The history behind the weird, complex way we elect presidents

Every election year, we’re reminded we have a pretty confusing, ridiculous way to elect presidents. We pick a name for president, but that vote just tells the electors in the “college” to vote for the person who wins our state. It wasn’t always like this. At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, there were four ways to elect a president. One choice was a straight-up popular vote. Another was to have Congress pick. The third was letting the state legislatures pick. The last is similar to what we have now — with one huge difference. Electors cast two votes for president. The person with the majority became president; the runner-up became vice president. It worked well until the creation of political parties. In 1800, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr split the vote and tied in the Electoral College. From that, we got the 12th Amendment, changing the process so every elector votes once for president and once for vice president. If you hate our system, you’re not alone. Over the past 200 years, there have been more than 700 proposals to change the system or get rid of the Electoral College completely.

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