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Should the US government continue to use the electorial college system when electing...

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jleann | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) Honors

Posted May 10, 2012 at 10:18 PM via web

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Should the US government continue to use the electorial college system when electing the president? Or should the popular vote be used instead?

Should the US government continue to use the electorial college system when electing the president? Or should the popular vote be used instead?

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larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 10, 2012 at 5:40 PM (Answer #2)

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The efficacy of the Electoral College has been a matter of substantial debate for many years; in fact every election year, some political spokesman rails against it and insists it should be abolished. Even so, no serious effort to abolish it has ever been initiated.

The Electoral College was designed to see that the President is elected by the individual states; not the populace at large. Although at the time it was instituted electors were chosen by state legislators, it still has the advantage of preventing election solely by the areas with large populations. Were the College eliminated, smaller states would find their role in elections diminished; presidential contenders would spend all their time and money in large cities and densely populated areas.

There has always been some distrust of rule by pure majority. Alexander Hamilton commented:

The ancient democracies in which the people themselves deliberated never possessed one good feature of government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity.

Thomas Jefferson also said:

A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.

The Electoral College was designed to prevent the inherent problems of majority elections. For that reason, it should be retained. I am sure other editors have other opinions; however this is my position.

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mwalter822 | Teacher | (Level 2) Educator

Posted May 10, 2012 at 10:30 PM (Answer #3)

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There have been 3 instances in which a presidential candidate has lost the popular vote but won the election with the most electoral votes. Most recently it was George Bush over Al Gore in 2000.

The problem is that it undercuts a president's legitimacy when the opposing party can say that more Americans voted for them. With partisan politics as divisive as it is, that sort of claim makes it even more difficult to govern.

If it were my decision to make, right now, I'd toss out the Electoral College. That's not to say that someone with more knowledge about the whole thing couldn't convince me otherwise, but that's where I'm at now.

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mvymvy | (Level 1) Honors

Posted May 10, 2012 at 10:49 PM (Answer #4)

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#2:  With the current state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes, it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the U.S., for a candidate to win with a mere 26% of the nation's votes!


Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in section 1 of Article II of the U.S. Constitution-- "Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors . . ."   


The constitution does not prohibit any of the methods that were debated and rejected.  A majority of the states appointed their electors using two of the rejected methods in the nation's first presidential election (i.e., appointment by the legislature and by the governor and his cabinet).  Electors were appointed by state legislatures for almost a century. 


Now with state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but since enacted by 48 states),  elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states, that are non-competitive. 6 regularly vote R, and 6 regularly vote D in presidential elections. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.


Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among R, D, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group.  




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rrteacher | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 10, 2012 at 11:11 PM (Answer #5)

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I would argue for a proportional system in each state, rather than the winner-take-all system. The Framers anticipated electors that would vote according to their beliefs, not rubber stamp electors appointed by political conventions. 

In addition, while I totally agree with the assessment of the Framers' intent in post 2, I have to take issue with the Thomas Jefferson quote. There is no evidence that he said this, and in fact Jefferson researchers at Monticello have identified it as one of many "spurious" Jefferson quotations floating around the internet: http://www.monticello.org/site/jefferson/democracy-nothing-more-mob-rule

In any case, while it is true that no serious efforts have been made to abolish the Electoral College, it has been altered to conform with electoral realities- the Twelfth Amendment did exactly this, altering the electoral voting process in response to the emergence of party ticket voting in the election of 1800. So I don't think it would be inconsistent with precedent to change the electoral voting process to make it a shade more democratic.

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pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 10, 2012 at 11:20 PM (Answer #6)

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I'm with #5 in that I would like to see the straight winner take all system that most states now employ replaced with a system in which the winner in each Congressional district gets that district's electoral vote.  Then the winner of the state as a whole could get the other two votes that the state has.  This would make for a "happy medium" between the current system and a pure popular vote.

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Kristen Lentz | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 11, 2012 at 11:19 AM (Answer #7)

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I think voter turnout and overall interest in the political system would increase with the death of the electoral college system.  I live in Texas, and to be honest, it is pointless to vote in the presidential elections in Texas.  The Republican candidate will win, guaranteed.  Very little campaigning is done here, and very few advertising dollars are spent here because Texas will go to the Republican party.  With that being said, if Texas is won by a margin of 60-40, that means that almost thirteen million votes were "wasted".  The same could be said about a Republican in a state dominated by the Democratic Party.


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bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 11, 2012 at 1:45 PM (Answer #8)

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I'm certainly in favor of the popular vote deciding the Presidential election. The electoral college is an antiquated system that actually can allow a candidate to win the election and still lose the all-important vote of the people, as witnessed by George Bush's victory over Al Gore in 2000.

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litteacher8 | Middle School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

Posted May 11, 2012 at 5:21 PM (Answer #9)

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The United States has one of the strangest and most complicated methods of electing a president I have heard of.  It was created, as every element of our government, for a much different time.  Our electorate is educated.  We have the technology now to elect a president directly and securely.  The electoral college is outdated and has many opportunities for abuse.  Maybe it is time to look at how other countries elect their presidents successfully.

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stolperia | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted May 12, 2012 at 2:21 AM (Answer #10)

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I think it's time to get rid of the Electoral College. Some interesting compromises have been suggested in previous posts, which bear exploration and consideration. Of course, the greatest challenge would be getting representative of the various political parties to agree to compromise instead of assuming one rigid position and refusing to move away from it. Fortunately, the Founding Fathers did understand how to compromise - it was an important skill in the process of creating our government. Too bad the skill seems to have been forgotten by recent legislators.

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