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Page 78 – The System is Still Broken

James Madison, in letters to Thomas Jefferson in 1824 and Henry Lee in 1825, demonstrates that the 12th Amendment did not seem to resolve the problems that were still apparent in the system. In their minds something else still needed changing.

To Thomas Jefferson, James Madison wrote:

You have probably noticed that the manner in which the Constitution as it stands may operate in the approaching election of President, is multiplying projects for amending it. If Electoral districts, and an eventual decision by joint ballot of the two Houses of Congress could be established, it would, I think, be a real improvement, and as the smaller states would approve the one, and the larger the other, a spirit of compromise might adopt both. (The Founders’ Constitution vol. 5 p. 472)

To Henry Lee, Madison said:

In our complex system of polity, the public will, as a source of authority, may be the Will of the People as composing one nation; or the will of the States in their distinct & independent capacities; or the federal will as viewed, for example, thro’ the Presidential Electors, representing in a certain proportion both the Nation & the States. If in the eventual choice of a President the same proportional rule had been preferred, a joint ballot by the two Houses of Congress would have been substituted for the mode which gives an equal vote to every State however unequal in size. As the Constitution stands, and is regarded as the result of a compromise between the larger & smaller States, giving to the latter the advantage in selecting a President from the Candidates, in consideration of the advantage possessed by the former in selecting the Candidates from the people, it cannot be denied whatever may be thought of the Constitutional provision, that there is, in making the eventual choice, no other controul on the votes to be given, whether by the representatives of the smaller or larger States, but their attention to the views of their respective Constituents and their regard for the public good. (The Founders’ Constitution vol. 5 pp. 472-473)

Twenty years after the 12th Amendment was ratified, they were still trying to figure out the proper method for electing a President. Additional amendments to the Constitution were being proposed and discussed. It appears that party influence was a given and proposals seemed to still address only “large state/small state” conflicts. Rather than trying to figure out how to return the designated function of the Electors, to find and nominate the best candidates, they seemed to be looking to see what was still wrong with the Constitution.

– The Electoral College Today