Concerns With The Electoral College
Many observers believe the Electoral College introduces complications and potential problems into our political system. Several of these concerns are:

Grossly unequal distribution of campaign resources

ad buys

How much is your vote worth?

(based on candidate ad spending Sept. 26 - Nov. 2)


Votes Cast TV Ad Budget $/vote
New Mexico 756,304 8,096,270 $10.71
Nevada 829,587 8,596,795 $10.36
Florida 7,609,810 64,280,557 $8.45
Ohio 5,627,908 47,258,086 $8.40
New Hampshire 677,738 4,608,200 $6.80
Pennsylvania 5,769,590 36,813,492 $6.38
Iowa 1,506,908 9,412,462 $6.25
Wisconsin 2,997,007 14,468,062 $4.83
Minnesota 2,828,387 10,734,683 $3.80
Colorado 2,130,330 7,015,486 $3.29
Maine 740,752 2,171,101 $2.93
West Virginia 755,887 2,213,110 $2.93
Michigan 4,839,252 13,518,566 $2.79
Oregon 1,836,782 2,280,367 $1.24
Hawaii 429,013 388,095 $0.90
Missouri 2,731,364 2,361,944 $0.86
Arkansas 1,054,945 485,305 $0.46
Washington 2,859,084 1,198,882 $0.42
Oklahoma 1,463,758 235,485 $0.16
Tennessee 2,437,319 356,774 $0.15
D. C. 227,586 33,311 $0.15
North Carolina 3,501,007 431,899 $0.12
Louisiana 1,943,106 203,093 $0.10
Arizona 2,012,585 104,186 $0.05
Alabama 1,883,449 87,424 $0.05
South Carolina 1,617,730 38,852 $0.02
New York 7,391,036 33,037 $0.00
Texas 7,410,765 127 $0.00
Alaska 312,598 0 $0.00
California 12,419,857 0 $0.00
Connecticut 1,578,769 0 $0.00
Delaware 375,190 0 $0.00
Georgia 3,301,875 0 $0.00
Idaho 598,447 0 $0.00
Illinois 5,274,322 0 $0.00
Indiana 2,468,002 0 $0.00
Kansas 1,187,756 0 $0.00
Kentucky 1,795,860 0 $0.00
Maryland 2,386,678 0 $0.00
Massachusetts 2,912,388 0 $0.00
Mississippi 1,152,149 0 $0.00
Montana 450,445 0 $0.00
Nebraska 778,186 0 $0.00
New Jersey 3,611,691 0 $0.00
North Dakota 312,833 0 $0.00
Rhode Island 437,134 0 $0.00
South Dakota 388,215 0 $0.00
Utah 927,844 0 $0.00
Vermont 312,309 0 $0.00
Virginia 3,198,367 0 $0.00
Wyoming 243,428 0 $0.00
Total 122,293,332 237,425,651 $1.94

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Unequal voting power depending on where you live

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 completely ignore small states and only focus on big population centers.

Ironically, there is a study that concludes that larger states are actually at an advantage in the Electoral College. Because almost all states give all their electors to whichever candidate wins the most votes within that state, candidates must win whole states in order to win the presidency. Naturally, candidates tend to concentrate resources on the largest payoffs, the states which can provide the greatest number 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.

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The winner-take-all method of distributing electoral votes

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 all but two states allocate their votes via a winner-take-all method, there is no reason for a candidate to campaign in a state that clearly favors one candidate.  As an example, Democratic candidates have little incentive to spend time in solidly Republican states, like Texas, even if many Democrats live there. Conversely, Republican candidates have little incentive to campaign in solidly Democratic states, like Massachusetts, especially when they know that states like Florida and Michigan are toss-ups.

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.

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Unbound electors

In 21 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 for discrepancies 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 from making "uneducated" decisions. The founders feared uneducated public opinion and designed the Electoral College as a layer of insulation from the direct voice of the masses.

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 people.

Since the founding of the Electoral College, 157 electors have not cast their votes for the candidates they were designated to represent.

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House of Representatives can choose the president

If no 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 prefer.

If the 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.

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Enforcement of a two-party system

Because of 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 “spoilers.”

Since most 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).

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Presidency can be won without a majority of the popular vote

As the 2000 election demonstrated, it is possible for a President to be elected without winning the popular vote. Nor was the Bush/Gore election the first time a presidential candidate has won the presidency while someone else claimed a plurality of the votes cast. Andrew Jackson and Samuel Tilden won the popular vote in 1824 and 1876 respectively, only to see someone else walk into the White House.

An even more common occurrence is for a presidential candidate to win both the presidency and the popular vote without actually winning a majority of all ballots cast. 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 against the candidate who was elected.

With 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 Contents

April 17th 2009
In our view, April 17: Equal Voting

Editorial in the Columbian in favor of the national popular vote plan, which is likely to be passed into law soon in the state of Washington.

February 5th 2009
Push continues to defeat Electoral College
Associated Press

Associated Press wire story on National Popular Vote moving in Vermont features FairVote analysis

January 20th 2009
Initiative could make elections more fair
The Columbia Tribune

Missouri ally of the National Popular Vote plan writes oped in local paper.

January 10th 2009
Abolish the Electoral College
Sarasota Herald Tribune

Editorial strongly in favor of a national popular vote for president via constitutional amendment or the 'compelling' National Popular Vote plan.

December 22nd 2008
Time to eliminate Electoral College?

Editorial supports a national popular vote for president, citing FairVote's research.

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