia : A demagogue is a leader in a democracy who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice and ignorance among the common people, whipping up the passions of the crowd and shutting down reasoned deliberation. Demagogues have usually advocated immediate, violent action to address a national crisis while accusing moderate and thoughtful opponents of weakness or disloyalty. Demagogues overturn established customs of political conduct, or promise or threaten to do so. Most who were elected to high office changed their democracy into some form of dictatorship.
    – Tom-Tom
    Commented Dec 2, 2016 at 19:11
  • Why did you say that the states are sovereign? According the Constitution, or how it was designed, the People are the sovereign. Commented Feb 18, 2017 at 2:18
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    @Tom-Tom That Wikipedia entry has undergone significant revision since early 2016. Nobody can say for certain, but it certainly appears to have been tailored to fit our current President's behaviors. The March 22, 2016 entry's first paragraph was: italic A "demagogue" according to Webster's Universal College Dictionary is a person, especially an orator or political leader, who gains power by arousing people's emotions and prejudices._italic_ They added a lot of scary words like "exploiting" and "ignorance" and "violent". Perhaps it's accurate, but perhaps it's a way to influence thinking.
    – Bob Mc
    Commented Jul 29, 2019 at 21:18
  • @AmericanPatriot There is a complex argument and history there. See e.g. the 10th amendment, the nullification crisis, secession, & Gamble v. US. It's definitely worth a question here, if there isn't one.
    – Jacktose
    Commented Jul 30, 2019 at 6:22

The second question ignores the reality of the national presidential vote:

We don't have one "popular vote." We have 51 popular votes, one per state.

This is by careful design. See the other question on the purpose and advantage of the Electoral College. It carefully balances the competing interests inherent to being a union of States: population vs perspective.

If we had one national popular vote, the value of the States would be greatly diminished.

  • As opposed to our current system, in which the value of Actual Human Beings is greatly diminished. Commented Oct 19, 2020 at 15:39
  • @RussellBorogove ?? Each qualified Actual Human Being gets one vote in a state-level election for president. The states are represented in a very fair way, exactly the same as how the senate+house are configured. Are you saying that our systrem of representative government, which protects both the fact that We The People are in charge of gov't (and they are there to serve us), PLUS by design it protects minorities from the tyranny of the majority... Exactly how does that "greatly diminish" the value of people???
    – MrPete
    Commented Apr 7, 2021 at 2:34

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