Jan 25, 2018 in Political

The Need for the Electoral College


The United States Electoral College is the body that formally elects United States’ president as well as his vice President after four years. This means that in the US, voters do not directly elect the president and his vice, rather, the two are indirectly voted in by electors elected via an accepted vote on a basis of state by state. Only states and the District of Columbia are allowed to choose the electors but not the United States territorial possessions such as Guam and Puerto Rico. In every state, the number of electors is the same as the number of the Congress members whom the state is allowed.  There are 538 electors, based on there being 435 representatives and 100 senators, plus the three electors of the District of Columbia.

According to critics, the Electoral College is unconstitutional. Moreover, it bestows uneven influence on the Swing states in voting the president as well as vice president. The Electoral College presents a merit to the small states in the voting in of the president. This is since in smaller states, the least number of electors is three, while that of the election of a representative is one.  Several constitutional amendments to either replace or change the Electoral College with a direct common vote have been suggested.  

Why do we have the Electoral College?

The Electoral College was established by the forefathers in the constitution as a concession amid the voting in of the president and his vice president in Congress or in the common vote of eligible citizens. This term Electoral College is not in the constitution.Article II of the Constitution and the 12th Amendment refer to “electors,” but not to the “electoral college.”

Since the process of the Electoral College is a fraction of the initial design of the constitution of the United States, passing a constitutional amendment to alter the system is necessary. It is important to understand that using the common vote to elect the president and the vice president of the United States as well as the extension voting of rights, has altered the process.  

Some of the suggestions put forward to change the process of voting for the president include a countywide election by the citizens. Nevertheless, not a single constitutional amendment suggestion has been offered by the Congress and thrown to the states for approval. For a constitution to be amended, the amendment should have been suggested by at least two-thirds of the people in the two Congress houses and endorsed by three-thirds of all the states.

The need for reform of the Electoral College

Research shows that in the last 200 years, efforts have been made with an aim of reforming the Electoral College. This has been evidenced by the various proposals that have been presented to the Congress for the same purpose with some requiring the Electoral College to be eliminated. The numbers of proposals that have been offered for a Constitutional amendment on modifying the Electoral College have been numerous as compared to other matters. Why the need to reform the Electoral College?

Present arguments on the need to reform the Electoral College are based on various topics, including indirect election, federalism, and unequal power of voting by a number of states amongst other things. Those who are against generally base their arguments on the distribution of the power to vote in the states. Studies on congressional debates regarding the amendments of the Electoral College indicate that reform proponents have used a democratic analysis in their representation. The various concerns put forth concerning the Electoral College system are the factors that necessitate its reformation. These concerns are discussed herein.

According to the American Bar Association, the Electoral College is ‘ambiguous’ and ‘archaic’, and as per a polling conducted in 1987, sixty nine percent of lawyers were in favor of its elimination. Polls on public opinion indicated that Americans wanted its elimination with 58 percent, 81 percent, and 75 percent in 1967, 1968, and 1981 respectively.

Another reason why the Electoral College necessitates to be reformed is due to the inapplicability of the countrywide popular vote. This can be linked to the elections carried out in the years 1876, 1888, and 2000 whereby the winner generated by Electoral College had not obtained a nationwide plurality popular vote. There is also evidence in 1824 where, instead of popularly electing electors; they were legislatively selected, and this indicated that the accurate majority vote was not certain. In the same year, no candidate obtained popular electoral votes and as a result; the House of Representatives had the responsibility to decide on the  elections. This was deemed distinctive from the latter elections whereby all states had a majority in choosing the electors.

Advocates for reform of the Electoral College put forth that a democratic system does not operate in such a way and furthermore, such results do not rationally pursue the normative model of how such a system operates. The Electoral College is believed to breach the standards of political parity. This is based on the fact that ‘the one-individual one-vote’ standard is not employed in electing the president. The results of this kind are caused by the system’s federal nature.

The operation of the current Electoral College reveals that the countrywide majority vote lacks both realistic and lawful importance in deciding the results of an election. This means that the candidates as well as the voters have to focus their campaign tactics on the subsistence of the Electoral College rather than maximizing the totals of the majority vote. Globally, the United States of America is the only nation that decides on a president through an Electoral College  and as a result, measures need to be taken to ensure that the national wide majority votes are relevant and put into consideration before a candidate becomes the president.

The Electoral College is believed to favor the less heavily populated states. These states are given increased voting power per capita, a concern that has made many to call for reforms. In fact, some argue that the Electoral College system supports the Republican Party by excessively increasing the voting power of the lowly populated states. However, this is not the case as the democrats have been evidenced to have won the popular vote of the thirteen less populous states in various elections. In this case, it is clear that the larger states are favored less by the Electoral College System. Certainly, all states need to be treated equally as far as electing a president is concerned. In this case, the Electoral College system should be reformed in order to favor all states equally, a factor that will not give other states more voting powers compared to others. 

The Electoral College has also been criticized of discouraging voter participation and turnout. Even though voter turnout is deemed to be greatly unimportant as a result of the well-established domination of political parties in the majority of states, it remains a significant factor. The system is deemed to reduce the help a campaign or a political party can achieve for persuading electors to churn out, with the exception of the swing states .  If the United States decides on its president based on a countrywide majority vote, it is true that parties as well as campaigns would work towards boosting voter turnouts in all states. Likewise, persons would work towards persuading their families and friends to participate in elections. Some individuals argue that if the Electoral College system was eliminated and replaced with a majority vote election, maybe the turnout in the swing states would considerably be amplified.

Exclusive focus on large swing states: This explains how the Electoral College supports political campaigners to concentrate more on the swing states and show no concern for the state at large. The crowded states which do not indicate a favorite candidate for the president position are snowed under with intense campaigns, television adverts as well as debates. According to an assessment, in the national election, for every five voters, one of them is ignored. Almost all the states in the United States employ the winner-takes-all arrangement, which states that the contender with the majority of votes in a particular state is given all the electoral votes of the of that state. There is an incentive to concentrate on the major undecided states. In 2004 and 2008 these states included Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania as well as Colorado in 2012 .  Contrary, the crowded states such as New York, California and Texas in the latest elections have been deemed safe for a specific party. New York and California endorse the Democratic Party while Texas being for the Republican Party. As such, the campaigners do not spend a lot of time and money in these states. 

The majority of the smaller states are deemed safe for either Republican or Democratic Party. Of all the 13 smallest states, six are wholly Democratic and six wholly Republican. New Hampshire is a swing state. Election campaigns in 2008, focused on selected states rather than the nation at large .   

Applying the arrangement of winner-take-all and giving the leading candidate all the votes of the electors in that state, reduces the significance of small parties. There has been an assertion that the Electoral College is not the source of the two-party system and that in some instances, it tended to get better opportunities for the candidates of the third-party.  

The Electoral College is so complicated. This is because it does not provide a clear process for electing the president and his vice. Rather, it undoes the will of the citizens at many instances within the journey of getting a new president. This includes the road from voting to the counting of the votes.

Options for Electoral College reform

A number of concerns have arisen from the latest elections on Electoral College reforms. It is argued that if the president loses the common vote, he will lack mandate and hence, will be very weak. There are a number of alternatives for reforming the old system being used. They include;

Pure popular vote:This alternative has two variations, which are dependent on the reaction if no one gets the most votes. If an election is held and there is no one gets the majority votes in the House of Representatives, the degree to alter the current system is reduced. The people elected to currently have a weak mandate which is made to look better by the Electoral College. The advantages of using the popular vote is that, it maintains the one person one vote principle, makes things easier, gives the citizens a chance to do away with the house of representatives as well as takes people out of the old age. Besides, the advantages, the popular vote does not address the tribulations. Having to divide the votes of the people who agree with two similar contenders, gives the dissimilar contender the popularity of the votes despite the electorate siding with the first pair. Recount in such a close race is hard to implement. A constitutional amendment to vote for the president through the pure popular vote may never be endorsed. This is due to the fact that the amendment needs the support of the states that could lose power with the change.  Few less crowded states will agree to vote for change and give the highly populated states more power. However, the popular vote constitutional amendment can be possible if it can be proven that the winner takes all arrangements gives the populous states more power.

Those who advocate for the reform of the Electoral College put forth that the United States work on a modification procedure via an interstate compact. This as a result would guarantee that the candidate who would have won the country’s popular vote is announced as the president. The states that comprise of most Electoral College votes must concur to elect the contestant who has been voted in by the national majority vote, despite whether he/she lost or won in such states. The advocates argue that reforming the Electoral College via the compact method is simple and easy as matched up to the use of constitutional amendment.

Another option that has been offered by the advocates is that the electoral votes should be proportionately allocated. This is believed to boost voter turnout as well as party representation. Besides, candidates would be encouraged to campaign in the entire states in the country instead of merely the competitive ones.


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