The Electoral College is a seldom-discussed but incredibly important element to the American presidential election. The College, not the public vote, is what determines which candidate will win the national election. The pros and cons of the College are varied, with many proponents on either side of the issue. This sample politics paper is a first-person look at the nature of the College and whether or not the system should be abolished in future elections.
Abolishing the Electoral College
One of the primary virtues and benefits of living in a country with a democratic political system such as the United States is that the people are provided with the opportunity to determine and elect each successive president. These voting rights provide American’s with a significant amount of power, as the process helps ensure that the president reflects the attitudes and political opinions of the majority of adult US citizens who are eligible to vote. However, the Electoral College system has often been criticized as a system that interferes with the ability for the president to be chosen based on the majority opinion of the American people.
Because the Electoral College is the system by which we elect a president whose decisions will have a significant impact on the country and on the American people, I think that it is very important to understand and debate the Electoral College system. I think that the Electoral College should be abolished because the system can prevent the national will of the people from determining the president, can result in faithless Electoral College members voting against the will of their states, can make the votes in some states more influential than in other states, and can suppress opportunities for third-party or independent candidates to thrive and have their votes reflected.
History of the Electoral College
I possess a general understanding of the background information regarding the Electoral College. For instance, I know when the system was developed and implemented, as well as the manner in which the Electoral College functions to determine the president. The founding fathers exerted a significant amount of thought and conducted several contentious debates to determine the process by which the American people should select their presidents.
The Framers were reluctant to provide the people with a direct vote that would elect a president based on an overall national majority, for they were concerned about the tendency of the people to elect candidates based only on local interests, worried about the potential of the people to be deceived during campaigns, and discouraged by the immense difficulty of conducting a national election with the limited technological means available at the time.
As a result, the 12th Amendment and Article 2, Section 1 of the US constitution establish that an Electoral College must determine the outcome of presidential elections (Mount, 2010). The Electoral College consists of electors who cast their votes for the respective presidential candidate that received the majority of votes in their state. Each state has electors, and the amount of electors each state possesses depends on the number of house representatives for the state and thus on the size of the state’s population.
Electoral votes limited to population
In presidential elections, these electors cast their votes for whichever candidate received the most votes in their respective states, and the first presidential candidate to receive 270 total electoral votes is declared the winner of the election and the next president of the United States (U.S. Electoral College-What is the Electoral College? n.d.). For example, during Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, he was able to receive a majority of the 270 Electoral Votes while Hilary Clinton won the majority of actual votes.
Although I understand the background and the functioning of the Electoral College process, I must also conduct thorough research to acquire more information about the issue. If I research information to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the specific historical dilemmas that have occurred as a result of the Electoral College system, I will be able to develop stronger arguments that will be supported by more authoritative facts and sources.
Additionally, I must learn what claims supporters of the Electoral College system typically propose to argue that the system is beneficial, for understanding my opponents’ arguments will enable me to have a more extensive understanding of the issue and will prepare me to use counter-arguments as a way of refuting the points asserted by my opponents.
Organization and reliability of elections
Most supporters of the Electoral College system would assert that the system improves the organization and reliability of the presidential election voting process (Steinberg, 2012). My opponents might also argue that it is rare for a president to be elected by the Electoral College despite not having received the majority vote and that these rare situations only happen when the national vote is very tight. As a result, if a president attains a clear and decisive majority of the national vote, the candidate is mathematically very likely to also win the Electoral College vote and to thus be elected president (Kimberling, n.d.).
Additionally, my opponents might argue that the Electoral College provides power to low-population rural areas and that a national vote would encourage candidates to ignore low-population states or areas to instead exclusively concentrate on large cities or otherwise highly-populated areas (Kimberling, n.d.).
My research paper will argue for the abolishment of the Electoral College, and to do this I will clearly articulate and elaborate on the primary problems that are created by the Electoral College and that are detrimental for the United States. One primary problem of the Electoral College is that presidential elections have changed from 1916 to 2016 and the Electoral College system provides a very realistic potential for a president to be elected despite not receiving the majority of the national votes. A crucial aspect of democracy is that most of our political officials are determined by the majority opinion of the people.
The President should be directly elected by popular vote
Because the president presides over the entire body of the American people, it is only sensible that presidents should also be determined by the majority opinion of the American people. However, because states are provided with a dramatically disproportionate number of electors for the Electoral College, the system makes it very possible for a president to be officially elected into office despite not receiving the majority of the national vote, and for another competing candidate who has received the majority of the national vote to still lose the election (Kimberling, n.d.).
This problem of a president being elected by the electoral college despite losing the national vote has occurred three times throughout the nation’s history, including Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and most recently with George W. Bush in 2000 (Steinberg, 2012). A president who has lost the majority of the national vote but who is still declared president by the Electoral College system undermines the majority vote concept of democracy, demoralizes the people’s trust regarding the legitimacy of the presidential election process, diminishes the credibility of the president, and can lead to an intense and dramatic division between the supporters of each candidate (Kimberling).
Electors ignore will of the majority
Faithless electors in the Electoral College can also enable candidates to become president of the United States despite losing the majority of the national vote. Although electors generally cast their votes for the presidential candidate chosen by their state, faithless electors instead cast their Electoral College vote for a different candidate that was not chosen by the majority vote of the state. Faithless electors often contradict the will of their state because they are excessively passionate about a competing candidate or because they want to make a symbolic and public statement regarding their political opinions (Kimberling, n.d.). Faithless electors have voted against the will of their state several times throughout the nation’s history, but the behavior has not yet influenced a presidential election (Steinberg, 2012). However, the campaigns
Regardless of the media attention Presidential Elections receive, some Electors still blatantly ignore the will of the people. Faithless electors have voted against the will of their state several times throughout the nation’s history, but the behavior has not yet influenced a presidential election (Steinberg, 2012). However, the campaigns between presidential candidates and the debates regarding the relevant political issues often become very intense and extremely contentious. Thus, although faithless electors have not yet altered the outcome of an election, the very realistic possibility of a president being elected because of faithless electors should encourage us to abolish the Electoral College system so we can prevent such a national crisis from developing (Steinberg, 2012).
Because different amounts of electors are distributed throughout the different states, the Electoral College provides a system in which the votes that people cast in certain states are mathematically more powerful, influential and meaningful than votes cast by citizens of other states. For instance, the Delaware population of 900,000 residents provides the state with three electoral votes, while the Texas population of 25 million residents equips the state with 34 electoral votes. As a result, a vote in Delaware is twice as influential as a vote in Texas, for a Delaware vote would represent 1/300,000th of an electoral vote and a vote in Texas would only represent 1/750, 000th of a vote (Steinberg, 2012). Thus, the Electoral College system undermines and contradicts the concept of democracy by preventing every vote from being mathematically equal.
Focus placed on largest states
Additionally, the distribution of electoral votes and the system of the Electoral College encourages candidates to exclusively focus their attention on only a small selection of swing states. Because the national vote is irrelevant, candidates can completely ignore states in which the outcomes of the Electoral College votes are easily predictable and very unlikely to change. This leads the candidates to only campaign for swing states in which the majority vote of the states are unpredictable and still being contested (Steinberg, 2012). Furthermore, politicians focus their energy on Super Tuesday the majority of Electoral votes those states bring into the election. If we abolish the Electoral College and instead institute a system in which the president is determined by a national vote, then candidates would be more impelled to campaign for the citizens of every US state because they would strongly desire as many votes from each state as possible.
Suppression of third-party candidates in the Electoral College
The Electoral College also poses a problem in that the system suppresses the ability of third-party candidates to be represented and to become successful. A significant flaw in the American government is that the government has established a two-party system, which dramatically limits the options available and which often requires people to vote for candidates that might not reflect their specific political opinions. However, when third-party or independent candidates run for presidential office, they might not have achieved any Electoral College votes despite receiving many votes from US citizens in various states. Thus, the Electoral College system often fails to reflect the votes for supporters of independent candidates and impairs the ability of third-party or independent candidates to obtain recognition and credibility (Kimberling, n.d.).
Understanding the pros and cons of the Electoral College
Presidents make very important decisions and implement significant policies that have dramatic consequences for the country and for the American people. As a result, the quality of the country’s election system is paramount to ensuring that the president is determined by the majority opinion of the country. However the electoral college interferes with the democratic concept of majority vote by creating a harmful potential for presidents to be elected despite not winning the majority of the national vote, by enabling faithless representatives to vote against the decision of their state, by establishing some states and some votes as more politically significant than others, and by suppressing the development of third-party candidates. The majority opinion only is reflected in the primary elections leading up to the main Presidential Election. Thus, the United States should abolish the Electoral College system and instead institute a national vote system to maximize the political power of the people and to ensure that each president is supported by a majority of the national vote.
Kimberling, W. C. (n.d.). The Pro’s and Con’s of the Electoral College System. Dave Leip’s Atlas of U.S. Presidential Elections. Retrieved September 16, 2013, from uselectionatlas.org/INFORMATION/INFORMATION/electcollege_procon.php
Mount, S. (2010, January 24). Constitutional Topic: The Electoral College – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net. Index Page – The U.S. Constitution Online – USConstitution.net. Retrieved September 16, 2013, from http://www.usconstitution.net/consttop_elec.html
Steinberg, N. (2012, October 6). Steinberg: The Pros and Cons of the Electoral CollegeVoices | Voices. Voices | Chicago Sun-Times. Retrieved September 16, 2013, from http://voices.suntimes.com/early-and-often/politics/steinberg-the-pros-and-cons-of-the-electoral-college/
U. S. Electoral College, Official – What is the Electoral College?. (n.d.). National Archives and Records Administration. Retrieved September 17, 2013, from http://www.archives.gov/federal-register/electoral-college/about.html