Support First Things by turning your adblocker off or by making a  donation. Thanks!

Our apologies for not having Constitution Day material here at Postmodern Conservative. I can amend things a little by reporting on the talk held at Washington and Lee University, where the esteemed presidency scholar Michael Nelson spoke. His talk was a general review of what the convention accomplished and why, but the most interesting moment was his answer to an audience member’s “What about the Electoral College?” question.

He began by saying that our experience in 2000 revealed a serious practical barrier to getting rid of the Electoral College: if a national popular election were to be nearly tied, say, a difference of some 10,000 or fewer votes, all the legal and practical nightmares we faced with deciding things in two or three counties in Florida would extend to thousands of counties nationwide. So, if we don’t isolate recounts the way the Electoral College tends to, anything near a tie might result in the long wrangle/crisis of a disputed election.


Nelson mentioned quite briefly, however, that we might overcome that practical problem by instituting a popular vote for the presidency done the way we do the House, district-by-district and winner-take-all. I guess he’s thinking we could just use all the House districts as they stand.

And he clearly indicated that if that reform, or another, could still “isolate recounts” in a popular vote tie, he would be for it. He pointed out the dismaying fact that even in this close race, there are only about eight states where your vote is likely to matter, and hence, where Obama and Romney are really campaigning.

He’s got a point there. I don’t worry about the Electoral College, nor fret about its less than perfectly democratic character, but I’m not attached to it either. I could go for this district idea.

Dear Reader,

We launched the First Things 2023 Year-End Campaign to keep articles like the one you just read free of charge to everyone.

Measured in dollars and cents, this doesn't make sense. But consider who is able to read First Things: pastors and priests, college students and professors, young professionals and families. Last year, we had more than three million unique readers on

Informing and inspiring these people is why First Things doesn't only think in terms of dollars and cents. And it's why we urgently need your year-end support.

Will you give today?

Make My Gift
More on: Constitution

Comments are visible to subscribers only. Log in or subscribe to join the conversation.



Filter First Thoughts Posts

Related Articles