Home Illinois News Thorner: Electoral college endangered with calls for Constitutional Convention

Thorner: Electoral college endangered with calls for Constitutional Convention


By Nancy Thorner –  

Our Founding Fathers created the Electoral College after much debate and compromise, but it has provided stability to the process of picking presidents. Though the winner of the national popular vote typically takes the presidency, that vote failed to determine the winner in four elections: 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000. Add also 2016. 

The Electoral College and how it should operate in electing a president is defined in Article II, Section 1, Clause 3 of our U.S. Constitution. As such our Founding Fathers set a high bar for amending the Constitution, a process that doesn't even require the approval of the president or Congress, but only the approval of state legislatures.  

The Electoral College is not a place but a process.  As a process the Electoral College consists of 1) the selection of the electors, 2) the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, 3) and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress. Our Founding Fathers established it in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.

538 electors make up the Electoral College.  A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Each state’s entitled allotment of electors equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives, plus two for your Senators. Because of the Electoral College system states are empowered, especially smaller ones, as it incentivizes presidential candidates to appeal to places that may be far away from population centers.  If there were no Electoral College system, the Trump campaign, or any campaign, would need to be structured quite differently.  Presidential candidates would then camp out in the big cities in NY, TX, CA, FL where the largest number of Electoral College votes are found, and ignore the balance of the states and nearly 95% of the cities in the country.

Our Founding Fathers were brilliant as they foresaw the concentration of population as something to account for in the Constitution.  Without the Electoral College safeguarding against undue influence of the illegal immigrant vote based on the lax voting system found in California, Trump could not have won. 

Whenever we hear others say that the Electoral College isn’t democratic, our response should not be one of denial, but we must explain why.  Many voters will be surprised to learn that when they step into a ballot box to select their candidate for president, they actually are casting votes for electors.  Likewise greatly misunderstood is that this nation is not a democracy but rather a Constitutional or a Federal Republic.  In the entire executive and judicial branches, only two officials are elected, the president and vice president.  All the rest are appointed.  Thomas Jefferson understood that consent could not be reduced to simple majority or plurality rule.

Unhinged Left has no bounds

Current happenings indicate that the felt desperation of some “Never Trump" Republicans, and especially the unhinged Left, has no bounds  They are trying to derail Trump's Electoral College victory with schemes now in progress, which will not succeed, 1) to recount votes by Green Party candidate Jill Steyn in three state Trump won by margins that didn't trigger a mandatory recount, and 2) attempts to have state Electoral College members betray the will of voters by voting instead for Hillary (as did an Electoral College member from Texas), to block official certification of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to certify Trump as the president-elect.  

One organization, National Popular Vote, is now at work toward eliminating the Electoral College through an amendment to the Constitution or a state compact.  Al Gore recently spoke about the "National Popular Vote Interstate Compact" as a way to abandon the Electoral College for the popular vote.  Al Gore believes that the U.S. will switch to popular vote elections within the next decade and that such a change could "bring our democracy back to life."   

As that great icon of conservatism, Phyllis Schlafly, founder of Eagle Forum wrote in May 2009:

Many liberals and globalists don't like our Constitution because it contains built-in stumbling blocks against their goals of big government and even global government. Even some conservative types express irritation with our Constitution when they cannot get Congress to pass the legislation they desire. So, different factions, seeking different goals, have turned to an attempt to use the never-used provision in the Constitution's Article V, which requires Congress to call a new Constitutional Convention if two-thirds (34) of the states pass resolutions calling for it. This is colloquially called a Con Con.

Lurking behind the call for a Constitution convention by Con Con instigators

Calls to fundamentally change the Electoral College, as set forth in Article V of the Constitution to call a Constitutional convention (Con Con), reached a peak after Republican George W. Bush defeated Democrat Al Gore in the tightly contested 2000 election. Gore narrowly won the national popular vote, and many of his supporters howled that the system—even without the Supreme Court stepping in—was unfair.

Over 220 years, various states have passed hundreds of resolutions asking Congress to call a Con Con to change aspects of the Constitution that they find objectionable, but no single topic ever passed in 2/3rds of the states. 

In that Hillary won the popular vote in this year's presidential election sparked renewed interest in calling for an Article V Con Con.  Eight states have already passed a resolution as set forth in Article V of the Constitution to call a Constitutional Convention (Con Con) under the guise that Washington D.C. is broken and it's time to take the power back from the political elites. 

There are those among the Republican ranks who believe they now have a mandate to use Article V to bring power back to "We the people."  With Republicans now in control of 69 of the 99 state legislative chambers, the assumption is that securing the remaining 26 states needed to call a convention should be well within the realm of possibility.  Thirty-four state legislatures must be on board to call a Convention of the States.

Andy Schlafly of Eagle Forum expects a big fight in Texas over calling a Convention of States, as well as in other states like Missouri, Utah, Wisconsin, and Michigan.  The ConConners are sending out mass emails pretending to be anti-Establishment, when in fact they have secret globalists like George Soros funding their scheme.  Now they have Jeb Bush and his anti-Trump vendetta pushing the Con Con agenda.  The Constitution must be defended against this attack.

Constitutions written and waiting for a Con Con

Jeb Bush's endorsement of a constitutional convention last month in the Wall Street Journal, "Where Republicans Go From Here", demands a further examination of possible Bush family interests.  As establishment Republicans, Bush family members did turn their backs on Donald Trump and were prepared to allow Hilary Clinton to win the election by default.

For consideration:  One of the first major political events that President G.W. Bush was involved in when he took office was the Summit of the Americas, held in Quebec City, April 20-22, 2001.  At this time G.W. put into action one of his main campaign platforms, an expanded trade program, which he said would revitalize America's slumping economy.  This was the same economic agenda pushed by his father, G.H. Bush and Bill Clinton. The goals were the same — a One World Government.  Under the planned North American Union, Canada, the United States, and Mexico will surrender their sovereignty to a Parliament set over the three countries. The United States does need a new Constitution to transform this nation from a sovereign nation to a member state of the North American Union. It’s about Re-zoning the World: The Merging of the Americas in a New Global Order.

Other Constitutions written and waiting to be introduced if and when a Constitutional Convention is called: 

1.  The Revolutionary Communist Party USA has a Constitution for The New Socialist Republic in North America. 

2.  George Soros, and Marxist law professors all over the country, want a Marxist Constitution in place by the year 2020.    

Uncontrollable nature of  Con Con like playing with fire

Because of the uncontrollable nature of a Con Con, should a call for a convention succeed, the only issues might be whose Constitution will be imposed by the delegates and what new mode of ratification will be set forth in the new Constitution. Why is this so?

  • There is no way to control a Con Con in advance or to require it to consider only one subject. The Article V provision that authorizes the calling of a Con Con refers to considering "amendments" (note the plural).
  • If Congress called a Con Con to consider only one issue, the Convention delegates can ignore the instruction, set their own agenda, and make their own rules.
  • It is not credible that various politically active groups would pass up the chance to try to force a Con Con to vote for their special interests. It's not believable that the powerful forces working to take away our right to own guns would overlook a golden opportunity to eliminate the Second Amendment.

As noted above, it is impossible for Congress or state applications to restrict what a Con Con does.  The late Chief Justice Warren Burger wrote:  "There is no effective way to limit or muzzle the actions of a Constitutional Convention. . . . After a Convention is convened, it will be too late to stop the Convention if we don't like its agenda." (Read the entire Burger letter here.) 

Consider also Antonin Scalia's warning about a Constitution Convention. When appearing on an episode of The Kalb Report with Ruth Bader Ginsburg on April 17, 2014, Scalia acknowledged the difficulty of amending the Constitution in the context of amendments,  Scalia clearly warned against the notion of a convention, which is the second, or alternative, method for amending the Constitution under Article V.

It is important to recall what happened in the Convention of 1787.  Called by the Continental Congress for the sole and express purpose of proposing a revision to the Articles of Confederation, the delegates chose to ignore their charge and instead wrote a new Constitution

As expressed in Phyllis Schlafly's article in May of 2009: 

We don't see any James Madisons, George Washingtons, Ben Franklins or Alexander Hamiltons around today who could do as good a job as was done in 1787, and we should be leery about the politicians who think they can improve on our Founding Fathers. A call for a Constitutional Convention is a terrible idea and should be defeated in every state legislature where it rears its ugly head.

If President-elect Trump can't lead the promising team he is bringing together to fulfill a conservative wish list, with majorities in both Houses, and on the verge of having a right-leaning Supreme Court behind him, what chance does Con Con promoter Mark Levin and his flying monkeys have of instilling conservative principles by calling a Con Con?


  1. The Constitutional Convention of 1789 was attended by men of exceptional character an foresight from representatives of each former colony. The results did not need a plurality, not a simple majority or even a 2/3 majority. In order to form a “perfect” union, the Convention demanded a unanimous acceptance. These were also men who had faced annihilation by a superior military force and won.
    There are few people left with this breadth of knowledge and commitment, fewer still who would be acceptable to both major parties. No, the convention would be dominated by by the coastline states, ignoring the interior.
    One has only to look at the county by county map of the last election to see what a small portion of the United States would dominate the rest.
    Some in California talk of secession. Were it true, from where would they draw a militia to enforce their case? For the last fifty years they have systematically disarmed their pool of citizen-soldiers, otherwise know as the People.
    The problem with a constitutional referendum is that anything with the label “Constitution” is judged desirable the uninformed majority. We have only to look at the Illinois Constitution, which protects union pensions and road repairs from such elections.

  2. Our founding father consider the Electoral College as a compromise. In fact little Rhode Island came to few meetings. Small states were concerned that the big states would control the government. The small state were so concerned. That likely we would not have a nation if we did not have the Electoral College.
    In God We Trust
    Carl Lambrecht
    847 432 8255

  3. I appreciate the article, but must disagree with the assumption that the call to end the electoral college by the populists in any way is associated with constitutional conservatives looking to the states with Article V to reign in our federal government. There are 2 constitutional ways to amend our Constitution; 2/3 Congress passing a resolution or 2/3 of the states calling for “convention of states” with the purpose of passing a resolution. Not a “Con-Con”. Either way, 3/4 of the states must pass the resolution. We are living in a post-constitutional era, and there is no way our federal government will ever reign itself. I appreciate Phyllis Schlafly and Eagle Forum, but they with the John Birch Society incorrectly portray a Convention of States as a run away Con-con. Completely false. The state legislatures (now with record Republican majorities) control their delegates and the agenda set by the delegates. At any time, a state can pull it’s delegates. This is Federalism at it’s core; and I will trust my state reps over our current batch of squish Congress members. We have more access to our state legislatures and I would expect that anything coming out of a convention of states with the purpose of proposing amendments would be beneficial for states’ rights.

  4. There seems to be three completely separate and distinct topics under discussion in this article and reader comments below. First is the value of the Electoral College itself which I think has proved its value as a safety mechanism in the past. Suppose for example that a winning candidate died between Nov. 8 and the day the college meets in state capitols on Dec. 19. In that case the college could still legally elect someone from the winning party and still reflect the will of the people. Second is the interesting but so far theoretical and cumbersome notion of a very large interstate compact called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact that in theory could require states to cast their electoral votes based only on a national popular vote winner. So far this compact does not yet have enough states to have the force of law on states that do not yet agree. It is not inherently dangerous unless the language of the compact went beyond just the function of electors which I think is remote. So far, such compacts were never really intended or used beyond the narrow specific projects of two or three neighboring states such as the New York Port Authority or the Colorado River Compact. Third is the ageless debate over the convention provision of Article V which is unlikely to ever become a live issue unless Congress first passed and the president signed a convention procedures bill to spell out how such a convention could work and be limited to the topic of the call. Abraham Lincoln said he liked this safety valve option but it was only a theory in his time. My difference of opinion with Eagle Forum was that it would not be possible to hold such a convention without a procedures law on the books and they opposed that bill and they never lifted a finger to repeal the convention clause of Article V either so they never offered any complete solution to that which they said they feared the most which was a runaway convention. Suppose that enough states did use Article V to call a convention? Do people think that the Clerk of the U.S. House would just walk out on the front steps of the Capitol someday and shout out in a loud voice, “Let there be a convention?” Of course not, a procedures law like the one Sen. Sam Ervin wrote would have to be in place. The theory of an Article V call does not scare me the same way it scared Phyllis Schlafly but I just think the whole idea will remain moot for lack of support in the states and the lack of a procedures bill in Congress that would limit the topic to the subject matter of the call. Another reason I could not share the fear of Eagle Forum is that I think if the worst happened and an Article V con con repealed the Bill of Rights to replace it with the Chicago phone book, that wild result would still have to be ratified by 3/4 of the states acting either by state legislature or by state convention. Do reasonable people think that could happen? The only time Illinois ever used a state convention to ratify a proposed federal amendment was to repeal prohibition in 1933 so that too is a very rare event and the only choice of that convention was to vote yes or no to the repeal question.

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