The Presidential Elections of 2000 have once again raised doubts regarding the effectiveness of the electoral college system. A straight accounting of the popular vote showed that Democratic candidate Al Gore had a lead of over 500,000 votes over his opponent, George W. Bush. The Supreme Court was thus forced to assume the role of electoral arbiter for Florida's vote count, which resulted in the latter's victory via Electoral College votes.
This paper argues that the scenario described above is just one of the reasons why the Electoral College should be abolished. The United States should instead adopt a popular vote system, where each citizen gets one vote.
The first part of this paper looks at the composition of the Electoral College, and studies what conditions led to this body's creation in the first place. The subsequent discussions then detail why the current political and social climate no longer necessitate the Electoral College system. First, this paper points out that concerns such as slavery and presidential independence are no longer relevant today. Second, the paper argues that many other pro-Electoral College arguments regarding state rights do not hold water. The paper then looks at the issue empirically, by investigating how the Electoral College disenfranchises the popular vote and could almost raise further complications that call for "contingent elections."
The founders of the country's Constitutional Convention have created the Electoral College system, but they most likely did not intend the problems that this cumbersome system raised. They also likely did not intend the system to be the antithesis of egalitarian institutions. This paper therefore maintains that the Electoral College should be replaced, and a more democratic system put in its place.
Origins and composition
The Electoral College system rests on the principle that states play a significant part in deciding national politics. The number of a state's electoral votes is equal to the number of its senators and representatives, with the District of Columbia being allocated three votes. This comes to a total of 538 electoral votes. To win a presidential election, a candidate thus has to carry at least half the number of electoral votes (Wilson and DiLulio 373).
The task of gaining the majority of electoral college votes is mitigated by the "all or nothing" system of counting electoral votes. Maine and Nebraska are the two exceptions, where the number of electoral votes can be split between the candidates on the basis of their popular vote totals. In all other states, however, the candidate who wins a simple majority of the popular votes is awarded all the state's electoral votes as well (Wilson and DiLulio 373).
It is this "winner take all" system of counting electoral votes that allows a candidate to win the presidency even without winning the popular vote. This is one of the greatest criticisms lobbed against this institution.
The Electoral College was founded on the antithesis to democratic institutions. In essence, it allowed for certain knowledgeable individuals to meet in isolation in their respective states. Ideally, these men (as women were not allowed to participate in the eighteenth century) would make decisions for the good of their community.
Apologists for the Electoral College argue that these limitations were necessary, because founding fathers were largely skeptical of the critical faculties of voters. These reasons were particularly relevant during times of slavery, as an effective way of further disenfranchising minority populations.
However, critics like George Edwards argues that the factors that gave rise to the electoral college. Slavery has long been abolished, and most of the voters are literate. People are aware of the importance of education themselves about the issues of an election. Edwards further notes that the abolition of slavery has lessened the chance of destructive conflict between the different states (Edwards 78).
Another compelling reason often put forth by Electoral College supporters is the issue of state rights. Authors like Bernard Grofman and Scott Feld reported that states rights activists were worried that smaller states would be unfairly looked over in a popular vote (1). By allotting these states set electoral votes, the system therefore guards against the possibility that larger states impose their will over states with smaller…