Concerns With The
observers believe the Electoral
College introduces complications and potential problems into our political
system. Several of these concerns are:
Disproportionate Voting Power Given to Different
The Winner-Take-All Method of
Distributing Electoral Votes
House of Representatives
Can Choose the President
Enforcement of a Two Party System
Presidency Can Be Won Without a Majority of the
Power Given to the States
The Electoral College gives disproportionate
voting power to the states, favoring the smaller states with
more Electoral votes per person.
For instance, each individual
vote in Wyoming counts nearly four times as much in the Electoral
College as each individual vote in Texas. This is because Wyoming
has 3 Electoral votes for a population of 493,782 and Texas has 32 Electoral
votes for a population of over 20 million people. By dividing the
population by Electoral votes, we can
see that Wyoming has an "Elector" for every 165,000 people and Texas has
an "Elector" for every 652,000 people.
The small states were given
additional power to prevent politicians from only focusing on issues
which affect the larger states. The fear was that without this
power, politicians would only focus on the big states and major
Ironically enough though, there is a study
that concludes that larger states are actually at an advantage in
the Electoral College. Larger states are said to be at an
advantage themselves because of a greater voting potential. To
explain voting potential, imagine a hypothetical situation in which
to candidates are exactly tied in a state and there is a single
voter left. When that last voter casts his/her vote, it has
the potential to decide the winner in his/her state and the
allocation of a huge mass of electoral votes.
For a history of the development
of the Electoral College, see William C. Kimberling's essay, A
Brief History of the Electoral College
. Kimberling is the Deputy Director of the FEC's Office of
Election Administration. This document provides a historical interpretation of the Electoral College.
The Winner-Take-All Method of Distributing
The Electoral College favors the
smaller states with disproportionate voting power. Advocates of the
system say that this uneven power forces politicians to pay
attention to smaller states, which would otherwise be ignored.
Despite its intentions, the Electoral
College does not encourage politicians to campaign in every state.
Some states are still excluded from the
campaign; these are not necessarily the small states, but rather they
are the states that are not viewed as competitive.
Since the Electoral College
allocates each state’s votes (except Maine and Nebraska) in a
winner-take-all method, there is no reason for a candidate to
campaign in a state that already favors them or their opponent.
As an example, Democratic
candidates have little incentive to spend time in solidly
Republican states, like Texas, even if many Democrats live there.
candidates have little incentive to campaign in solidly Democratic states, like
Massachusetts, especially when they know that states like Florida and Michigan are
The winner-take-all rule also
leads to lower voter turnout in states where one party
is dominant, because each individual vote will be overwhelmed by the majority
and will not, in effect, "count" if the winner takes
all the electoral votes.
states, electors are not obligated by law to vote for the candidate
for whom they were selected.
In the 29 states where electors
are obligated by law or pledge, they can often still vote against
their party without being replaced. Some states issue only minimal
fines as punishment. Other states instigate criminal charges varying
from a simple misdemeanor to a 4th degree felony.
This inconsistency allows
in our electoral system.
The Electors from nearly half the states can vote however they wish,
regardless of the popular will of the state.
In the founding of our nation,
the Electoral College was established to prevent the people
making "uneducated" decisions. The founders
feared the easily-swayed opinions of the public and designed the Electoral
College as a protection from the easily-swayed public.
There is no reason, in this modern day, to
assign this responsibility to a set of individual Electors. Thousands of
votes can and have been violated by an
individual Elector, choosing to act on his or her
own behalf instead of on the behalf of the
Since the founding of the
Electoral College, 156
have not cast their votes for the
candidates they were designated to represent.
House of Representatives Can Choose the President
happen that a third party or independent candidate receives the
Electoral votes for an entire state or two candidates tie with 269
votes each. In these situations, the people of the United States
lose the ability to select their president.
candidate receives a majority of the Electoral votes, the
Presidential vote is deferred to the House of Representatives and
the Vice Presidential vote is deferred to the Senate. This could
easily lead to a purely partisan battle, instead of an attempt
to discover which candidate the citizens really preferred.
Senate and the House of Representative reflect different majorities,
meaning that they select members of opposing parties, the offices of
President and Vice President could be greatly damaged. This
potential opposition in the Presidential office would not be good
for the stability of the country or the government.
In fact, our nation used to award the Vice Presidency
to the Presidential candidate with the 2nd most votes. This practice
was discontinued in 1804 when the government realized that having
a President and Vice President with different political
opinions created governance problems and could serve as a
possible reason for toppling a President, thus giving another party
control of the White House.
Enforcement of a Two Party System
our two-party system, voters often find themselves voting for the
"lesser of two evils," rather than a candidate they really
feel would do the best job. The
Electoral College inadvertently reinforces this two party system,
where third parties cannot enter the race without being tagged as
states distribute their Electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis,
a smaller party has no chance to gain support without seeming to
take this support from one of the major parties.
Few people will support a party that never wins,
especially when they are supporting that party at the possible
expense of their least favorite candidate taking power (as happened
to Nader/Gore supporters in 2000 and Perot/Bush supporters in 1992).
Presidency Can Be Won
Without a Majority of the Popular Vote
Since the Electoral College
excludes candidates who do not win pluralities in any
individual states from its total, a candidate can win the Electoral College
without winning a majority of the popular vote of the
This has happened 16 times since
the founding of the Electoral College, most recently in 2000. In
every one of these elections, more than half of the voters voted
the candidate who was elected.
such a winner-take-all system, it is impossible to tell which
candidate the people really prefer, especially in a close race.
Electoral College Table of