I am familiar with the problems with the electoral college in America (I wrote a six page formal academic essay on it), but I am still confused as to why the founding fathers created and implemented it instead of a national popular vote. Some sources say that it was a compromise between large and small states. Others say that the founding fathers didn't think the average citizen was qualified to vote.

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    We haven't had this question before? This is one of my favorite subjects, but because of that it seems like I've answered it...
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 23, 2018 at 17:19
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    Might have been this?
    – justCal
    Feb 23, 2018 at 17:31
  • VoC as dup. I was under the impression it had to do with travel times, but @T.E.D.'s answer to the question I voted as dup offers nuggets on the actually reasoning that went behind it. Feb 23, 2018 at 17:53
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    According to Klarman: Framer's coup, they wanted to guard against rising populism
    – MCW
    Feb 23, 2018 at 18:22
  • The electoral college was created to provide a mechanism for selecting the president. If you wish to know why it was selected over some option, you should ask that instead (and say what option you wish to compare it to). Feb 23, 2018 at 21:29

1 Answer 1


One of the first suggestions for electing the President was a direct vote. However, it was quickly and resoundingly rejected.

The basic problem with having a popular vote was that it didn't take into account the differences in how how Southern society was organized compared to the rest of the country. In particular, slavery. In most states the only people who were allowed to vote were free male property owners. The problem there is that the society in the southern states (Virginia and parts south) was set up with a very small aristocratic land-owning elite, and nearly everyone else was a slave or worked for a plantation owner. The northern states had a lot more small family farms and businesses, and consequently far more eligible voters.

So in a flat popular vote, these Southern states would be forced into an impossible choice of either accepting almost no say in who is elected President, or of giving the power of the vote to their slaves and hirelings.

So some kind of other system was going to have to be used. Since a representational compromise had already been reached on the makeup of Congress, the easiest pull was to give each state one vote for every Congressman (Representative and Senator). The Constitutional Congress delegates knew they could pass a vote on that, because they'd just done so a few days before when they were deciding on the makeup of Congress.

Of course this previous agreement included the notorious 3/5ths Compromise, where slave states were allowed, for the purposes of increasing the size of their delegation to the House of Representatives, to count 3/5ths of their slaves, who they had no intention of ever allowing to vote.

Short answer: because slavery.

  • Was there such a thing as "unfree property owners"? Feb 23, 2018 at 19:06
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    I figured I'd go ahead an add this answer because the constraints of the other question (asking about documentation) precluded diving very deep into the "why" of it.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 23, 2018 at 19:13
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    @PieterGeerkens - I'm not entirely sure.. Probably not in the South, but in the North? I think I mainly put it there to illustrate the personal status gauntlet a person had to make it through to be able to vote. They of course had to be male too, so I also included it even though it effectively hit all states equally, so probably didn't affect the decision that was made. Women were also not allowed to own property in most instances.
    – T.E.D.
    Feb 23, 2018 at 19:16

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