President Obama eked out a slim victory in the popular vote, but he blew Romney out of the water in the Electoral College vote. Bush vs. Gore demonstrated that it's eminently possible for the loser of the popular vote to win the Electoral Vote.

I decided to look into why we have the Electoral College.

* * * * *

HistoryCentral.com explains it this way:

The Electoral College was created for two reasons. The first purpose was to create a buffer between population and the selection of a President. The second as part of the structure of the government that gave extra power to the smaller states.

The first reason that the founders created the Electoral College is hard to understand today. The founding fathers were afraid of direct election to the Presidency. They feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power....

Hamilton and the other founders believed that the electors would be able to insure that only a qualified person becomes President. They believed that with the Electoral College no one would be able to manipulate the citizenry. It would act as check on an electorate that might be duped. Hamilton and the other founders did not trust the population to make the right choice. The founders also believed that the Electoral College had the advantage of being a group that met only once and thus could not be manipulated over time by foreign governments or others.

The electoral college is also part of compromises made at the convention to satisfy the small states. Under the system of the Electoral College each state had the same number of electoral votes as they have representative in Congress, thus no state could have less then 3. The result of this system is that in this election the state of Wyoming cast about 210,000 votes, and thus each elector represented 70,000 votes, while in California approximately 9,700,000 votes were cast for 54 votes, thus representing 179,000 votes per electorate. Obviously this creates an unfair advantage to voters in the small states whose votes actually count more then those people living in medium and large states.

One aspect of the electoral system that is not mandated in the constitution is the fact that the winner takes all the votes in the state. Therefore it makes no difference if you win a state by 50.1% or by 80% of the vote you receive the same number of electoral votes. This can be a recipe for one individual to win some states by large pluralities and lose others by small number of votes, and thus this is an easy scenario for one candidate winning the popular vote while another winning the electoral vote. This winner take all methods used in picking electors has been decided by the states themselves. This trend took place over the course of the 19th century.

While there are clear problems with the Electoral College and there are some advantages to it, changing it is very unlikely. It would take a constituitional amendment ratified by 3/4 of states to change the system. It is hard to imagine the smaller states agreeing. One way of modifying the system s to eliminate the winner take all part of it. The method that the states vote for the electoral college is not mandated by the consitution but is decided by the states. Two states do not use the winner take all system, Maine and Nebraska. It would be difficult but not impossible to get other states to change their systems, unfortunately the party that has the advantage in the state is unlikely to agree to a unilateral change.

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While I voted for Obama, clearly he got his landslide Electoral College vote by analyzing and gaming the Electoral College system. 

If the Electoral College was designed to empower the smaller states (and remember that when the Electoral College was designed, those states were all small New England states}. Ohio didn't exist yet and Western Pennsylvania was a woodland wilderness with a few woodsmen and trappers in it, not to mention Native Americans. 

In this election, if all of those small or low-population states (like Montana) that went for Obama had gone ;for Romney, it wouldn't have made any difference in terms of the outcome. Obama's Elector lead was 100 votes the last time I looked. 

The Electoral College system is stupid and our Congress is stupid if it doesn't look into changing the Constitution.

 

Tags: College, Electoral

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Yes, electoral college is stupid.

However I have no idea what can be done about this. There have already been (multiple) petitions at wh.gov, and they were ignored. The problem is, you'll never get people in power to give up their power (except through revolution). And right now the people in power got that way via the electoral college. 

The people in power (their party) also got clobbered with it the other way. However, since Obama has shown how to game it by not running equally hard in every state. Living in Ohio, as I have for the last year. I can tell you that political ads—50% of them for Obama or Romney—crowded the local car dealer, furniture store, grocery store, and Walmart/Target/etc. superstore ads largely off the air.

It's sad that we have to wait for it to get so bad that we're forced to revolt. Hopefully they don't take away our guns before then :(

I'm not holding my breath for it to be changed because both parties have seen it benefit them, though the Republicans should be pushing a change because of the way Obama's people understood and gamed the system to get an Electoral landslide while just barely getting a popular majority.

I have heard a variety of cogent arguments in favor of keeping the electoral college; but they all center on political expediency; you can always be sure that at least one of the political parties will see it in its interest to maintain the status quo.  It still comes down to two things in my mind:  first, there was once a very good reason for a system that solved the problem of a widely dispersed populace and slow communication;  but that condition no longer exists; popular voting can be done virtually instantly.  Second: the system is maintained more for political reasons than for democratic ones.  I've not heard a really convincing argument - one that is more persuasive than "one man (or woman), one vote." 

There is no hard and fast rule that a state must give all of its electoral votes to the candidate who wins the vote in that state; that's just the default decision legislatures made when they decided to allow people to vote for president.   Technically it is still the job of state legislatures to decide how to choose electors.  (This came into play in Florida in 2000, briefly; the secretary of state under Florida law had ten days to certifiy the results or the state legislature would step in and do the job for her, all according to Florida law.)

Maine and Nebraska have a different rule:  If candidate A wins the vote in a congressional district, he gets the elector corresponding to that congressman.  If he wins the whole state he gets the two electors corresponding to the senators.  So maine with four electors (two congressional districts) can split 3-1 or 4-0 and Nebraska (5, 3 congressional districts) can split 3-2, 4-1 or 5-0.

A few states have actually passed laws allocating their electors to whoever wins the US popular vote (not the vote in their state)--provided enough other states do so that a total of 270 votes would go to the winner of the popular vote for this reason.  Once that happens, the "old" electoral college is basically dead; even though there will still be an electoral college, it will reflect the popular vote, not the vote in individual states.  This is certainly an easier way to do an end run around it than getting an amendment passed.

Close your parentheses!

For a country which love to continually wax on about democracy, yours is truly not a good example of it. The electoral college is but a small issue, the major problem is with the first past the post system. When it comes to democracy it can be measured on a line where focus on governance marks the one extreme and a focus on representation is on the other. Your system pretty much sets the standard for a focus on governance, picking an unchallengeable leader, with utter disregard of any kind of proportional representation. 

Occasionally not closing parens is seemingly one of my congenital writing problems. LOL

I maintain that in a country the size of the US, democracy simply doesn't work. Even so, it's better than a kingship or dictatorship.

Here's what I mean: Imagine an election with far simpler issues than any real election.

Issue 1: Immigration, loosen it, keep it as is, or get tough
Issue 2: Increasing taxes, across the board or just for the wealthy
Issue 3: Abortion, ban it or leave it alone
Issue 4: Social Security, change to a voucher system or leave it as is

Now some people find a candidate whose view on the issues they care most about are identical to their own. However, I think you can see that more often or not that won't be the case. If a candidate has taken a mix of stands you favor/disfavor, who can you vote for?

This is the basic flaw in democracy. And yet, what system is better?

I would say that your choice of candidate shouldn't be measured along the lines of whom one agrees with the most, but rather disagree with the least. But in these cases, increasing the available options through more parties would increase the probability of finding one party which more closely align with your opinion. For instance, all of those who are socially liberal but economically conservative struggle with today's political constellation in the US. Here on Norway they would fit well into the party Left, while the social conservatives/economic liberals fits into the Christian Democratic Party

I don't really trust the American exceptionalism argument on it's face (it does remind me of what Russians and Chinese say when the issue of democracy is brought up) since many sizeable and well functional countries have parliamentary systems with multiple parties. I wouldn't necessarily say that the American version of democracy is flawed, but I personally prefer a focus on representation over governance. It makes more voices heard and it fosters a higher degree of consensus seeking behavior.

Presuppositions are like political parties - when they are in control, they don't like to give it up (for any reason, good or otherwise).

In Australia when we were watching the election, and we were all very glad when obama won, we all appreciated how streamlined, effective and honest our voting system is. Our politicians arent, but the way we vote is. Journalist and political commentators were commenting on how arcane the american system is. And from that reasoning you put above as to why america has this electoral colleges is obviously irrelevant in this day and age, its pretty much making one persons vote worth more than someone elses, i thought america was big on all men being created equal (or women).

I dont think demoracy has failed, but i think maybe american democracy has become a cautionary tale to all other democracies. Like id hear about people having to wait hours to get into a polling booth, or the fact that america doesnt have a preferential voting system, and that if you win a state you get all their votes???? ridiculous!! Plus voting isnt mandatory, which some may say that they have a right not to vote, but it pretty much means that politicians have no choice but to cater to the extreme left and right, making this really bipolar bipartisan government. plus with all those rights come responsibilities, and voting is one of them, or at least it should be. 

Im just saying that yes electoral colleges are silly, and do make your voting system even stranger, but its on a list of problems that no one seems willing to accept exist. 

Side note: haha i read that some people said they would move to Australia if obama wins, we have a way more liberal government than your democrats. Our conservative party, the Liberals, can be ridulous, but they are held in check by a pretty liberal population so they have to pretty much do what we want. abortion is legal in every state, strict gun laws after a killing spree in tasmania in 96', ive only ever seen a gun on a policeman, and I dont think ive ever seen a gun store. so those people who dont want to live in a country where obama is president will definitely not wanna live here.

its pretty much making one persons vote worth more than someone elses

It has nothing to do with one person one vote, it's to institute fairness on a totally different level. The intent is to give less populous states a larger voice than their populations alone might justify. One can argue that this is a bad idea for some reason, but the intent can be argued to be good.

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