by Lauretta Brown, CNSnews:
Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.) held a forum Tuesday on the future of the Electoral College, which he claimed was “rooted in slavery.”
“We also must face up to the cold reality that the Electoral College is rooted in slavery,” Conyers said in his opening statement.
Conyers referenced a claim by one of the witnesses, Yale Law professor Akhil Amar, that “states opposed direct elections for the president, because in a direct election system, the North would outnumber the South, whose many slaves could not vote, but the Electoral College instead let each southern state count its slaves, although with a two-fifths discount, they counted for three-fifths of a person in computing its share of the overall count.”
Harvard History professor Alex Keyssar and Stanford historian Jack Rakove, who testified on the subject, were skeptical of the extent of the influence that slavery had on the Electoral College.
Keyssar argued that “it’s not simply the case that the Electoral College was conceived out of slavery and buttressed slavery but that the politics of race and sectional conflict have been absolutely instrumental to preserving the Electoral College over our history.”
Amar later claimed that “the role that slavery played is not merely at the founding at Philadelphia but in particular with the amendment of the system after two elections in which a Southerner Jefferson ran against a Northerner Adams and the Southerner won the South both times and the Northerner won the North both times.”
Amar also made this claim in a Vox interview, where he argued, “This pro-slavery compromise was not clear to everyone when the Constitution was adopted, but it was clearly evident to everyone when the Electoral College was amended after the Jefferson-Adams contest of 1796 and 1800. These elections were decided, in large part, by the extra electoral votes created by slavery. Without the 13 extra electoral votes created by Southern slavery, John Adams would’ve won even in 1800.”
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