The Error of the Electoral Collegiophiles
George F. Will recently asserted that the electoral college, like the constitution, "was not devised by, and should not be revised by, simple-minded majoritarians." Indeed, the electoral college was a brilliant 18th century solution to clusters of 18th century problems.There were three good reasons that the constitutional convention rejected the idea of direct elections for the presidency. First off, there was no method of communication that could sufficiently educate voters about presidential candidates. Secondly, our framers worried that the masses had neither the education, nor the refinement required to make prudent decisions. Thirdly, the implementation of national elections would have upset the balance of power among states. For example, direct presidential elections would cause the south to lose most of its political power. Under the electoral college, slaves couldn't vote, but could be still counted as 3/5 man when deciding the number of Representatives and electors for states.Obviously, the 18th century argument no longer applies in our era of telecommunications and universal suffrage. The only other argument heard from the electoral-collegiophiles is essentially Burkean. So the argument goes, changing the rules for electing presidents would shift entire political "solar system" in ways hard to foresee. With candidates concentrating on votes instead of states, campaign strategies might change for the worse. In otherwords, it assumes that the old is better by the simple fact that its old. I for one don't wake up in cold sweats after nightmares in which the American public, not the electoral college, elected our president. So why abolish the electoral college? Here are three good reasons: First off, the electoral college operates under a winner-take-all method: a state's majority, no matter how thin, gets all of the state's electors. This causes millions of votes to be effectively uncountedSecondly, the electoral college discourages millions of Americans from voting. If a voter supports a red candidate in a blue state, they will probably not waste their time voting. Moreover, states have no incentive to increase voter turnout. A state's delegates cast the same number of electoral votes no matter how many people actually vote.Finally, the electoral college favors voters from rural states over voters from populous states. Electoral votes are not allocated according to population. Below is the number of electoral votes given to every million people by state:
Americans should ask themselves why a vote in Wyoming should count three times more than a vote in Michigan. Furthermore, it bears noting that no other democracy has a body that is similar to the electoral college. And just think: if we abolish the electoral college we will never hear about Ohio, swing voters, or blue and red states again. That alone would be worth the effort.
- Wyoming: 13.4 electoral votes/million people
- North Dakota: 10.4 electoral votes/million people
- Michigan: 4.2 electoral votes/million people
- Illinois: 4.6 electoral votes/million people