Comments for: Five reasons to keep the Electoral College

Posted Nov. 28, 2012, at 2:37 p.m.

The Electoral College is widely regarded as an anachronism, a nondemocratic method of selecting a president that ought to be superseded by declaring the candidate who receives the most popular votes the winner. The advocates of this position are correct in arguing that the Electoral College method is not democratic …

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  • Anonymous

    The electoral college is very outdated. Just like voting on Tuesday. They should be changed. Getting rid of the electoral college would give the candidates more incentives to visit the WHOLE country then just a a few states. Maybe Romney spends more time in California trying to get some support, He doesn’t need to win the state but any extra support would go a long way. Then peoples votes will not be wasted. If you live in a state that does not split their electoral votes, if your candidate loses, your votes basically didn’t matter because all of the electoral votes go to the winner. Also, there are really no laws saying who those electoral guys have to vote for. Some states have unfaithful laws for the electoral guys, but they are not forced by the results to vote for the winning candidate. They could and have actually voted for someone else entirely.

  • Isaac

    I generally like the electoral college but I think more states should split their electoral votes by congressional district. It would give more voice to voters in individual districts and facilitate more campaigning in normally already ‘decided’ states. For example many congressional districts in Pennsylvania are Republican but PA is always blue because of the heavily Democrat Philly, same thing is true with parts of California and NY.

    • Anonymous

      Then you would have an issue of a state giving most of the electoral votes to the person who did not get the majority of the votes.

      • Anonymous

        You have that now. At least my district would go to the winner of our local popular vote.
        isaac23 is right about PA, too. I’ve known a few PA Rs who said there was virtually no use in voting for President, because that “region” (what the author fears) controls the state’s electors every time.

        • Anonymous

          No state has given most of its electoral vote to the person that did not win the state. If they did it that way then in those States, those little populated distracts would then wield a huge amount of the power. I have heard it passed around that you keep the electoral college but all states give the electoral votes to the winner of the national election, not just the winner of their state. That would be a work around the electoral college. I do not get what you mean at the mean, that states electors? Each party has their own electors. It is not the same person for each party.

          • Anonymous

            If it’s done by voting districts, then the population is actually closer to even. Small states with at-large representatives might have a larger impact, but compared to the results of all the country’s districts, it wouldn’t mean much.

            I’m just saying that locally an individual’s vote would matter more if his/her congressional district’s electoral vote (if you want to call it that) went to their popular winner. Give the two senatorial votes to whoever won the whole state, if you like. People outside Philly would feel like their vote counted, as would voters in Salt Lake City (largely D but always diluted).

            I would rather see a Constitutional amendment, but I am very much for the initiative going around to have states cast their electoral votes for whoever wins the national popular vote.

          • Anonymous

            Okay I see what you are saying. There needs to be more incentives to vote. Like in Texas why should democrats vote? In Calafornia why should Republicans vote? For president that is. 6.5 billion was spent on this past election, How much of that was in Maine? Not much it almost all went to the “battleground” states. They were the only ones that mattered. We got some because Romney thought they could get a district in Maine. I am sick of Ohio, Flordia, Pennysilvania deciding our elections.

          • Anonymous

            There’s still a significant danger, however, that if electoral college votes are done by congressional district, gerrymandering by one party or another would play an even more significant role in the outcome.
            Nationwide in the 2012 election, the Democratic candidates for the U.S. House of Representatives won a million more popular votes than the Republicans did, and yet the Republicans kept control of the House.

            If the electoral vote had been done by congressional district, it is likely that Romney would have won the electoral college while losing the popular vote. That’s because the congressional districts have been gerrymandered to favor Republican control of the House.

          • s e

            The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country.

            The bill changes the way electoral votes are awarded by states in the Electoral College, instead of the current 48 state-by-state winner-take-all system (not mentioned in the Constitution, but since enacted by states).

            Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every election. Every vote would be included in the state counts and national count.

            The candidate with the most popular votes in the country would get the 270+ electoral votes from the enacting states. That guarantees the candidate with the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC wins the presidency.

            The bill uses the power given to each state in the Constitution to change how they award their electoral votes for President. Historically, virtually all of the major changes in the method of electing the President, including ending the requirement that only men who owned substantial property could vote and 48 current state-by-state winner-take-all laws, have been by state legislative action.

            In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided). Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in virtually every state surveyed in recent polls in recent closely divided Battleground states: CO – 68%, FL – 78%, IA 75%, MI – 73%, MO – 70%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM– 76%, NC – 74%, OH – 70%, PA – 78%, VA – 74%, and WI – 71%; in Small states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK – 70%, DC – 76%, DE – 75%, ID – 77%, ME – 77%, MT – 72%, NE 74%, NH – 69%, NV – 72%, NM – 76%, OK – 81%, RI – 74%, SD – 71%, UT – 70%, VT – 75%, WV – 81%, and WY – 69%; in Southern and Border states: AR – 80%, KY- 80%, MS – 77%, MO – 70%, NC – 74%, OK – 81%, SC – 71%, TN – 83%, VA – 74%, and WV – 81%; and in other states polled: AZ – 67%, CA – 70%, CT – 74%, MA – 73%, MN – 75%, NY – 79%, OR – 76%, and WA – 77%. Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

            The bill has passed 31 state legislative chambers (including the New York Senate in 2010 and 2011) in 21 states, . The bill has been enacted by 9 jurisdictions with 132 electoral votes – 49% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

            NationalPopularVote
            on Facebook via NationalPopularVoteInc

          • Anonymous

            What about Florida in 2000 or Ohio in 2004, or Illinois in 1960?

          • Anonymous

            Each one of those, the full electoral votes went to the winner of each state.

    • s e

      A survey of Maine voters showed 77% overall support for a national popular vote for President.

      In a follow-up question presenting a three-way choice among various methods of awarding Maine’s electoral votes,
      * 71% favored a national popular vote;
      * 21% favored Maine’s current system of awarding its electoral votes by congressional district; and
      * 8% favored the statewide winner-take-all system (i.e., awarding all of Maine’s electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes statewide).

      Dividing more states’ electoral votes by congressional district winners would magnify the worst features of the Electoral College system.

      If the district approach were used nationally, it would be less fair and less accurately reflect the will of the people than the current system. In 2004, Bush won 50.7% of the popular vote, but 59% of the districts. Although Bush lost the national popular vote in 2000, he won 55% of the country’s congressional districts.

      The district approach would not provide incentive for presidential candidates to campaign in a particular state or focus the candidates’ attention to issues
      of concern to the state. With the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all laws (whether applied to either districts or states), candidates have no reason to campaign in districts or states where they are comfortably ahead or hopelessly behind. In North Carolina, for example, there are only 2 districts (the 13th with a 5% spread and the 2nd with an 8% spread) where the presidential race is competitive. Nationwide, there have been only 55 “battleground” districts that were competitive in presidential elections. With the present deplorable 48 state-level winner-take-all system, 80% of the states (including California and Texas) are ignored in presidential elections; however, 88% of the nation’s congressional districts would be ignored if a
      district-level winner-take-all system were used nationally.

      Awarding electoral votes by congressional district could result in third party candidates winning electoral votes that would deny either major party candidate the necessary majority vote of electors and throw the process into Congress to decide.

      Because there are generally more close votes on district levels than states as whole, district elections increase the opportunity for error. The larger the voting base, the less opportunity there is for an especially close vote.

      Also, a second-place candidate could still win the White House without winning the national popular vote.

      A national popular vote is the way to make every person’s vote equal and matter to their candidate because it guarantees that the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states and DC becomes President.

  • Anonymous

    http://newsfeed.time.com/2012/11/27/mitt-romneys-final-share-of-the-popular-vote-will-probably-be-close-to-47/
    According to the Time article Romney got 47% and Obama got 51%, yes Obama is still the winner but not by a “landslide” and he surely has no “mandate” because of it.
    The Electorial College should be done away with, only in America can you win the presidency by getting fewer votes than your competetor, how is that democracy? If some other country had elections and the winner had fewer votes than his/her rival our government would call it fraud.

    • Anonymous

      Win by getting fewer votes, you mean like the election of 2000?

      • Anonymous

        Exactly. No matter which canidate, Democrat or Republican is victorious

        • Anonymous

          In many countries — Canada or Great Britain, for instance — it is possible for the Prime Minister to come from a party that did not get the most votes.

          The Prime Minister’s party may have won control of the Parliament by winning a large number of seats by a small margin, while the other party won a smaller number of seats by larger margins.

          I agree that it seems unfair, but the U.S. is not the only place where it happens.

          In our election that was just held, the Democrats got more votes (a million more nationwide) for the House of Representatives than the Republicans did, but the Republicans will still control the House.

    • Anonymous

      Sweetheart — it was a landslide.

      • Anonymous

        A landslide is an overwhelming margin
        I don’t find 4% of the popular vote is a landslide, sweetheart

        • Anonymous

          We use an electoral college system in case you’re unaware. 332 to 206 is landslide and a 4% split in the popular vote is huge too, especially if you consider how you guys went on and on about how Obama is literally the worst human being ever for 4 years straight.

    • Anonymous

      When George W. Bush won re-election, he said that his victory was a mandate, (and that he was going to use his mandate to privatize Social Security).

      But Obama won his re-election by a larger margin in both the popular vote and the electoral college than Bush Jr. did.

      Romney lost both Michigan and Massachusetts — his home states — and every state he owns a house in.

      Paul Ryan’s home county in Wisconsin, the place where they know him best, voted for Obama-Biden by 61 to 39 percent.

      The Democrats also won the Senate; they gained in the popular vote and their caucus gained seats.

      The Democrats also won the popular vote for the House of Representatives, but lost the House because of gerrymandering. Nationwide, Democrats running for the House of Representatives got a million more votes than the Republicans did.

      Karl Rove’s Republican super-pac raised and spent $300 million, and 94 percent of that money was spent supporting candidates who lost.

      Maybe you don’t think that’s a landslide or a mandate, but the majority of American voters seem to disagree with you.

  • Anonymous

    It works because the “big” states aren’t swing states. Imagine a world where NY and California were up for grabs each time. Would we ever see either candidate?

    • s e

      Anyone concerned about the relative power of big states and small states should realize that the current system shifts power from voters in the small and medium-small states to voters in the current handful of big states.

      With National Popular Vote, when every vote counts equally, successful candidates will find a middle ground of policies appealing to the wide mainstream of America. Instead of playing mostly to local concerns in Ohio and Florida, candidates finally would have to form broader platforms for broad national support. Elections wouldn’t be about winning a handful of battleground states.

      Now political clout comes from being among the handful of battleground states. 80% of states and voters are ignored.

      In 2008, of the 25 smallest states (with a total of 155 electoral votes), 18 received no attention at all from presidential campaigns after the conventions. Of the seven smallest states with any post-convention visits, Only 4 of the smallest states – NH (12 events), NM (8), NV (12), and IA (7) – got the outsized attention of 39 of the 43 total events in the 25 smallest states. In contrast, Ohio (with only 20 electoral votes) was lavishly wooed with 62 of the total 300 post-convention campaign events in the whole country.

      In the 25 smallest states in 2008, the Democratic and Republican popular vote was almost tied (9.9 million versus 9.8 million), as was the electoral vote (57 versus 58).

      Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT,
      ME, and DC) in presidential elections. Voters in states that are reliably red
      or blue don’t matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.

      Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republicans, Democrats, and
      Independent voters, as well as every demographic group. Support in smaller states (3 to 5 electoral votes): AK -70%, DC -76%, DE –75%, ID -77%, ME – 77%, MT- 72%, NE – 74%, NH–69%, NE – 72%, NM – 76%, RI – 74%, SD- 71%, UT- 70%, VT – 75%, WV- 81%, and WY- 69%.

      Among the 13 lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in nine state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 3 jurisdictions.

    • s e

      With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with a mere 23% of the nation’s votes!

      But the political reality is that the 11 largest states rarely agree on any political question. In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states include five “red states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six “blue” states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

      In 2004, among the 11 most populous states, in the seven non-battleground states, % of winning party, and margin of “wasted” popular votes, from among the total 122 Million votes cast nationally:
      * Texas (62% Republican),1,691,267
      * New York (59% Democratic),1,192,436
      * Georgia (58% Republican),544,634
      * North Carolina (56% Republican), 426,778
      * California (55% Democratic),1,023,560
      * Illinois (55% Democratic),513,342
      * New Jersey (53% Democratic),211,826

      To put these numbers in perspective, Oklahoma (7 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 455,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004 — larger than the margin generated by the 9th and 10th largest states, namely New Jersey and North Carolina (each with 15 electoral votes). Utah (5 electoral votes) alone generated a margin of 385,000 “wasted” votes for Bush in 2004. 8 small western states, with less than a third of California’s population, provided Bush with a bigger margin (1,283,076) than California provided Kerry (1,235,659).

  • Anonymous

    Some interesting ideas on reforming the Electoral College can be found here:

    http://archive.fairvote.org/e_college/reform.htm

    There are probably others out there as well.

  • s e

    The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a shift of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 14
    presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 7 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore’s lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide. A shift of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes.

  • s e

    The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes (not
    mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states), under which all of a state’s electoral votes are awarded to the candidate who gets the most votes in each separate state, ensures that the candidates, after the conventions, in 2012 did not reach out to about 80% of the states and their voters. Candidates had no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they were safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

    80% of the states and people were just spectators to the presidential elections. That’s more than 85 million voters, 200 million Americans.

    With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with a mere 23% of the nation’s votes!

    Policies important to the citizens of non-battleground states are not as highly prioritized as policies important to ‘battleground’ states when it comes to governing.

  • s e

    In 2008, voter turnout in the then 15 battleground states averaged seven points higher than in the 35 non-battleground states.

    If presidential campaigns now did not ignore more than 200,000,000 of 300,000,000 Americans, one would reasonably expect that voter turnout would rise in 80% of the country that is currently ignored by presidential campaigns.

  • s e

    With the current system of electing the President, no state requires that a presidential candidate receive anything more than the most popular votes in order to receive all of the state’s electoral votes.

    Not a single legislative bill has been introduced in any state legislature in recent decades (among the more than 100,000 bills that are introduced in every two-year period by the nation’s 7,300 state legislators) proposing to change the existing universal practice of the states to award electoral votes to the candidate who receives a plurality (as opposed to absolute majority) of the votes (statewide or district-wide). There is no evidence of any public sentiment in favor of imposing such a requirement.

    If an Electoral College type of arrangement were essential for avoiding a proliferation of candidates and people being elected with low percentages of the vote, we should see evidence of these conjectured outcomes in elections that do not employ such an arrangement. In elections in which the winner is the candidate receiving the most votes throughout the entire jurisdiction served by that office, historical evidence shows that there is no massive proliferation of third-party candidates and candidates do not win with small percentages. For example, in 905 elections for governor in the last 60 years, the winning candidate received more than 50% of the vote in over 91% of the elections. The winning candidate received more than 45% of the vote in 98% of the elections. The winning candidate received more than 40% of the vote in 99% of the elections. No winning candidate received less than 35% of the popular vote.

    Since 1824 there have been 16 presidential elections in which a candidate was elected or reelected without gaining a majority of the popular vote.– including Lincoln (1860), Wilson (1912, and 1916), Truman (1948), Kennedy (1960), Nixon (1968), and Clinton (1992 and 1996).

    Americans do not view the absence of run-offs in the current system as a major problem. If, at some time in the future, the public demands run-offs, that change can be implemented at that time.

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