About 15 states and the District of Columbia are looking at a way to ensure a national popular vote selects the president of the United States rather than the use of the Electoral College.

What this tells me is some people are looking to subvert the U.S. Constitution because they don’t understand the Electoral College and don’t know why it even exists.

First, the Electoral College is not a place but a series of actions that eventually lead to the selection of the U.S. president and vice president. Some say, especially critics, that the Electoral College undermines the popular vote. But this is not the case. It is pure democracy at its finest.

The framers of the U.S. Constitution, who we know by group as the “Founding Fathers,” designed the Electoral College to prevent tyrants and rabble-rousers from taking over the presidency. Put simply, the Founding Fathers had little faith that the people — voters — would not fall prey to some manipulator who would promise the world and then destroy the nation once sitting as president.

Does that mean the Founding Fathers did not like or want pure democracy? Absolutely not. James Madison, thought to be the chief architect of the Constitution, once said, “A pure democracy is a society consisting of a small number of citizens, who assemble and administer the government in person.”

The form of pure democracy Madison envisioned is an element of the Electoral College — a small group of people who voters select to represent them when choosing a president — and was written into the Constitution at Article 2, Section 1 and revised in the 12th Amendment.

Today, in all 50 states, the number of electors is equal to the number of people serving in Congress. Each state is represented in the selection of a president by its number of people, not by a national popular vote. For example, North Carolina has 13 congressional districts and two senators, which gives the state 15 electoral votes. North Carolina, like 47 other states, awards all of its electoral college delegates to the presidential candidate who wins the statewide popular vote. With 535 electoral delegates available from the states, and three from Washington, D.C., it takes a majority of those delegates — or 270 votes — to win the presidency.

When laid out that way, it’s pretty simple. Each vote in each state matters: yours, mine, every vote.

Without the Electoral College, and instead a reliance on a national popular vote, a candidate like Hillary Clinton in 2016 would be president. In the national vote tallies, she bested President Donald Trump by 3 million votes. But that whopping margin came largely with Clinton’s overwhelming defeat of Trump at the polls in California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois. Combined in those four states, Clinton garnered 7.5 million more votes than Trump. Looking at the other 46 states, however, and Trump destroyed Clinton at the polls, gathering up 4.6 million more votes than his Democrat contender.

Who wants only four states out of 50 to select the president who represents all of us? No one, right? That’s why the Electoral College is essential and must be maintained.

However, as I mentioned at the top, some don’t see it that way. Those 15 states and D.C. are seeking to abolish the Electoral College, or at the very least undercut it. They all seek to ignore the will of the people in their state and cast all their electoral votes for the candidate who wins the national popular vote. What the movement, or compact as it is branded, is hoping for is to gather enough states to reach 270 electoral votes, which would make the effort legally viable. Interestingly enough, all 15 states and D.C. at this point were won by Hillary Clinton in 2016. This makes those against the compact view the effort as “sour grapes.”

It is.

Only a handful of times in U.S. history has the winner of the national popular vote for president lost in the Electoral College. There’s Clinton, of course. Al Gore in 2000 won the popular vote but lost in the Electoral College to George W. Bush after the U.S. Supreme Court awarded Bush the state of Florida’s delegates. Benjamin Harrison in 1888 lost the popular vote to incumbent Grover Cleveland but won in the Electoral College. Finally, Samuel Tilden in 1876 bested Rutherford B. Hayes in the popular vote, but Hayes was victorious with a majority of electoral delegates.

The House of Representatives selected John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson when none of the candidates garnered a majority of electoral delegates in 1824.

Four, possibly five, times, the Electoral College selected the president of the United States despite the popular vote. It will be a shame if the effort by those supporting the compact is successful. Such an election would throw this nation into anarchy and possibly civil war. Removing the Electoral College from U.S. presidential elections is like throwing out the democratic baby with the filthy demagogue bath water. 

Duke Conover is the Goldsboro News-Argus’ editor. Contact Duke at dconover@newsargus.com or at 919-739-7840.