In with the Popular Vote, out with the Electoral College
The recent Presidential election between Al Gore and George W. Bush has sparked a controversial flame among American citizens. Should we keep the Electoral College, or is it time to get rid of it and go by the Nation s Popular Vote? The Electoral College worked when it was first created, but problems have been coming up and deciding the President would be more efficient, and less problem-laden if Americans awarded the Presidency to the winner of the popular vote. America, as a county, has grown and evolved, and our voting systems should follow suit.
The Electoral College didn t just spring up all of a sudden. Many versions were tried and rejected. The first design appointed two senators from each state. In order to avoid voting for their favorite son the senators had to choose two candidates that did not represent their home state. The candidate with most votes became President, and the runner-up became Vice President. This design only lasted for four elections. The second design differed only slightly. Instead of casting two votes for president, electors cast one for President, and one for Vice President. The leaders in each of the categories were elected.
The Electoral College today is different in more ways than one. Not only are our Senators chosen to represent their respective state, but voters also appoint other electors according to each state s population. The larger the population, the more electoral votes a state receives. In previous designs citizens were not welcome to vote because there was no way to get enough information on a candidate, therefore citizens would end up voting for their state s candidates, rather than the issues. Today citizens vote and the appointed electors, the two senators and the appropriate number of representatives, cast the state s electoral votes according to the majority, which is decided by the popular vote. Although Maine and Nebraska divide their electoral votes up differently from the rest of the United States. In both states each one of the electors are divided among each congressional districts. The representing elector in his district casts his vote according to the district s majority, and the overall winner of the state is awarded two extra votes. Electors meet one month after public election to cast their electoral vote. In order to win the election a candidate must have 270 of the 538 electoral votes.
The popular vote is the total number of votes that a Presidential Candidate gets from every voting American citizen. The popular vote also encourages the electors of the Electoral College on how to cast their vote for the President, even though the elector does not have to vote according to the state s majority. The popular vote does not decide the election, the 538 members of the Electoral College decide.
Many people agree that the Electoral College is outdated and that a new voting system is needed. George C. Edwards, director of Presidential Studies at Texas A&M, supports the idea of an election based on popular vote. In the article, School of Hard Knocks Edwards is quoted saying, There s no justification for the Electoral College (52). He backs this up by mentioning how much time is spent enforcing the one person, one vote principle. The With the Electoral College voters are not equally represented. Richard Dunham explains why the voters are not fairly represented by giving an example:
California has 54 electoral votes, and the 22 smallest states combined have well over 54 electoral votes, but the population isn t as large as
This means every one person s vote in the smaller populated states are more important than another person s vote in a much larger populated state. An Alaskan voter has a louder voice in the decision of who the electoral vote will go to, than a Californian has with their votes.
Hillary Clinton wants to eliminate the Electoral College, and according to a recent poll, over 50% of the respondents agreed in doing away with the Electoral College. In past elections there has been cases of a president winning the Electoral Vote but not the popular vote. According to the chart in the article School of hard knocks there has been more than one occasion when the electoral vote has overruled the popular vote. In 1876 Rutherford Hayes beat James Tilden by one electoral vote, but Tilden had over 200,000 more votes supporting him. In a less dramatic lead William Henry Harrison bested Grover Cleveland by 65 electoral votes, but lost the popular vote by 90,596 votes.
winning an election because the popular vote for each state, excluding Maine and Nebraska, is a winner take all situation. Even if Nader had gotten a lot of the votes, it wouldn t make a difference because there would be no way that he would get more than Al Gore or George W. Bush for the electoral vote. With a popular vote election system third-party candidates would be better represented and have more of a chance of winning the election.
Electing a president by popular vote alone does have a few setbacks. If the presidency was elected by popular vote, the chances of candidates spending any time in sparsely populated states like Wyoming and Alaska would be very slim. Most of the campaigning would be focused on the more populated states like New York and California. The Electoral College was partially created to help keep the less populated states on the campaign trail. Senior analyst from CNN, Jeff Greenfield supports the Electoral College by pointing out the drawbacks of a popular vote based election. If it were decided by popular vote candidates would lay the United States out into categories, consisting of ages, and different interests. The candidates would then work on gaining votes from the more populated regions by redoing their campaign speech into what they believe the people of that geographical category want to hear (66).
Deciding the presidency by popular vote alone could stir up trouble if the polls are close. Jeff Greenfield also points out that America could face a national recount if the election was considerably close (66). A national recount could be more time consuming than the Electoral College ever was, especially if the recount was recommended to be redone by hand. Recounting in Dade County, Florida seems like a hassle, but the thought of recounting and entire countries vote is mind boggling.
Smoothing out the lumps caused by voting for the next President by popular vote wouldn t be as time consuming or difficult as fixing the problems with the Electoral College. There could be a law requiring candidates to visit all of the states, instead of focusing only on considerably populated areas. By requiring this, candidates would be spreading out across the country more than they are now with no regulations from the Electoral College. To avoid large recounts done by hand, a standardized national ballot should be put into action along with a standard vote tabulator. The Electoral College has been around for over 200 years, and it still has problems which have not been fixed. Certain problems have tried to be worked out with little or no success.
Historian Arthur Schlesinger came up with his own solution to ensure the winner of the popular vote also wins the Electoral College vote. Award a bonus of 102 electoral votes, two for each state and the District of Columbia to the popular vote winner (65). By awarding the candidate who wins the popular vote an extra 102 votes the citizens vote for president would make a difference. If this plan were put into action more Americans would vote because the popular vote winner would undoubtedly become the next President of the United States.
Most Americans want a voting system that they feel is the citizens electing the next President, not a committee of 538 House members. One of the reasons that we had an Electoral College was because there was no way to hold a national election, and the government didn t want citizens voting for their favorite sons. We now have ways of holding national elections, making another the argument for the Electoral College become obsolete. Changing the voting system by making the popular vote dominant against the Electoral College, Americans will have less to complain about because it will be a true case of majority rules.
Greenfield, Jeff. The Hidden Beauty of the System. Time 20 Nov. 2000: 66.
Schlesinger, Arthur. It s a Mess, But We ve Been Through it Before Time 20 Nov. 2000: 64.