Why Did the Founding Fathers Create the Electoral College?

Cue Card preview image

General Information

NBC Today Show
Katie Couric
Event Date:
Air/Publish Date:
Resource Type:
Video News Report
NBCUniversal Media, LLC.
Copyright Date:
Clip Length:


Professor Mark Siegel of American University discusses why the founding fathers created the electoral college, and how well it works in modern day presidential elections.



"Why Did the Founding Fathers Create the Electoral College?" Katie Couric, correspondent. NBC Today Show. NBCUniversal Media. 11 Dec. 2000. NBC Learn. Web. 6 May 2017.


Couric, K. (Reporter). (2000, December 11). Why Did the Founding Fathers Create the Electoral College? [Television series episode]. NBC Today Show. Retrieved from https://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/browse/?cuecard=5734


"Why Did the Founding Fathers Create the Electoral College?" NBC Today Show, New York, NY: NBC Universal, 12/11/2000. Accessed Sat May 6 2017 from NBC Learn: https://archives.nbclearn.com/portal/site/k-12/browse/?cuecard=5734


Why Did the Founding Fathers Create the Electoral College?

KATIE COURIC, co-host:

Well, why did the founding fathers come up with the Electoral College in the first place?

Prof. SIEGEL: Well, there was a debate, and the Electoral College was a--was a compromise. Some wanted to elect presidents directly by the people. Others wanted presidents elected by--by Congress. Alexander Hamilton in Federalist '68 talked about an elite group that would make an informed judgment with the sense of the people. So the Electoral College was just kind of a compromise between the--the two more extreme views.

COURIC: Well, do you think it's viable today, Professor, because many people might think that the popular vote is a fairer way to elect a president.

Prof. SIEGEL: Certainly, we haven't seen an Electoral College inversion where the--the popular vote winner was declared the loser of the election since 1888. So it's not clear in terms of legitimacy and governability how a modern electorate would respond to that--that kind of an outcome. Obviously, this country has moved in the direction of one--one person, one vote, and the Electoral College somewhat distorts that, as you know. But there are some advantages to it. It decreases the possibility of regional candidates, factional candidates. It certainly is--is linked to our federal system of--of government. And all those factors are terribly important.

COURIC: But a candidate has won the popular vote and lost the Electoral College three times in history, right?

Prof. SIEGEL: Three times, and some Republicans would say it happened in 1960 as well with John Kennedy, because 200,000 of his popular votes were really cast for the Democratic Party and not for him directly. So we're talking about 1820, 1824, 1876, 1888 and some would say 1960.

COURIC: Well, if that happens again, it would be quite difficult for whoever is elected, or would it be difficult for whoever—whosever elected to--to govern? That wouldn't exactly be a mandate.

Prof. SIEGEL: There wouldn't be a--a mandate to govern. I think at the--at the outset, it would be difficult until the president. It would be a legal election. The election would be valid. It would stand. But that person would have to really prove his bona fides. And I think in time legitimacy and governability would be addressed.