The Electoral College - Love it, hate it or don't care?
November 2, 2008 9:02pm CST
Up until the 2000 election, I do not think most Americans were aware of the Electoral College system. As spelled out in the Constitution, the President is elected by the Electoral College not the voters of the United States. Each of the states sends a number of electors to the Electoral College based on the number of representatives that state has in the House and Senate. The District of Columbia also gets 3 electoral votes. Most states determine their electors in a basic formula of the winner of the popular vote for the state gets all of the electoral votes for that state. A couple of states, allow for the break up of votes based on congressional district voting. This system has led to the winner of the popular vote losing the Presidency to the winner of the Electoral College vote. To change or eliminate the Electoral College would require a constitutional amendment. Do you think it is fair or do you wish it to be changed? I am very much in favor of the current system. It puts states on a more equal footing regardless of population which was the intent of the Constitution in forming a representative republic which is what the U.S. is. It tempers the hometown vote effect that candidates from more populous states sometimes get. Not to mention, I am very hesitant to change the original Constitution unless someone can provide a very compelling reason to do so. What do you think?
• United States
3 Nov 08
The distribution of EVs per state is very similar to the distribution of population, so it doesn't really make much of a difference. I would like to see EVs distributed proportionately to the votes, instead of states being winner-take-all, but I'd want that to happen the same year we get REAL campaign finance reform, the kind that would allow third-party candidates to run on equal footing with everyone else.
2 people like this
• United States
3 Nov 08
i personally dislike the current system. candidates should not have to create a strategy to gain the most electoral votes. what it should come down to is the popular of the election. does it not make sense that a candidate that is supported by the majority of the people become president? i certainly believe so. there has been a couple instances of this such as the election of 2000 in which one candidate won the popular vote but did not become president. the current electoral college system also deploys the winner-take-all policy which 48/50 states currently use. this becomes unfair for third party candidates in gaining electoral college of any sort. i do agree that this system forces candidates to not forget minorities and smaller states, but this also eliminates equal representation of the votes that third party candidates receive
• United States
3 Nov 08
The electoral votes really have not represented the majority votes in the last few elections. The electoral votes aren't even properly distributed by population across the nation, which is a downside, not an upside in my opinion. It doesn't give states equal footing but gives the original states more power. I'd rather see it put away with and have the majority decide. At the very least it needs a better distribution of electoral votes. It seems we are stuck in something that clearly doesn't represent what the people really want with somebody possibly leading the country who doesn't have the majority of people behind him/her. I think a change is in order to correct the problem.
• United States
4 Nov 08
I feel as if the Electoral College system can be a good system, but what if the representatives from your state decide not to vote according to what their state's "popular" vote is? This has happened in the past, I am sure of it. When this happens, it just seems that those "representatives" are not "representing" properly.
3 Nov 08
Back in 2000, I must admit that I found the electoral college system incomprehensible in that the guy with the most votes did not win the election. Having learnt more about it, I take a more nuanced view. Of course it is critical that the electoral college votes reflect the voting populations in each particular state, one contributor here has mentioned that this is not the case, but I thought that EVs for each state were adjusted regularly to reflect population shifts in different states of the Union. The benefits of the current system is that it forces candidates to criss cross the country and compete in a number of states, especially small states, which would be forgotten if there was a simple one man one vote system US-wide with the majority electing the president. But with the electoral college system, one cannot escape the fact that from time to time, where the election is close, the candidate who gets the most votes can end up losing under this system (it has happened four times in US history, the latest example being Al Gore of course). So really, it all depends on whether you strongly feel that the winner should be the candidate who gets the most vote US-wide. If you do believe this is the overriding factor, then you will want the electoral college system abolished. However, if hope that the other points made here and in other posts give people pause, though I do accept that if we want to keep the electoral college system, there will inevitably be 'accidents' from time to time and yes, 2000 will happen again at some time in the future when there is another very close election. Finally, not sure at all about the proportionality argument for electoral votes. Sounds attractive but again, look what happened in the Dem primaries which led to confusion all around, with a long drawn out battle as no candidate could score a decisive win in a particular state in view of the proportional allocation of Dem state delegates. Yes, proportional representation will help 3rd parties who will be able to garner votes under the electoral college system if it is made proportional. But what will be the consequence of this? Say neither of the two main contenders receives 50% of the votes nationwide (or state wide)(quite a likely scenario), you could easily have a situation where the minor parties electors hold the 'balance of power' in the electoral college. You could then have a really fine mess, where we see the two main parties desperately bargaining with the electors of a third party to put their candidate over the 270 EVs that they will need. You could see a scenario where one candidate, who has received more votes nationwide and more electoral votes, but is short of the 270 number is then denied the presidency because the other main candidate, who has less electoral votes, persuades the electors of a minor party to support him/her instead. That will really make the 2000 election debacle look like a picnic! Proportional systems can work well when electing a parliament, as one would wish to have a parliament reflecting the variety of different views and parties that are out there. Having PR systems to elect a parliament so that small parties can be represented in this parliament makes sense. But having a PR system to elect one candidate for the Presidency is simply not a runner in my view. The only way PR could work is this the electoral college became a 'parliament' or 'lower house' (say effectively the House of Representatives), and the President would then emerge by securing a majority of 270 votes on the floor of this parliament/house of representatives. But then, you would effectively no longer have a President, but a Prime Minister (as in the UK) whose power rests on holding a majority in the parliament/house of representatives. That is altogether another discussion!