The past few weeks have been full of calls from the Clinton campaign, politicians and other public figures, and many, mostly Democrat, electors themselves demanding that the Electoral College consider activating for the first time in its history its heretofore untested power to reject the vote of the American people.
This is foolish. While such a plot is not likely to succeed, the mere strength of the calls for such a rebellion causes significant and fundamental damage to our country. On Dec. 19, electors of both parties ought to vote as the citizens of their state expected and voted for them to do.
However, that was well over two centuries ago. Even in the Founder’s time the Electoral College system found itself in need for immediate deviation from its original vision, leading to the 12th Amendment barely a decade after the Constitution was adopted.
Within decades, electors soon went from being free to being expected to vote as their state governments commanded. Soon enough, every state in the country bound their electors, whether by law or expectations, to the popular vote of their state’s citizenry.
In nearly every election for the past two hundred years, with occasional small isolated rebellions, electors have merely served as messengers for their state.
Election 2016 has been extraordinarily and historically nasty and brutal, with accusations on both sides reaching a fervor that dwarfs what anyone could have imagined beforehand.
Were the Electoral College to be disrupted significantly in its final vote tally, let alone reject the president that was elected under the system as the overwhelming majority of the citizenry of this country understood it, many citizens who already have a weakened faith in our country’s institutions may almost completely abandon hope.
Some electors have claimed that if there ever was a time in history for the Electoral College to act, now is the time. They claim Hillary ClintonHillary Rodham ClintonTrump in campaign mode at NRA convention Vicente Fox to Trump: ‘Being president ain’t easy’ When political opportunity knocked, Jason Chaffetz never failed to cash in MORE won the popular vote by a massive margin, that President-elect Donald TrumpDonald TrumpPresidents with the worst first 100 days WHCA dinner could be Trump's chance to one-up the media. He should take it. Trump promises border wall still coming at NRA summit MORE campaigned as a demagogue, and that Russia interfered in our election to aid Trump.
While each of these points on their own are more complex than their proponents make them seem, in the end the American people willingly chose to vote in November for Trump, and he won under the rules and laws in place.
To suddenly so abruptly shock the citizenry by dramatically changing the institution at this juncture would also set a disastrous precedent in the future where peaceful and orderly transitions of power may be seen as more and more challengeable.
Furthermore, such chaos in the Electoral College threatens its existence in the future. Some electors have already claimed this to be their real purpose in causing so much trouble. The Electoral College is a unique institution full of history and elegance that has served as a key pillar of this nation’s structure for centuries.
The Electoral College soothes tensions between the urban coastal centers and the heartland. Were it to be abolished or significantly reworked, America may very well soon fall into the majoritarian democratic decay that leads to regional inequality and eventual hostility.
I ran for elector in order to gain an inside perspective on such a distinctly American historical institution. I greatly enjoyed the process of experiencing the fullness of American democracy firsthand. I hope that the Electoral College continues in the future to be the embodiment of both our federal diversity and our republican character.
On Dec. 19, I wish well to the electors who will be participating in the ceremonies. Whether Democrat or Republican, I implore you to continue the tradition of countless generations of electors who have come before you, to not level a hammer at America’s core government structure, and to put this crazy election cycle behind us at last.
Erich Reimer served as one of the two statewide Virginia Republican Electors this election cycle, technically receiving over 1.7 million votes from the Virginia electorate this past November. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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