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News & Politics News & Politics

Should we do away with the Electoral College?

Posted by on Sep. 17, 2012 at 8:07 AM
  • 22 Replies

Do Away With the Electoral College

Alexander Keyssar

Alexander Keyssar is the Stirling professor of history and social policy at Harvard’s Kennedy School and the author of "The Right to Vote: The Contested History of Democracy in the United States."

Updated July 8, 2012, 10:01 PM

In a presidential election season, it seems obvious (yet again) that we should rewrite parts of Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution — so that we can dispense with the Electoral College and hold a national popular vote to choose our chief executive.

As a nation, we have come to embrace “one person, one vote” as a fundamental democratic principle, yet the allocation of electoral votes to the states violates that principle.

Indeed, if we were drafting a constitution today, few people would even consider a presidential electoral system like the Electoral College. (Massachusetts Senator Charles Sumner, in the mid-19th century, characterized it as “artificial, cumbrous, radically defective and unrepublican.”) The concerns that prompted the Founding Fathers to adopt this system — a distrust of popular elections, worry that the people would be unfamiliar with national candidates, a desire to reinforce the great constitutional compromises between large states and small states, slave states and free states — have lost much of their salience since 1787.

Moreover, we have learned a lot in the last 225 years about shortcomings in the framers’ design: the person who wins the most votes doesn’t necessarily become president; the adoption of “winner take all” rules (permitted but not mandated by the Constitution) produces election campaigns that ignore most of the country and contribute to low turnout; the legislature of any state can decide to choose electors by itself and decline to hold an election at all; and the complex procedure for dealing with an election in which no candidate wins a clear majority of the electoral vote is fraught with peril. As a nation, we have come to embrace “one person, one vote” as a fundamental democratic principle, yet the allocation of electoral votes to the states violates that principle. It is hardly an accident that no other country in the world has imitated our Electoral College.

If we were writing or revising the constitution now, we would almost certainly adopt a rather simple method of choosing our presidents: a national popular vote, followed by a run-off if no candidate wins a majority. We applaud when we witness such systems operating elsewhere in the world. Perhaps we should try one here.

by on Sep. 17, 2012 at 8:07 AM
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Replies (1-10):
Kate_Momof3
by Platinum Member on Sep. 17, 2012 at 8:16 AM

 Yes.

Carpy
by Platinum Member on Sep. 17, 2012 at 8:42 AM
2 moms liked this

No.  They put it there to ensure smoother elections.  How would a recount ever be managed on a national level? 

It gives smaller states a voice, if not for the electoral college, Texas, California and NY would dominate the vote.

And then there is this from kenneth Arrow that won him a nobel prize.

http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/arrow.htm


romalove
by SenseandSensibility on Sep. 17, 2012 at 8:43 AM
2 moms liked this
Agree.

Quoting Carpy:

No.  They put it there to ensure smoother elections.  How would a recount ever be managed on a national level? 

It gives smaller states a voice, if not for the electoral college, Texas, California and NY would dominate the vote.

And then there is this from kenneth Arrow that won him a nobel prize.

http://www.sjsu.edu/faculty/watkins/arrow.htm


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Kate_Momof3
by Platinum Member on Sep. 17, 2012 at 9:11 AM

 As is stands, Ohio and Florida dominate the vote.

Isn't Congress the place for state representation, why would a popular vote jeopardize that?

broncfan
by Silver Member on Sep. 17, 2012 at 9:20 AM

I have very mixed feelings.  I understand the "recount" thing and also the fact that large states would just replace the battleground states.  But the way things are now it is almost like if you do not live in FL, VA, CO or OH you just do not count.  I can not tell you how many people I have heard say "my vote does not count here in GA".

My thoughts also include access to ads/information/campaigning and with economics.  Unless I am watching a cable station, I see no presidential ads.  We have close ties to the local TV community here and in Florida.  You would not believe how much the FL stations are making off this election, while the GA ones have not seen one dime.  Right or wrong, a presidential election is a huge economic boost, it would be nice if it were spread around just as it would be nice if "vote value" were spread around.

romalove
by SenseandSensibility on Sep. 17, 2012 at 9:23 AM
1 mom liked this

 

Quoting Kate_Momof3:

 As is stands, Ohio and Florida dominate the vote.

Isn't Congress the place for state representation, why would a popular vote jeopardize that?

 Ohio and Florida "dominate" only because the way the country is so divided, they are swing states and they can push the vote one way or another.  However, without Electoral College, states like Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Wyoming, with small numbers of voters, would not matter to those running for office at all, and you'd see concentration on big states only by those running.

JakeandEmmasMom
by Gold Member on Sep. 17, 2012 at 9:25 AM
1 mom liked this

 This is basically what I was going to say.

Quoting romalove:

 

Quoting Kate_Momof3:

 As is stands, Ohio and Florida dominate the vote.

Isn't Congress the place for state representation, why would a popular vote jeopardize that?

 Ohio and Florida "dominate" only because the way the country is so divided, they are swing states and they can push the vote one way or another.  However, without Electoral College, states like Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Wyoming, with small numbers of voters, would not matter to those running for office at all, and you'd see concentration on big states only by those running.

 

Kate_Momof3
by Platinum Member on Sep. 17, 2012 at 10:10 AM

 I disagree. I see the whole "which states dominate" issue exists because of the electoral college. It has also perpetuated a dysfunctional two-party system that doesn't represent anyone. Do away with the electoral college in it's dated form, go back to a popular vote, see what happens and then consider an alternative should it be necessary.

As it stands the electoral college gives far more weight to voters in rural Wyoming than to those of us who live in heavily populated areas.

One vote. That's all. Not one-that-is-the-equivalent-to-87-in-another-state vote.

Quoting romalove:

 

Quoting Kate_Momof3:

 As is stands, Ohio and Florida dominate the vote.

Isn't Congress the place for state representation, why would a popular vote jeopardize that?

 Ohio and Florida "dominate" only because the way the country is so divided, they are swing states and they can push the vote one way or another.  However, without Electoral College, states like Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Wyoming, with small numbers of voters, would not matter to those running for office at all, and you'd see concentration on big states only by those running.

 

romalove
by SenseandSensibility on Sep. 17, 2012 at 10:14 AM
1 mom liked this

 

Quoting Kate_Momof3:

 I disagree. I see the whole "which states dominate" issue exists because of the electoral college. It has also perpetuated a dysfunctional two-party system that doesn't represent anyone. Do away with the electoral college in it's dated form, go back to a popular vote, see what happens and then consider an alternative should it be necessary.

As it stands the electoral college gives far more weight to voters in rural Wyoming than to those of us who live in heavily populated areas.

One vote. That's all. Not one-that-is-the-equivalent-to-87-in-another-state vote.

Quoting romalove:

 

Quoting Kate_Momof3:

 As is stands, Ohio and Florida dominate the vote.

Isn't Congress the place for state representation, why would a popular vote jeopardize that?

 Ohio and Florida "dominate" only because the way the country is so divided, they are swing states and they can push the vote one way or another.  However, without Electoral College, states like Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Wyoming, with small numbers of voters, would not matter to those running for office at all, and you'd see concentration on big states only by those running.

 

 Look past just the needing of the small states to matter to who is elected (which will end if we end Electoral College).  I wouldn't want to be a resident of a small state that is completely irrelevant to a Presidential election, because any of the needs of that state will also be irrelevant, as the tyranny of the majority states will run roughshod over the minority states.

Kate_Momof3
by Platinum Member on Sep. 17, 2012 at 10:25 AM

I disagree. I'll be back later to elaborate, but I have a teenager glaring at me and a toddler to dress.

Back in a bit. Promise.

Quoting romalove:

 

Quoting Kate_Momof3:

 I disagree. I see the whole "which states dominate" issue exists because of the electoral college. It has also perpetuated a dysfunctional two-party system that doesn't represent anyone. Do away with the electoral college in it's dated form, go back to a popular vote, see what happens and then consider an alternative should it be necessary.

As it stands the electoral college gives far more weight to voters in rural Wyoming than to those of us who live in heavily populated areas.

One vote. That's all. Not one-that-is-the-equivalent-to-87-in-another-state vote.

Quoting romalove:

 

Quoting Kate_Momof3:

 As is stands, Ohio and Florida dominate the vote.

Isn't Congress the place for state representation, why would a popular vote jeopardize that?

 Ohio and Florida "dominate" only because the way the country is so divided, they are swing states and they can push the vote one way or another.  However, without Electoral College, states like Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Wyoming, with small numbers of voters, would not matter to those running for office at all, and you'd see concentration on big states only by those running.

 

 Look past just the needing of the small states to matter to who is elected (which will end if we end Electoral College).  I wouldn't want to be a resident of a small state that is completely irrelevant to a Presidential election, because any of the needs of that state will also be irrelevant, as the tyranny of the majority states will run roughshod over the minority states.

 

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