Why Do We Still Have the Electoral College?


Product Details

$35.00  $32.20
Harvard University Press
Publish Date
July 31, 2020
6.5 X 9.4 X 1.9 inches | 2.25 pounds

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About the Author

Alexander Keyssar is the author of numerous books including The Right to Vote, which was a finalist for both the Pulitzer Prize and the Los Angeles Times Book Prize and won the Beveridge Award from the American Historical Association. He is Matthew W. Stirling, Jr., Professor of History and Social Policy at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, Harvard University.


America's greatest historian of democracy now offers an extraordinary history of the most bizarre aspect of our representative democracy--the electoral college. In a clear and complete account of this anomaly's origins and how it has survived, we can see the outlines for how it might be replaced, or at least improved upon. This is a brilliant contribution to a critical current debate, just in time to help guide effective reform.--Lawrence Lessig, author of They Don't Represent Us
This is a powerful work twice over. Its contributions to the debate over the Electoral College's effects on our politics are profound. No less important, though, are the fascinating accounts of the changing rules governing presidential elections since the nation's founding, a turbulent and largely unknown history. Keyssar's lucid scholarship does justice to the past while it forcefully informs the present.--Sean Wilentz, author of No Property in Man
Keyssar, our great narrator of the American right to vote, is a national treasure who keeps giving us the history we need right when we need it. In this thrilling achievement, he tells the history of the Electoral College--how it has repeatedly eroded democratic values and how we might come to replace it in the twenty-first century. This is a dazzling contribution not just to American history but to the American future.--Congressman Jamie Raskin (Maryland)
A masterpiece. Keyssar shows us that America's Electoral College has ever drifted on turbulent waters, surviving various near-misses at reform both local and national. He leaves readers with the humbling reminder that popular sovereignty can ossify the rules of election, even as he lays bare the political vulnerabilities of the Electoral College and the real possibilities for change.--Daniel Carpenter, author of Reputation and Power
Keyssar asks a simple question that seems to have an equally simple answer--the small states would never allow it, so why even think about it? Being the careful historian he is, he offers a complex analysis proving that our presidential election system has long been controversial; that serious efforts, now forgotten, were made to alter it; and that the case for its amendment remains as compelling, but also challenging, as ever. At this critical moment in our history, he brilliantly engages one of the most vexing problems in our working Constitution.--Jack N. Rakove, author of The Annotated U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence
Our foremost historian of voting and elections explains the frustrating experiences the nation has had in attempting to eliminate--or even amend--the antiquated Electoral College. While the procedures of self-government should be rational, or at least ones Americans want, they are anything but, and Keyssar provides a nuanced and eventful narrative as to why. The result is a much-needed book that fills a gap in our national self-understanding, which surely is the first step to making any progress in rectifying the situation.--Edward B. Foley, author of Presidential Elections and Majority Rule