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Gerald R. Ford

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Ford on changing the electoral college system:

“Personally, I would support a constitutional amendment providing for the direct election of the President . . . .”

Gerald Rudolph Ford, Jr., born Leslie Lynch King, Jr., 1913–2006.  38th President of the United States, 19741977.  Typed Letter Signed, Jerry Ford, one page, 8” x 10½”, on stationery of the Congress of the United States, Office of the Minority Leader, House of Representatives, Washington, D.C., July 2, 1968.  With original envelope.

Ford was one of the best presidential letter writers.  This response to a lady in Illinois, who was not even one of Ford’s constituents, is a good example of that. 

Writing during the critical presidential election year of 1968—a year that would see a three-way race for the presidency among Democrat Hubert Humphrey, American Independent George C. Wallace, and the eventual winner, Republican Richard Nixon—Ford, then the Republican leader in the House of Representatives, expresses his support for a change to the electoral college system.  He writes:  

May I thank you most sincerely for your recent letter concerning a change in the Electoral College such as a national primary. 

As you know, in most instances throughout our history the man who received the largest number of popular votes also had the largest number of electoral votes and became President.  But this has not always been true, and we have had a minority President.  However, the number of electoral votes under our present system does reflect the popularity or the unpopularity of any candidate.

Personally, I would support a constitutional amendment providing for the direct election of the President under some plan similar to that advocated by the American Bar Association.  In the past I have also indicated my support for the system by which the candidate in each state will receive a proportion of the electoral votes equal to the percentage of popular votes which he obtained in that state.  This seems to me to be a better system than the present one.

Kindest regards.

The framers of the Constitution electoral college wa

In hindsight, the letter drips with irony.  When Vice President Spiro T. Agnew resigned in 1973, President Nixon made Ford the first appointed Vice President.  Eight months later, on August 9, 1974, Ford acceded to the presidency upon Nixon’s own resignation.  Ford was the first person to serve as both Vice President and President without having been elected to either office.  When he ran for election to the presidency himself in 1976, he lost to Democrat Jimmy Carter.  The electoral vote was 297–240 in favor of Carter, 55%–45%, but the popular vote was much closer, 50%–48%.

This is a beautiful letter.  It is clean and bright, as though it were written yesterday.  Ford has signed it in blue fountain pen.  The letter has two normal mailing folds, some rippling in the upper left corner, and scattered handling marks. Those are not as noticeable when one sees the letter in hand as the light reflecting from the scanner makes them appear to be.  The accompanying mailing envelope with Ford’s printed free frank has been pretty cleanly opened, with one small tear in the flap.  It has a sizeable lightly toned area to the left of the address, and there is similar toning on the back.  Overall, the letter is in fine to very fine condition, and the envelope is fine.


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