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Electoral Eval: How Should We Choose Presidents?
12/12/2016 Election Andrew S
keywords: Electoral College Legislation voting

For better or for worse, the electoral college is one of the most distinct and unique features of the American political system. Whereas most countries whose presidents wield significant power assign the office by popular vote, U.S. presidents must instead win electors through state-level elections. Whoever gets a majority of electors wins the presidency, regardless of any other outcome of the vote. This system is highly controversial, and there is currently an effort to abolish it and replace it with a national popular election. Supporters and opponents of the current system use a wide variety of arguments, including:

Arguments Against

Opponents of the electoral college typically focus on the fact that it allows candidates to win elections while losing the national popular vote. In most states, a candidate only needs to receive a plurality of the local popular vote to win all of that state's electors. If one candidate wins a large number of states by a small margin while another wins fewer states but wins them by a large margin, the former candidate may win despite receiving fewer votes than the latter. This has happened four times in American history, most recently in 2016. This imbalance, combined with the fact that it gives outsized influence to small states and swing states, makes the electoral college undemocratic.

Most opponents of the electoral college favor deciding presidential elections by popular vote. They disagree over whether a candidate should need to win a plurality, a majority, or a supermajority of that vote to become president.

Facts In Favor

Supporters of the electoral college agree that it is not perfectly democratic, but see this as a strength rather than a weakness. The system, they argue, protects small states and rural areas from the tyranny of the majority. If the US elected presidents by popular vote, city dwellers would outvote rural populations in every election. The electoral college balances urban and rural interests, ensuring that every citizen has a say.

In response to the argument that the electoral college gives too much power to swing states, supporters point out that swing states change from election to election. North Carolina, for example, was long considered a Republican stronghold, but voted for Barack Obama in 2008 and is now considered a swing state. Likewise, Wisconsin voted for the Democratic candidate in every election from 1984 through 2012, but voted Republican in 2016. Every state has the potential to be a swing state in some election, and can thus wield power in the electoral college.

Source: Andrew S

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