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We the People U. S. Constitution - Selecting the President
James Wilson
 At the Constitutional Convention of 1787, James Wilson of Pennsylvania said:
"The subject of presidential selection has greatly divided the House, and will also divide people out of doors.
It is in truth the most difficult of all on which we have had to decide."

Wilson made the first proposal for popular election of the President. He argued that the power and
independence of the chief executive could be guaranteed only if his power "flowed from the people at large".

The Virginia Plan offered by James Madison and the New Jersey Plan from William Patterson called for the President to be selected by the legislature. Some delegates believed that the direct popular election of the President would be dominated by the larger states.

"A number of proposals, including direct election by the people, by state legislatures, by state governors, and by the national legislature, were considered. The result was the electoral college, a master stroke of compromise, quaint and curious but politically expedient. The large states got proportional strength in the number of delegates, the state legislatures got the right of selecting delegates, and the House the right to choose the president in the event no candidate received a majority of electoral votes. Mason later predicted that the House would probably choose the president 19 times out of 20."

1. How does the Electoral College actually work?


What is the winner-takes-all rule?


2. Based on question 1, who actually elects the President?


What happens if no presidential candidate gets 270 electoral votes?


3. How many Electoral votes does your state have?


How is this number determined?


4. How does the Electoral plan empower the smaller states?


5. Has there ever been a "faithless elector" from your state?


Explain whether you support or dispute that faithless elector's decision.


6. According to The U.S. Electoral College Calculator, a person can win the presidential election
by winning just 11 states.

Use NARA's Electoral College information:

How can this be?


Is your state one of these states?


Name a Presidential election where the person who won the greatest number of popular votes
was not made President of the United States.

How many times has this happened?



7. Many grassroots organizations are calling for changing how the U.S. President is chosen. They favor a shift towards a more direct election. National Popular Vote

How would this change be accomplish?


8. Give an example of a change that has been made in the U.S. Constitution regarding elections and the office of President.


Essay : Write a 5 paragraph essay

Is it time for the popular, direct election of the President and Vice President?


"The real rulers in Washington are invisible and exercise power from behind the scenes." Justice Felix Frankfurter


Constitutional Topic: The Electoral College

"The Electoral College", William C. Kimberling, Deputy Director FEC Office of Election Administration (pdf)

The American Electoral College by Ellis Katz

The Electoral College in the 21st Century -

How the Electoral College Works - Ch 2.

History of US Presidential Elections -

FAQ - U.S. Electoral College - NARA

National Popular Vote - A Plan to Make Each Vote Count

Documents from the Continental Congress and the Constitutional Convention, 1774-1789 - Library of Congress

The Charters of Freedom - National Archives

The Yes Men - democracy for sale - Try your hand at this approach to dealing with a problem facing you today.

"All power is originally vested in, and consequently derived from, the people. That government is instituted and ought to be exercised for the benefit of the people; which consists in the enjoyment of life and liberty and the right of acquiring property, and generally of pursuing and obtaining happiness and safety. That the people have an indubitable, unalienable, and indefeasible right to reform or change their government whenever it be found adverse or inadequate to the purpose of its institution." James Madison

Alice Paul's Fight for Suffrage 100 Milestone Documents
Susan B. Anthony, the Constitution and the Vote Create a Youth Voter Campaign - pbl
Election Vocabulary Puzzle project Ballot Access Reforms
Women's Suffrage project Exploring Franchise and Elections
By the People - Dissect an Ad Evaluate a Platform Initiative and Referendum
Explore Civics Knowledge Project Vote Smart Interpret a Debate Analyze a Poll
Constitution ms/hs Bill Of Rights hs Elections & Voting Bill of Rights ms President Truman's Remarks

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posted 6/2007 In the spirit of Thomas Paine - released to public domain by Cynthia J. O'Hora

Aligned with the following Pennsylvania Academic Standards - Reading, Writing Speaking, History, Civics and Government, Mathematics, Civics, Science and Technology
Aligned with the National Standards for Civics and Government

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