Politics, Elections, & the Presidency: a Video Conversation with Thomas Jefferson
In 1816, writing about the Electoral College, you mentioned “The president is chosen by ourselves, directly in practice, for we vote for A as elector only on the condition he will vote for B.” Can you foresee a time when a candidate might be awarded a majority of Electoral College votes, and therefore the presidency, while losing the popular vote nationally? Would that trouble you?

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Answer:
I can recall when I first learned of the resolution of the constitutional convention – and this in a letter written by Mr. James Madison of November 1787 – that I wrote back to him early the next year that I was captivated by the idea of electing the chief magistrate through state legislatures. I was near to retract that comment in the presidential election of 1800, which as you might recall, resulted in a tie – 73 electoral votes each for Aaron Burr and Thomas Jefferson. At that time, following through our Constitution to have the campaign enter the House of Representatives, I was concerned that the electoral system does not properly enounce the voice of the people. I have become even the more concerned over the years.

The presidential election of 1824 was controversial, and I announced then that the method of electing our chief magistrate through the state legislatures could very well be a blot upon our Constitution, which will some day make its hit. Good heavens, could you imagine that it might make its hit so to the extent that we would not even follow our constitution to resolve such disputes in Congress but perhaps resort to the judiciary for their advice?

So, I am concerned that if indeed our electorate can become the more educated, the better informed, the more enlightened…well, then with such an educated citizenry what would be the use of the Electoral College altogether?