When American voters select a new president,whom they elect
is not actually thecandidate himself,but a group of 
representatives called the Electoral College. The framers ofthe
Constitution intended this body of electors to be a safeguard 
against the dangers of direct popular election. They were 
unwilling to entrust too much power to the common people, and
thus created an intermediate body of voters who ostensibly 
represent the wishes of the people.	

     The original plan laid out by the Constitution provides for
a number of electors in each state equal to that state’s number
of legislative representatives. The method for selecting those
electors was left entirely up to the individual states. Up until
the 1820’s, most states chose their electors by legislative
appointment. Later, the states instituted a system of direct,
popular election.

     In the over 200 years since its founding, many disputes have
erupted over the electoral system. The fact that it is possible
for a president to be elected to office even though the majority 
of the popular vote belongs to his opponent has caused the bulk
of these controversies. For example, in the election of 1876,
Samuel J. Tilden received over 200,000 more votes than his 
opponent, Rutherford B. Hayes, but Hayes still won the 
presidency. Similarly, Grover Cleveland lost to Benjamin Harrison
in the 1888 elections, even though Cleveland should have won 
according to the popular polls.

     In today’s system, the Republican and Democratic parties 
each has a set of electors in every state, and these electors 
almost consistently vote as a unit. The party candidate that
receives the most popular votes in any particular state has his
party’s electors sent to the general vote. The losing party 
forfeits the right to send even a single elector, regardless of 
any proportion they win of the popular vote. 

     This situation has led many people to criticize the 
Electoral College as undemocratic. The disparity sometimes 
created between the results of the popular vote and the electoral
vote causes some concern that the system does not accurately 
represent the will of the people and should therefore be 
discarded from the American electoral process.