How The Electoral College Was Created To Give The South More Votes

By Jacob Shelton
(Howard Chandler Christy/Wikimedia Commons)

To paraphrase the Insane Clown Posse, "The electoral college—how does it work?" We all more or less know that a candidate needs to win a majority of the electoral college, regardless of their showing in the popular vote, to win the presidency, but since the 2000 election, this function of the government has felt fairly arbitrary. Way back in its infancy, however, the burgeoning U.S. government decided a fail-safe was needed to ensure that every state in the Union had a voice, not just the states with the densest population.

Of Course, Slavery Was Part Of It

In 1787, delegates assembled in Philadelphia to determine how the president and vice president would be chosen, because 11 years into being a country, they figured it was time to check that task off their to-do list. Some proposed letting Congress figure it out, but that would have resulted in a power imbalance between branches of the government, so that idea was scrapped. Pennsylvanian James Wilson proposed a simple popular vote, but delegates had issues with that plan as well. Specifically, Virginia's James Madison argued that a popular vote would always favor Northern states because they had more voters. That might seem perfectly fair, but to many Americans, the "States" half of the country's name was and is pretty important. Madison proposed a compromise: Why not count the South's more than half a million slaves?