Eric Foner, 21 May 2020
Given its undemocratic nature and long history of dysfunction and racial bias, it isn’t surprising that almost from the start proposals began to circulate about changing the way electors were chosen, or even doing away with the electoral college entirely. Over time, more than eight hundred such amendments have been introduced in Congress. Amending the constitution is a daunting task, requiring the approval of two-thirds of Congress and three-quarters of the states. But it has nevertheless been accomplished 27 times, effecting changes that have significantly democratised American politics: extending the right to vote to African Americans, women and 18-year-olds; shifting the election of senators from legislatures to voters; barring the imposition of poll taxes and allocating electoral votes to residents of Washington, D.C. But the stark fact is that with the exception of the Twelfth Amendment, which only tweaked the system, the strange way we elect the president has survived intact for over two centuries.