How the Electoral College Works, and Why We Should Keep It


As of Thursday, Nov. 1 Mitt Romney holds onto a 2% lead according to the latest Rasmussen poll, which shows that nationwide, Romney garners 49% of the vote compared to Obama's 47%. President Obama and Mitt Romney are currently in one of the closest presidential races in our lifetimes. It is so close, that some pundits are predicting a possible electoral tie. This possibility raises the question, should the electoral college be replaced with a simple majority vote?

The answer is no. The electoral college is the preferred choice and distinctly American.

It is a very simple argument. Under an electoral system, a candidate must win the entire state in order to get all the electoral votes. Candidates generally focus on the states that are more divisive, also known as "swing states." The presence of swing states signal that there are competing views in that state that need to be heard and a compromise reached. The candidate will go into each state to listen to both the majority and minority voices in order to win the state. This will not happen under a popular vote. One pundit makes a good case for why the electoral system is good for the Midwest.

Under a popular vote system, the candidate's strategy will change dramatically. Since the goal is not to win the whole state, the candidate will focus primarily on the heavily populated areas and possibly ignore the more rural areas. In fact, one of the biggest criticisms of the electoral college is that rural areas are over represented in an electoral system. Many say that this is undemocratic because it suppresses the voices of voters within traditionally red and blue states who do not agree with the consensus. However, the American system was not designed to channel democracy efficiently. It was designed to limit it. Even the U.S. Senate system over-represents rural areas by giving two votes to each state regardless of size or population. 

The beauty of winning an entire state is that in the event of a contested outcome of an election, the controversy will be contained to one or possibly a few states. The possibility of a national re-count in Florida-esque fashion could increase the probability of fraud, confusion, cost, and conflict. It could open us up to a political meltdown on a national scale.

There are many ways in which the voices of Democrats in red states and Republicans in blue states are heard. For instance, technology connects politicians with constituents like never before. For better or worse, the voice of the people is heard louder than ever. The electoral college system has worked for over 200 years. Under it, we know that the President elected has ample popular support and that it is distributed throughout the country, ensuring his or her ability to govern effectively.