Many have long believed that we elect the president of the United States by popular vote. This is false. We actually vote for electors, who then select the president. It's called the Electoral College.
Let's dismiss another misconception. Because we've had close elections in 2000, 2004 and now 2016, the national media always talks about so-called "faithless electors." This is a renegade who votes for a candidate other than the one he or she pledged to support.
This has only happened 157 times in 229 years, and most of the instances occurred during the 19th century. Not a single time has it affected the outcome of an election.
On Dec. 19 the members of the Electoral College will meet in their states to cast their votes for the 45th president.
In a delicious bit of irony, Donald Trump is now the president-elect of The United States solely because of the Electoral College. As recently as 2012, Trump has said the Electoral College is a "disaster" for a democracy.
A few weeks ago Trump said, "I'd rather do the popular vote, and I've never been a fan of the Electoral College until now."
I have admired and agreed with almost every Trump instinct and pronouncement during the campaign. But I couldn't disagree more with the assertion that we should choose our president by popular vote.
My objection is not because it would have denied George W. Bush and Trump the presidency; I voted for both and enthusiastically supported them publicly.
My strong belief is that our founders were brilliant to devise a system that provided for smaller states to have a say in who becomes their president.
They worried centuries ago about the size and power of the Commonwealth of Virginia. Now it's California, New York, Illinois and a few other monolithic voting states.
Imagine if the candidate who won the most votes nationally became president. Most candidates would never set foot in small states with tiny electoral vote totals.
The 12th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution settled this matter, requiring that each elector shall cast one vote for president and another vote for vice president.
There are currently 538 electors, with 435 members of the House of Representatives, 100 senators and three electors who were added for the District of Columbia with the 23rd Amendment.
The reason you don't hear much about this is because only five times in American history has the national popular vote winner not won the Electoral College vote: 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and now 2016.
Some Democrats are all lathered up over the fact that they have lost the past two times this has occurred and want to introduce legislation to abolish the Electoral College.
It's a very bad idea. The closest we have come to abolishing the Electoral College took place during the 91st Congress (1969-1971). Most remember the election of 1968 as a landslide triumph for President Richard Nixon. He dominated the Electoral College (Nixon 301, Humphrey 191 and George Wallace 41). However, he only defeated Hubert Humphrey by 511,944 votes (43.5 percent to 42.9 percent), which represented less than 1 percent of the national vote total.
Congressman Emanuel Celler, D-New York, introduced House Joint Resolution 681, a proposed Constitutional amendment to eliminate the Electoral College and replace it with a national popular vote winner for the presidency.
It called for a minimum of 40 percent of the popular vote to win, or a runoff election would be held between the top two finishers. What a mess that would have been.
On April 29, 1969 the House Judiciary Committee voted 28-6 to approve this political scheme. After the debate concluded, the House passed it with bipartisan support by a vote of 339-70.
On Sept. 30, 1969, President Nixon formally endorsed it and encouraged the Senate to pass the version proposed by Sen. Birch Bayh, D-Indiana.
The change appeared to have the support of 30 states, with 38 states being required for adoption. However, the measure eventually died in the Senate when the 91st Congress adjourned Jan 3, 1971.
The Every Vote Counts Amendment of 2005 and the Sen. Barbara Boxer amendment introduced Nov. 15, 2016 have sought to abolish the Electoral College. The first effort failed and Boxer's will too, as soon as the current session of Congress adjourns in about four weeks.
The Constitutional Convention of 1787 considered many ways to elect the president. Some of the alternatives were very exclusive. Late in the process they devised the Electoral College. It met with widespread approval because it gave the smaller states additional leverage in the process.
It was pure genius. It provides for as few as three electoral votes for a small state to as many as 55 for the state of California. It has worked very well for the past 229 years. There is no reason to change it now because certain people don't like the way elections have turned out lately.