Senator Bob Dole (R-KS)
January 15, 1979 from the Congressional Record:
The Electoral College system was provided for in the Constitution because, at one time, it seemed the most fair way to select the President and Vice President. Alexander Hamilton apparently expressed the prevailing view when we wrote that the small number of persons selected from the general population would most likely have the ability and intelligence to select the best persons for the job. I have no doubt but that in the 18th century, the Electoral College was well suited for our country. However, already by the early 19th century, misgivings were being voiced about the college.
The skepticism seems to be related to the formation of political party candidates, and the difference they made in the selection of the President and Vice President. In the years since then, the Electoral College has remained in use. It has served us fairly well-except for three times when it allowed a candidate to gain the Presidency who did not have the most popular votes.
There have been numerous other elections in which a shift of a few thousand votes would have changed the outcome of the Electoral College vote, despite the fact that the would-be winner came in second place in popular votes. Mr. President, I think we are leaving a little too much to chance, and to hope, that we will not witness yet another unrepresentative election.
Many persons have the impression that the Electoral College benefits those persons living in small states. I feel that this is somewhat of a misconception. Through my experiences with the Republican National Committee and as a Vice Presidential candidate it became very clear that the populous states with their large blocks of Electoral College votes were the crucial states. It was in these states that we focused our
Were we to switch to a system of direct election, I think we would see a resulting change in the nature of campaigning. While urban areas will still be important campaigning centers, there will be a new emphasis given to smaller states. Candidates will soon realize that all votes are important, and votes from small states carry the same import as votes from large states. That to me is one of the major attractions of direct election. Each vote carries equal importance.
Direct election would give candidates incentive to campaign in states that are perceived to be single party states. For no longer will minority votes be lost. Their accumulated total will be important, and in some instances perhaps even decisive.
The objections raised to direct election are varied. When they are analyzed, I think many objections reflect not so much satisfaction with the Electoral College, but rather a reluctance to chance an established political system.
While I could never advocate change simply for the sake of changing, neither should we defer action because we fear change.
In this situation, I think the weaknesses in the current system have been demonstrated, and that the prudent move is to provides for direct election of the President and Vice President.
I hope that the Senate will be able to move ahead on this resolution. As long as we continue with the Electoral College system, we will be placing our trust in an institution which usually works according to design, but which sometimes does not. There are remedies available to us and I trust the Senate will act to correct this weakness in our political system.