Why Do We Still Have the
American historian and professor of History and Social Policy at Harvard, Alexander Keyssar has authored seven books, co-authored three books and edited two books. He specializes in the study of historical problems that impact current policy. In Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College? Keyssar tells us how the framers of the Constitution came up with the Electoral College, describes what problems it solved and tells us about its short comings. The main problem with the Electoral College is that it is not very democratic - in five elections, the candidate that won the popular vote did not win the win the election - most recently Gore polled more votes than Bush and Clinton received more than Trump. Keyssar points out that in 2016 Wyoming awarded one electoral vote for every 190,000 residents while Californians cast one electoral vote for every 680,000 people. The Constitution specifies that states shall select electors but it doesn't say how. Initially many states left that decision to their Legislatures. By 1832 only South Carolina's electors were legislatively selected and the rest of the states awarded their electors based on the popular vote. Since the 1880 election all electors were selected by popular vote. Keyssar begins with the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and takes us through the various attempts to do away with or reform the Electoral College up to the present day. He gets granular, reviewing attempts to make the system more democratic ranging from a national popular vote, allocating electors by legislative district or distributing electoral votes proportionally. Keyssar raises the concern that electors are usually party hacks - instead of the body of reasoned men who deliberate over the choice of president. In his discussion we learn in vivid detail how Congress and the Constitution work and don't work. We come very close to getting a Constitutional Amendment on average once a generation and in most cases it dies in the Senate where a political faction that draws its support from smaller, less populous states is able to block the desires of the states that represent a majority of the population. Keyssar concludes that reforming the Electoral College is both necessary and difficult if not impossible. This is an important book but somewhat daunting with the level of detail it contains.