Teacher's Guide for COBBLESTONE ® The Electoral College
Teacher's Guide prepared by: Christine L. Compston. Chris Compston is the author of the young adult biography Earl Warren: Justice for All.
- Students should identify, examine, and analyze the Framers' reasons for creating the Electoral College.
- Students should trace the impact of the Electoral College on the outcomes of presidential elections throughout the course of United States history.
- Students should analyze the relationship between the Electoral College and the federal system of government - both in theory and in practice.
- Students should consider the role of the Electoral College in light of political developments that have taken place since the Framers drafted the Constitution.
The delegates to the Constitutional Convention in 1787 created a federal form of government. Review with your students what is meant by the term federal and why the Framers decided to adopt this system of government for the United States.
Ask your students to review the article "Origins of the Electoral College" and list the four plans the Framers of the Constitution considered for electing a president and vice president.
- Which of these plans would have preserved the ideals of a federal system?
- Which of the plans would have undermined the federal ideal?
- Why was the Electoral College adopted rather than any of the other three?
Ask your students to review the feature articles in this issue of COBBLESTONE® and, working in small groups, make timelines that show the history of the Electoral College since its adoption at the Constitutional Convention. They should include events that influenced the electoral process as well as significant elections. As they list each of these key events, they should write brief descriptions of the events and why they were important. When they have completed their timelines, they should answer the following questions, first in their small groups and later in a full class discussion:
Extension of the Lesson:
- What was the Framers' original vision of the electoral process? What developments undermined that vision?
- How has the process of electing the president and vice-president changed since the drafting of the Constitution?
- Has the Electoral College worked as the Framers' intended? Most of the time? Some of the time?
- In what ways has the Electoral College failed to meet the Framers' expectations?
- Does the Electoral College still meet some of the objectives envisioned by the Framers? If so, which objectives does it achieve most often?
- Are these objectives still valid?
Review with your students Amendments XV, XIX, and XXVI, which extend the franchise to include African-Americans, women, and citizens over the age of 18. These changes to the Constitution all signal a growing commitment to democratic government. They are not the only changes in the Constitution intended to make the country more democratic. Amendment XVII replaces the original provision for election of senators by state legislatures (see Article I, Section 3) with a system of direct election by the people of the states. Amendment XXIII gives the voters in the District of Columbia the right to vote for presidential electors. Amendment XXIV prohibits the imposition of a tax on voters.
- Is the continued existence of the Electoral College consistent with the on-going trend toward more democratic rule?
- Does the Electoral College system discourage or encourage voting? Why or why not? Explain.
- Should the Electoral College be preserved as a check on the trend toward giving the people a greater voice in government?
- If the Electoral College were eliminated, what principles should be considered in creating a new system for electing the president and vice president?