1 – The founding fathers wanted it that way! (“The Electoral College”)
“The original intent should be viewed in the context of the times as well as today. What utility does it serve today? Does it serve liberty/democracy today. The speed of it’s drafting isn’t really relevant.”
2 – It protects state interests!
“The popular vote, itself, has the potential to have the president beholden to one state or one locale based on one states population/interest and therefore the electoral college protects the interest of the whole (national interest) regardless of a single states population, or the special interest power of a particular state.”
3 – It’s consistent with federalism!
“Big States like California, Texas, or New York can together or individually ‘gang up’ on regions, if not, the whole country, especially if media or voices from big states are powerful in big states as well as nationally at the expense of opposing views represented from smaller states, as well as others.”
An argument that small states are ignored is more supportive of the electoral college than not.
4 – It protects minorities!
“Minorities, fully defined, as political, economic, religious, class, as well as the minority view related to any topic, and so the electoral college should be viewed in light of these minorities as well.
5 – It makes presidential races more cohesive!
6 – The recounts would kill us!
7 – Third parties would run amok!
8 – “Are arguments for an end to the electoral college being made from a neutral (pro democracy) point of view or according to a political bias not served in the past.”
9 – “I have nothing further…”
1 – Advocates of the electoral college often appeal to the wisdom of the founding fathers after all, they set up the system, presumably they had something just and wise in mind, right? Wrong.
History shows that the framers whipped up the electoral college in a hurry, with little discussion and less debate.
What ever wisdom the founding fathers had they sure didn’t use it to design presidential elections.
At the time most of the framers were weary after a summer’s worth of bickering, and figured George Washington would be president no matter what, so it wasn’t a pressing issue.
Most of the arguments in favor of an electoral college are no longer valid.
The electoral college was partially a concession to slave holders in the South, who wanted electoral clout without letting their slaves actually vote. (Under the electoral college, slaves counted towards a states electoral vote total.)
The framers thought that ordinary people (folks) wouldn’t have enough information to elect a president, which is not necessarily a concern today.
2 – States don’t really have coherent “interests,” so it’s hard to figure out exactly what this means.
(Is there something, for instance, that all New Yorkers want purely by virtue of being New Yorkers?)
Under the current system, presidents rarely campaign on local issues anyway-when George Edwards analyzed campaign speeches from 1996-2000, he found only a handful that even mentioned local issues. And that’s as it should be.
We have plenty of Congressman and Senators who cater to local concerns.
The president should take a broader view of the national interest, not beholden to any one state or locale.
3 – The great compromise of 1787 created the House, which gives power to big populous states, and the Senate which favors small states.
The compromise was just that a compromise meant to keep delegates happy and the constitution convention in motion.
Nevertheless, the idea that small states need protection has somehow been legitimized over the years, and is used to support the electoral college-which gives small states disproportionate power in electing a president.
But what, pray tell, do small states need protection from? It’s not as if big states are ganging up on Wyoming.
The fiercest rivalries have always been between regions like the South and North in 1800s, or between big states, like California and Texas today.
Furthermore, most small states are ignored in presidential campaigns, so it’s not clear the current system is protecting anything.
4 – Some college buffs argue that, since ethnic minorities live in politically competitive states, the electoral college forces candidates to pay more attention to minorities. The sounds great, but it’s wholly untrue.
Most African Americans, for instance, are concentrated in the South, which has rarely been a “swing” region.
Hispanic voters, meanwhile, largely reside in California, Texas, and New York, all uncompetitive states.
It’s true that Cubans in Florida have benefited wonderfully from the electoral college, but they represent an extremely narrow interest group. All other minority voters have less incentive to vote.
It’s no surprise that the electoral college has enabled candidates to ignore minority voters in various states, in the 19th century, for instance voting rights were poorly enforced in non-competitive states.
5 – In an August 2004 column for Newsweek, George Will argued that the electoral college somehow makes presidential races more cohesive.
Again, fine in principal, untrue in practice.
Will first suggests that the system forces candidates to win a broad swath of states, rather than just focusing on the most populous regions. But even if that happened, how is that worse than candidates focusing on a few random swing states?
Or take Will’s claim that the electoral college system prevents “factions” form uniting their votes across state lines”
Factions already exist-white male voters vote Republican, African Americans vote Democrat; evangelicals vote Republican, atheists vote Democrat.
If our polarized country is a concern, it has little to do with the electoral college.
Finally, Will argues that the electoral college strengthen or legitimizes the winner. For example, Woodrow Wilson won only 41.8 percent of the popular vote, but his 81.9 percent electoral vote victory “produced a strong presidency.”
This suggests that voters are fools and that the electoral vote total somehow obscures the popular vote total.
(If a candidate gets 45 percent of the popular vote, voters aren’t going to think he got more than that just because he got 81 percent of the electoral vote total.
And even if they do, do we really want a system whose aim it is to mislead voters about election results?
Furthermore, there’s no real correlation between a strong electoral vote showing and a strong presidency.
George H.W. Bush received 426 electoral votes, while Harry Truman received only 303 in 1948 and George W. Bush a mere 271 in 2000. Yet the latter two were undeniably “stronger” presidents in their dealing with Congress.
There’s also no evidence that an electoral landslide creates a “mandate” for change. The landslides in 1984 and 1972 didn’t give Reagan or Nixon a mandate for much of anything-indeed, those two presidents got relatively little done in their second terms.
6 – It’s true, a nationwide recount would be more nightmarish then, say, tallying up all those hanging chads in Florida.
At the same time, we’d be less likely to see recounts in a direct election, since the odds that the popular election would be within a slim enough margin of error is smaller than the odds that a “swing” state like Florida would need a recount.
If it’s such a bad idea to make sure every vote is accurately tallied, than why do we even have elections in the first place?
7 – The ultimate argument against direct elections is that it would encourage the rise of third parties. It might. But remember, third parties already play a role in our current system, and have helped swing the election at least four times in the last century-in 1912, 1968, 1992 and 2000.
Meanwhile, almost every other office in the country is filled by direct election, and third parties play an extremely small role in those races. There are just too many social and legal obstacles blocking the rise of third parties.
Because the Democratic and Republican parties tend to be sprawling coalitions rather than tightly knit homogeneous groups, voters have every incentive to work “within the system”.
Likewise, in a direct election, the two parties would be more likely to rally their partisans and promote voter turnout, which would in turn strengthen the two party system.
And if all else fails, most states have laws limiting third party ballot access anyways. Abolishing the electoral college won’t change that.
8 – “It’s hard supporting/defending a voting system that can elect a president with the minority of the votes!”
9 – “As leaders of the free world, can you imagine trying to explain why the wrong candidate won an election (the one with the fewest votes) in a country that mimicked our voting system?”
Especially if a dictatorial ruler won an electoral college type system based on the United States.
Opposing View Points series…and “Damon Mathews”…