The Electoral College

The 2012 election ended earlier this week and anyone who watched live coverage repeatedly listened to the comparison between the Electoral College vote and the popular vote.  The way the media was portraying it early in the night, the “nations” will could be overturned by the Electoral College. Fortunately, one candidate eventually took the lead in both categories ending this line of conversation. However, is what the media was saying really true? The answer is a resounding NO. The only way you could think that is if you do not understand the system at all. Apparently that is common in the media.

So what is the Electoral College? What is its purpose? Why is our election system not based on national popular vote? The answer to all of these questions are intertwined. To begin answering this question I must give some background information that reaches back to our founding fathers. First off, the popular vote IS how the President is elected. It is just by STATE level instead of the National level. Why is that you ask?

Before the Civil War is was common to hear the phrase “these United States.” This occurred because theoretically the United States is a collection of Independent and Sovereign states that are each its own nation. After the war the phrase “the United States,” became common because when Abraham Lincoln attacked the states that seceded, it set the belief that States could not leave the Union. Regardless of that development, the States are still the ones who elect the leader of the Union instead of the individual person.

The Electoral college is a compromise between Small and Large states. If each state only got two votes it would proportionally make the small states much more powerful. The only compromise that made sense was a system that reflected that states population. California has the most population by far, and the most electoral votes, but in a direct vote instead of the Electoral College its population would actually have a larger impact on the vote. In fact, in a direct vote the states of California, Texas, Florida, New York, and a couple of other large states could override the rest of the nation. The Electoral College, which still gives them large numbers, actually blunts the blow and allows small states to have some say.  This also illustrates why the EC still is relevant. States like Maine or Montana, which have small populations and different motivations according to exit polls, get to voice their say in this system. In a direct vote their votes would just blend in with all of the rest of them.

So is the Electoral College as stupid and worthless as the media likes to portray it? NO. If you haven’t noticed by now it bothers me that the media does not bother to explain the system. Most people simply do not understand that each state elects the President, which is to say that they do not understand the Electoral College at all, because it is simply impossible without knowing that fact. Do not get me wrong, I would like to see a few modifications myself. I am partial to the system in place in Maine and Nebraska which divides the states Electoral College votes by Representative districts. For example, in Kentucky this would most likely have given Obama one vote because of how liberal the City of Louisville is instead of making it irrelevant. I would strongly support that rule being spread to all 50 states.

Will the Electoral College ever go away? I really doubt it. I say that because people who are in power in this nation do understand the system and its benefits, even if most normal people seem to have little to no understanding of the Electoral College. Please, media, do your research before the next election and stop misleading American Citizens.


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