Why We Need the Electoral College System

The electoral system protects our individual rights from a possible tyranny of the majority.

“The Constitution is a system of checks and balances the sole purpose of which is to protect the unalienable rights of individuals from the ebb and flow of democratic sentiment. The object of our constitutional republic is not to make everyone’s voice exactly equal, but rather to make everyone’s unalienable rights equally secure.” – John C. Greene

After many elections, there are often calls to abolish the electoral college method of choosing our president and vice president. We, the people, do not elect the president and vice president directly by popular vote. Instead, we elect a slate of “electors” who are pledged to particular candidates for president and vice president (24 states have laws that punish “faithless” electors, those who don’t honor their pledge). The manner in which each state selects electors is up to the state’s legislature. These electors meet on the Monday after the second Wednesday in December in each state capitol, at which time they cast their electoral votes on separate ballots for President and Vice President.

An original proposal at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 was that Congress select the president and vice president, but this was finally considered to make the president too beholden to Congress. The electoral college was a compromise between the big and small states and reflects the fact that our country is a union of states.

Each state has a number of electors equal to its Congressional representation (senators plus representatives). Also, the District of Columbia has three electors. In nearly all states, the winner of the popular vote in the state gets all the state’s electors.

Why not have a direct popular vote? Arguments have been that a direct popular vote would cause candidates to ignore rural areas and small states of the heartland and concentrate on the large population centers of the coasts. That same argument is put forth against the electoral method because it forces candidates to focus on “swing” states. For instance, it is possible to win the election by winning just eleven states and disregarding the rest of the country: California (55 votes), Texas (38), New York (29), Florida (29), Illinois (20), Pennsylvania (20), Ohio (18), Michigan (16), Georgia (16), North Carolina (15), and New Jersey (14) equal the currently required 270 electoral votes.

But, even with a “majority rule” popular vote, the majority may not rule.

For instance, in six postwar elections–1948, 1960, 1968, 1992, 1996, and 2000–no candidate had a popular majority. In the 2000 Bush-Gore contest, Bush got 47.9% of the nationwide popular vote versus Gore’s 48.4%. Neither got the majority of voters. In 1992, Bill Clinton won with only 43% of the popular vote (George H.W. Bush got 37.5%; Ross Perot got 19%). This was similar to the 1968 race in which Nixon won against Humphrey. Nixon got 43.4% of popular vote, Humphrey got 42.7% and George Wallace got 13.5%. In the 2016 election, Hillary Clinton won 48.8% of the popular vote (a plurality, not a majority), while Donald Trump won 46.7% of the popular vote.

John C. Greene, in the article linked to above, provides an explanation by analogy:

Just in terms of principle, democracy versus a republic, consider a sports analogy. Who wins a baseball game? Answer: The team that scores the most runs. Who wins the World Series? Answer: The team that wins the most games.

In the 1960 World Series, the Yankees outscored the Pirates 55-27, including three blowout wins of 16-3, 10-0, and 12-0. But the Pirates won four close games, 6-4, 3-2, 5-2, and 10-9. The winner of the World Series is not, and has never been, determined by who scores the most runs. The winner of the World Series is the team that wins four games. The Pirates, who scored only half as many runs as the Yankees, won the World Series in 1960. Similarly, the winner of the presidency in our American republic is not, and has never been, the individual with the most popular votes. The winner in our presidential elections is the individual who wins the most states with a minimum of 270 electoral votes. It’s not about some ephemeral fairness; it’s about a tested, true, and wise system of preserving the rights of all in a tumultuous and imperfect world.

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Each state of our republic is its own game. The electoral college balances the will of the people with the will of the states.

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17 Comments

  1. Yes the left would love to have the FLYOVER STATES left out and only have the democrap cpntrolled cities count. The guys that designed this system saw what would happen then if just a few states/cities controlled the vote and the little guys would be left out in the rain. Just as the democraps would have it today.

    • Given the historical fact that 95% of the U.S. population in 1790 lived in places of less than 2,500 people, and only a few states let males, with substantial property, vote, it is unlikely that the Founding Fathers were concerned about presidential candidates being elected only by voters in big cities.

      The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States.

      Voters in the biggest cities in the US have been almost exactly balanced out by rural areas in terms of population and partisan composition.

      16% of the U.S. population lives outside the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Rural America has voted 60% Republican. None of the 10 most rural states matter now.

      16% of the U.S. population lives in the top 100 cities. They voted 63% Democratic in 2004.
      The population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 15% of the population of the United States.

      The rest of the U.S., in suburbs, divide almost exactly equally between Republicans and Democrats.

  2. Look at the states, one PENN. as example, the RED/BLUE cut, it’s all Phili that takes the state in elction’s – the rest of states counties shut out to the inner city. Just taxation without representation.

  3. “Each state has a number of electors equal to its Congressional representation (senators plus representatives).”

    This is why only actual US Citizens be counted in the Census.

    • Article I, Section 2 of the Constitution mandates the U.S. Census count every resident in the United States.

      The current system gives “illegal immigrants” a 10 vote advantage in the Electoral College for the Democrats…because they tend to live in safe Democratic states.

      An election for President based on the nationwide popular vote would eliminate the Democrat’s advantage in Electoral College members arising from the uneven distribution of non-citizens.

      • No the democraps give the ILLEGAL MIGRANTS the advantage. Every resident clause would mean those ENTITLED to live here either by birth or by legal residency not illegal.

        A change to the popular vote only would give the democraps the advantage as they dominate the major cities and as in the last election would not represent the people in flyover america. Just look at the esults from nyc, chicago, la, etc.

        • The population of the top five cities (New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia) is only 6% of the population of the United States.

          Voters in the biggest cities in the US have been almost exactly balanced out by rural areas in terms of population and partisan composition.

          16% of the U.S. population lives outside the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Rural America has voted 60% Republican. None of the 10 most rural states matter now.

          16% of the U.S. population lives in the top 100 cities. They voted 63% Democratic in 2004.
          The population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 15% of the population of the United States.

          The rest of the U.S., in suburbs, divide almost exactly equally between Republicans and Democrats.

  4. Because of current state-by-state statewide winner-take-all laws for Electoral College votes, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution . . .

    Almost all small and medium-sized states and almost all western, southern, and northeastern states are totally ignored.

    Our presidential selection system has cut out 4 of every 5 people living in America from the decision. Presidential elections shrink the “sphere” of public debate to only a few thousand swing voters in a few states.

    The Cook Political Report, as of Jan. 10, 2019, believes “There are just five toss up states, representing 86 electoral votes: Arizona, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.”

    The Columbus Dispatch, as of Jan. 9, 2019, believes there will be “just seven states [with 105 electoral votes, where the winner is not predictable already] to allocate. Trump will be 66 electoral votes shy of re-election and the Democratic ticket will need 41 electoral votes to win back the presidency. The seven states are Arizona (11), Florida (29), Michigan (16), New Hampshire (4), North Carolina (15), Pennsylvania (20) and Wisconsin (10).”

    Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker in 2015 was correct when he said
    “The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president,”
    “The presidential election will not be decided by all states, but rather just 12 of them.

    Candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

    With the end of the primaries, without the National Popular Vote bill in effect, the political relevance of 70% of all Americans was finished for the presidential election.

    In the 2016 general election campaign
    Over half (57%) of the campaign events were held in just 4 states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio).

    Virtually all (94%) of the campaign events were in just 12 states (containing only 30% of the country’s population).

    In the 2012 general election campaign

    38 states (including 24 of the 27 smallest states) had no campaign events, and minuscule or no spending for TV ads.

    More than 99% of presidential campaign attention (ad spending and visits) was invested on voters in just the only ten competitive states.

    Two-thirds (176 of 253) of the general-election campaign events, and a similar fraction of campaign expenditures, were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa).

    In the 2008 campaign, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their campaign events and ad money in just 6 states, and 98% in just 15 states. Over half (57%) of the events were in just 4 states (OH, FL, PA, and VA).

    In 2004, candidates concentrated over 2/3rds of their money and campaign visits in 5 states; over 80% in 9 states; and over 99% of their money in 16 states.

  5. A far greater reason is for the preservation of federalism. Proposals of a national popular vote during the Philadelphia convention were rejected almost right off the bat, and it came down to a debate of whether it should be the State’s head executives (i.e. Governors) or Congress who should elect the President.
    They decided against having Governors elect the President because they would be ill-informed of “characters not within their own small spheres.” They also believed that having Congress choose the President was not a good idea because the two branches would be too close together and they believed that the President would then become “the mere creature of the legislature,” as Gouverneur Morris put it.
    Thus, the idea of an Electoral College was brought up and it quickly caught on. They then decided to have a Congressional body break the tie, if a case of such ever arose. Originally, that was going to be the Senate (the body directly representing the States), but with the desire to keep the president as independent as possible, they decided to go with the House of Representatives because the Senate is also the body that tries impeachment.
    Here’s the interesting part; in the case of a tie during a Presidential election, the House does *not* vote per individual Representative, but rather by State. This means that even in the event of a tie, the election of the President is based on the individual States. The intention is to keep the States’ place as sovereign entities in the government.

    Here is a great article from the Tenth Amendment Center that expands upon the subject in much greater detail: https://tenthamendmentcenter.com/2019/03/31/constitution-101-the-electoral-college/

  6. Today’s technology makes possible the ability to implement an “Electoral Grid”. By GPS coordinates, all qualified voters’ residence addresses would fall within grid cells of say- 6 square miles each. The land area of America would divide into some 6 plus million cells, each carrying 1 electoral vote. The President/VP would be elected then by popular vote majority without regard to population density, State subdivisions, Congressional of Legislative re-districting, or a mere 270 persons subject to disparate rules of the several states, or their own sway. Such a modification would put power of electing our President directly into the hands of our population; without discarding the wisdom of an electoral system wrought in good faith by our forebears. – Lex R. Lemmon

    • got to remember this is a republic not a democracy so even your plan is not feasible. hitlery thought she only had to cater to the large metro areas and that was her undoing besides being an idiot. trump at least went for the country and visited the flyover states and they were the ones that voted him in. The vote was a result of the people who are regularly forgotten and the left just can not handle it so the push for the elimination or restructuring of the college. Plus they want everyone counted even if they cannot vote so they hopefully can manipulate the results in their favor. in a lot of the election the winners are elected by approximately 25% or less it seems. They will say they got a certain % of the vote then they turn around and say the total turnout was 48% and that the winner got 50% of the vote which again is just 25% overall. Remember statistics supposedly dont lie, but liars do use statistics!

  7. Democrats so badly want to just be able to do away with elections and pick their dictator of choice.

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