Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College

By Tara Ross
Foreword by George Will


Pick up a newspaper and read about the Electoral College. It is a sure recipe for losing respect for the institution. Media commentators are swift to dismiss the institution as outdated and elitist, an anachronism that should be replaced by a direct popular vote. In recent years, this discontent has found a voice as a well-funded, California-based effort seeks to bypass the constitutional amendment process and effectively eliminate the Electoral College through a series of state laws. Such efforts to eliminate the Electoral College are misguided, and this book shows why. Written in straightforward language, Enlightened Democracy traces the history of the Electoral College from the Constitutional Convention to the present. The second edition of the book is revised and expanded to include a new section about the National Popular Vote legislative effort. The Electoral College protects our republic and promotes our liberty. Americans should defend their unique presidential election system at all costs.

The first edition of the book can be found here.

The second edition of the book can be found here.

From the Foreword

“[T]oday’s electoral-vote system is not an 18th-century anachronism…The Constitution provides for the election of Presidents by states’ electoral votes, rather than individual popular votes, for an important reason: It enables citizens of a heterogeneous, free society to live peacefully alongside each other.”
— George Will, winner of the Pulitzer Prize

From the Inside Flap

(2004 hardcover edition)

“The Electoral College…[is] a ridiculous setup, which thwarts the will of the majority, distorts presidential campaigning and has the potential to produce a true constitutional crisis.” So proclaimed the August 29, 2004, edition of The New York Times in an editorial that called for the election of the President by a direct popular vote.

The New York Times is not alone. In the wake of George W. Bush’s victory in the 2000 race, the first electoral triumph for a popular vote loser in more than 100 years, a growing number of commentators, politicians, and academics have called for the abolition of America’s unique presidential election system.

In the face of this rising tide of criticism, American Enterprise columnist Tara Ross comes to the defense of this much-maligned institution. Using simple, straightforward language, Ross examines the Electoral College’s beginnings and shows why it remains an important part of America’s republican democracy.

In this thorough yet fast-moving narrative, Ross explores:

  • The reasons why the Founders created the Electoral College-and elitism was not one of them.
  • JFK’s somber warning about changing the institutions established in the Constitution.
  • How the electoral system benefited both Franklin Roosevelt and Ronald Reagan.

As she traces the Electoral College’s origins back to the Constitutional Convention and tracks its performance across the following two centuries, Ross demonstrates that the presidential selection process is not an outdated institution that stifles majority rule. Instead, it is an invaluable safeguard that promotes consensus and moderation, and strengthens Americans’ ability to govern their country in the process.

While much has changed since the Electoral College’s creation in 1787, it remains a vibrant and valuable institution. Alexander Hamilton once remarked that if the Electoral College “be not perfect, it is at least excellent.” As Enlightened Democracy shows, Hamilton’s praise is just as true today as it was two hundred years ago.