The US does not elect its presidents by popular vote, but it conducts such election through a process called the Electoral College. It is a procedure that is comprised of a selection of electors who would meet to conduct the selection of the president and the vice president. It also involves an electoral vote counting by Congress. The most recent example of this political process was in 2000, when Al Gore won by popular vote, but George W. Bush still got the presidency as he earned more electoral votes.
The Electoral College system was originally set up by the Founding Fathers in order to retain a representative form of government, establishing it within the Constitution as the compromise between the election of the President based on the common vote of eligible citizens and the election of the President by the vote within Congress. Every state is allotted a number of electors that is equal to the number of members of the House and the Senate. These individuals would then typically vote for the candidate who is popularly voted by their states.
While there are movements aiming to go to a popular election system from the Electoral College, the system has still remained. Here are the Electoral College pros and cons:
List of Pros of Electoral College
1. It maintains division of powers.
The US Constitution was designed to divide the government into three different branches with specific attributes to offer checks and balances, along with deliberation. Supporters of the Electoral College system argue that when the president is elected directly, he will be able to declare a nationally known mandate that will undermine the other government branches, which will more likely lead to tyranny.
2. It is pretty accurate.
According to the elections expert at the Library of Congress, Thomas Neale, “The Electoral College has a more than 90 percent success rate,” which means that electors have chosen candidates who have won the popular vote most of the time.
3. It protects the interests of the minority.
This political process is said to preserve the voice of states with more rural areas and lower populations. Urban areas tend to be more populated, especially in contemporary times, but this system will save the interests of those living in less bustling locations, such as farmers.
4. It prevents victory that is solely based on urban regions.
Supporters of the Electoral College claim that the system will prevent a candidate from wining by solely focusing on regions that are heavily populated, which means that he/she should take an approach that is more extensive.
5. It uses a 2-party system.
While some political activists are not in favor of the 2-party system, the Democrats-versus-Republicans structure has definitely created more stability. By having a smaller number of political parties, they can create generalized platforms, rather than focusing on specific issues.
6. It helps with maintaining the federal character of the country.
The Electoral College system provides each state the freedom to design individual laws with respect to voting. Also, it gives states the authority to make amendments.
7. It gives more power to the states.
States have the power to choose delegates to the Electoral College, which allows them to participate in the selection of the country’s leader. According to the US Election Atlas, this system maintains the representative form of government.
8. It elects a president for all the people.
One of the biggest things the Electoral College does for the country is ensuring that a presidential candidate has to reach out to a variety of people. It is important to note that no single region has sufficient number of electoral votes to elect a president, which means that even someone who is a regional favorite would still has to reach out to other regions in order to get the win.
List of Cons of Electoral College
1. It does not assure victory to the person whom majority of Americans favor.
In Electoral College, some smaller states have a larger percentage of votes than that when we consider the total American population, which is due to the fact that the minimum number of Electoral College votes for a state is three.
2. It can discourage voter turnout.
While the candidate who has the highest common vote in a state gets the full electoral votes within the states with clear favorites, voters would usually feel that their votes will have no effect. This means that the Electoral College system de-motivates candidates from pursuing campaigns for voter turnout, except in large swing states.
3. It could dissuade people from voting.
While a popular vote is a simple majority, this political process involves redistributing votes every decade due to the election of delegates and population changes. It is also complicated, that there are even several more steps involved, which might give citizens the impression that their votes would not matter after all, causing them to just stay at home rather than going out and participating in the elections.
4. It gives more power to small and swing states.
One person does not equate to one vote, and in most states, candidates with the majority of votes would acquire all of their respective states’ electoral votes. Also, some states are known for voting consistently the Republican or the Democrat, so candidates might pay less attention to the states with more attention and clear favorites to big states.
5. It favors the smaller and less populated states.
Basically, the Electoral College system gives power to the small and less populated states, which is quite unfair with the bigger states. Traditionally, it has improved the electoral strength of such small states, while privileging the Republican Party.
6. It is not entirely democratic.
In this type of electoral process, sometimes the candidate who has got the majority of the popular vote does not win. Taking the same example cited above, Al Gore won 543,895 more votes than George W. Bush, but Bush won the presidency as he got majority of the electoral votes.
The establishment of the Electoral College system truly has both pros and cons, which you should be aware of so you will know where you stand.
Natalie Regoli is a child of God, devoted wife, and mother of two boys. She has a Master's Degree in Law from The University of Texas. Natalie has been published in several national journals and has been practicing law for 18 years.