Solutions and the Case for Reform
When the Founders reached the compromise that became the Electoral College, they had relevant reasons to do so. Communications technology, modes of transportation and voter education was all very crude, limiting the ability of the public to make a well-informed judgment about candidates.
Also a major factor was America's slave population. To determine representation in Congress, slaves were counted as 3/5 of a voter. Without the right to vote and some sort of mechanism of letting slaves be counted, the South would have been doomed to political domination by the North.
To skirt these problems the founders settled on the Electoral College.
However, today’s conditions are very different. Candidates are able to travel from state to state with ease. Television, the Internet, radio, and the mass print media allow voters to get to know the candidates even when they’re not in our own state. Today our country has the tools to handle direct elections of the president very responsibly.
Beyond the antiquated reasons for its creation there are many ways in which the Electoral College system makes our democratic system unhealthy. To begin with, the Electoral College favors certain states over others. Most will say that this discriminatory nature of the institution protects the interests of small states who might otherwise be overshadowed by more populous states. However, small state interests are already protected in the Senate, as every state has an equal number of senators, regardless of population. The Electoral College only multiplies this overrepresentation for small states and effectively overshadows the interests of larger states.
Results from the last five presidential races are indicative. In almost every case, the 13 small states have split - giving 21 electoral votes to Democrats and 19 votes to Republicans. Only New Hampshire consistently shifts its 4 votes between parties. The small states are already ignored during the modern presidential campaign because of their "safe" status.
With the current system candidates are forced to focus on only a few battleground states instead of battling for a nationwide public mandate. In 2004 nearly 3/4 of the states were completely ignored during the 'national' campaign. They were not visited by candidates, TV ads were not aired in most states and therefore the specific interests of a majority of voters were not addressed by candidates for the nation's highest office.
The Electoral College fails to protect state interests but succeeds in disenfranchising voters. In safe states voters who support the candidate most of their neighbors oppose might as well not vote at all. By the time the votes are tallied and the winner of the state is awarded all of that state’s electoral votes (except in Maine and Nebraska), every vote for a losing candidate means nothing and does not help support their candidate.
It's time to fully realize the notion of 'one person one vote' and make it a reality. The longest-lasting democracy in the world should directly elect its top leader.
- Past Attempts at Reform
- Reform Options & Wrong Way Reforms
- FairVote's interview with Neal Peirce
- Electoral College Football: CBS News explores some of the not-so-impossible possibilities of the extremely close 2004 election
- LA Times Commentary: The Electoral College votes against equality
- The Modest Bee: California takes a jab at the Electoral College
- The Case Against the Electoral College: an article by Steven Hill and Rob Richie
- Flunk the Electoral College: an article by FairVote's John B. Anderson
- North Lake Tahoe Bonanza: Time to Change the Electoral College? Editor Jonathan Maziarz explores the issue
- "Updating the Electoral College: The National Popular Vote Legislation." Article by Stanley Chang in the Harvard Journal on Legislation (Vol. 44, No. 1)