America Asks About Politics

Getting rid of the Electoral College?

NsyncOdyssey2002@..., a user from, asked this question on 11/13/2001:

There is currently a propasal in Congress for a consitutional amendment to do away with the Electoral College. The proposed amendment provides for the direct election of the President and Vice-President by the voters. The pair of candidates who recieves the greatest number of votes cast by indivdual voters would be elected- as long as they recieve at least 40% of the total votes cast. If not,there will be a run-off election between two pairs of candidates who recieved the most votes.

1)Would you support this proposed amendment?

2)Why or Why not? If you support it or don't explain why and what system do you feel is the best?

JesseGordon gave this response on 11/14/2001:

That's a reasonable and thoughtful proposal, but it will never pass Congress. Sure, I'd support it, and I'd vote for it if I were in Congress, but there's no way in the world it will ever change the Constitution. Here's why:

The Electoral system functioned in 2000 as it was intended to function -- the president is NOT supposed to be elected by the popular vote.

In particular, small states are intended to get a disproportionate vote. "Small" means small in population, like the numerous midwestern farm states and mountain states that Bush won.

Those states were intended to get more than their fair share of the vote as a "Great Compromise" between large states and small states. The large states would naturally have more power in the federal government because they were larger. So the Constitution compromised by giving the small states extra power in the Senate, by having 2 senators for every state regardless of population. Becaue the Electoral College is based on the number of senators plus the number of congressmen, it too is weighted in favor of the small states.

For example, Wyoming gets 3 votes in the Electoral College (because they have 2 senators and one Congressman). Wyoming's population is 494,000, so dividing by three, they get one Electoral vote per 164,000 people. California has 54 Electoral votes (2 senators and 52 congressmen), and a population of 34 million. That comes out to one electoral vote per 630,000 people, which means that Wyoming's people get almost 4 times as much representation as do Californians in the Electoral College.

Not fair? Maybe not from the perspective of large states, but certainly fair from the perspective of small states, which is why it was mde that way. The small states (which at the time meant South Carolina and Vermont, while the big states then were New York and Virginia) didn't want to get swallowed up by the big states.

More relevantly, the small states would NOT have joined the United States without this compromise. Today, the small states will simply NOT EVER vote to diminish their power. There are a lot of small states -- 31 states have 10 Electoral votes or less (small states), while only a dozen have 13 or more Electoral votes (big states). To amend the Constitution, you'd need to have 2/3 of the states ratify an Amendmnent -- that means you'd need 34 states to AGREE to do it. Those 31 small states simply will never agree, so it's really not an issue that will ever happen.

I come from Massachusetts, which is a "mid-size" state by my definition above (we have 12 Electoral votes). So we'd come out about even either way, which is why I can cavalierly say I'd support it, because it would not be a big issue here. In California, New York, and Texas (the three largest states), they'd benefit a lot by the proposed reform -- but they are pretty powerful anyway, and if they pushed for it, it'd feel like a "power grab" to the rest of us. And most importantly, you'd have the 62 senators from the 31 small states (that's 62% of the Senate) arguing very strongly against the proposal -- it simply cannot ever pass.

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