During the summer
of the Constitutional Convention
, no fewer than 60 ballots
were cast to decide how a president
would be elected. In Mr. Madison
’s Virginia Plan
, he proposed that the Congress
elect the national executive, so more qualified, traveled, educated, and informed people could elect the president. The executive
would be limited since he would not be separate from the Congress
. If the President
did not please Congress
, he would not be re-elected. There would not be an adequate separation of powers
or a separate check on the Congress
. The plan was ultimately rejected
because the executive branch
would turn into a puppet of the legislature
Elbridge Gerry proposed a plan that would fuse the federal government to the states. The governors could select the electors who would, in turn, elect the President, or the state legislators themselves could select the executive. This too was rejected because the president would answer to the governors or the state legislatures. This would be understandable had the founders been creating a government of “We the States” instead of “We the People.”
Many believed the President should be chosen by a method separate from all government so that he could have free agency. One plan was to elect the president through a popular vote, so he could answer to the American people directly. The problem many saw with this was the uninformed, uneducated, backwoods farmers. Who would they elect? Gouverneur Morris felt that the American people would vote according to their national interests. He believed that civic virtue would prevail. Madison felt that voters would play favorites and elect someone from their state to further their personal interests. This favored the northern and larger states.
With a popular majority electing the president, the smaller states, communities, and minority groups would lose all say. Mr. Hamilton’s remedy was an electoral system where by the executive would be elected by electors chosen by the people.
The whole decision was given to the Committee of Eleven late in the Convention. This committee came up with an Electoral College as a practical solution. However, it does not operate as they intended because of the rise of political parties.
During the convention, the founders tried to create a republican government rising from the people that would filter and refine the opinions of the people through elected representatives. Since state legislatures would be elected by the people they would not be left out, thus their representatives would decide how to choose the electors. Likely, these men would be educated and experienced men who would know leaders capable of being president.
By requiring that one vote be cast for someone outside their state, the Electoral College tried to avoid sectional divisions. Electors would be better traveled and better informed and could pick people with civic virtue who could lead the entire country. The final decision was made on August 31 and was based on a committee report, a compromise.