Essay:Electoral College

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When George W. Bush was the declared victor in the presidential election of 2000 based on the vote of the Electoral College, despite losing a plurality of the votes nationwide, Hillary Clinton and others sought to remove the Electoral College. This would require amending the U.S. Constitution.

More recently, some are attempting to accomplish the same goal without amending the U.S. Constitution, by passing laws in state legislatures requiring the state's electors to vote for the candidate who reportedly won a majority of the votes cast by citizens nationwide.

There are several reasons to maintain and defend the Electoral College in its traditional form:

  1. The Electoral College is one aspect of republicanism, which helps protect Americans from the failures of Democracy, which is a system that has repeatedly been proven to not work.
  2. The Electoral College requires a broad base of support for a candidate to be elected president, and this helps unify such a large and diverse nation.
  3. The Electoral College discourages candidates from seeking to win by offering special entitlements to large population centers at the expense of others.
  4. The Electoral College limits any recounts to one state, thereby avoiding a nationwide recount that could paralyze the large nation.
  5. The Electoral College is an important check on pure majoritarian rule, placing informed electors in between the masses and the final decision.
  6. The Electoral College has worked well for over 200 years, and because it isn't broke, don't try to fix it with unknown consequences.
  7. The Electoral College virtually ensures that the president won a majority and thus a mandate, which has not existed in most recent popular vote results.
  8. The Electoral College reduces the incentives and opportunities for there to be machine or corrupt voting in areas which overwhelmingly support one side.

Here are some rebuttals to the above arguments (each rebuttal corresponds to the argument above with the same number):

  1. Currently the majority of states are heavily dominated by one party or the other (e.g. California is a heavily Democrat state, while Texas is a heavily Republican state); candidates usually spend their time in only a handful of states that are truly "swing states" (e.g. Florida)
  2. But in a close election a recount in one state CAN paralyze the nation (see the Florida recount in the 2000 election).
  3. Electors are pledged to a candidate; therefore, they cannot use their discretion. (In those instances where they have voted against their pledge -- so-called "faithless electors" -- it has never resulted in the would-be Electoral College winner not winning.)
  4. There have been several instances where the Electoral College winner did not win the popular vote, much less a majority of the popular vote, most recently Donald Trump in 2016.