The role of the electoral college in the election process

The Role of the Electoral College By: Even so this system has endured as the only mechanism in producing a presidential victor for the last two hundred years. The Electoral College uses a system of points electoral votes that are counted state by state. Political parties choose electors in each state to represent their presidential candidate.

The role of the electoral college in the election process

Opponents lambast the Electoral College as undemocratic because the indirect nature of elections renders the popular vote irrelevant, while its supporters laud the fact that the system forces political parties to have broad national support and produces clearer outcomes than a pure popular vote system.

Ultimately, the Electoral College is an antiquated system that has far outlived its necessity and should be replaced.

The Electoral College, conceived as a compromise between the Federalists and Anti-Federalists at the Constitutional Convention ofconsists of electors that cast votes for the president of the United States on behalf of the people.

Electoral votes are allocated to states by adding together the number of seats a state has in both the Senate and House of Representatives; today, total electoral votes make up the Electoral College. To win a presidential election, a candidate must receive a majority,of the electoral votes, regardless of whether or not he or she wins a plurality of the popular vote.

If no candidate wins a majority of electors, the decision falls into the hands of the House of Representatives. Not all electors are legally required to vote based on how their state votes. In fact, individual electors have done so on different occasionsthough 71 of those occasions can be attributed to the and elections when a candidate or his running mate died after the popular vote had taken place, but before electors officially cast their ballots.

First, the structure of the Electoral College alters the way candidates campaign. Because general elections center on winning states, not necessarily the most votes, candidates have an incentive to spend most of their resources on the contentious swing states, leaving safe states by the wayside.

Despite the fact that the two largest states in the nation, California and Texas, account for approximately 20 percent of the electorate, neither major party has the incentive to campaign in those states because each has a strong affiliation with one of the two major parties.

Likewise, no Democrat would waste his or her time and resources campaigning in Texas because of its strong ties to the Republican Party. Proponents of the Electoral College would argue that the system produces a clear, indisputable victor more often than a popular vote format would because a candidate must surpass the threshold of electoral votes to reach the White House, whereas a small margin of difference between two candidates in a popular vote scenario might be grounds for nationwide recounts that would prolong the election cycle and destabilize the country.

The presidential election provides an instance where the popular vote declared a winner with a relatively clear margin of victory, but the Electoral College produced a different outcome.

Table of Contents

Despite the fact that 51 percent of voters wanted Samuel J. Tilden to lead the country, the system elected Rutherford B. Hayes with a margin of one electoral vote. Instead, the Electoral College created a scenario that precipitated a protracted and heavily partisan political battle.

In all three of the aforementioned examples, the Electoral College elected a different candidate than did the people.

That the people should have a direct say in who leads their country and enforces the laws is the central tenet of representative democracy; a system that can defy the will of the people undermines that tenet and threatens democracy writ large. The third major issue with the Electoral College lies in its perpetuation of the two-party system, something that a majority of Americans seem to want to do away with but cannot escape.

Independent candidates and third parties cannot adequately compete with the two major parties because of the winner-take-all nature of the Electoral College. Because of this, no viable alternative to the Republican and Democratic duopoly can establish itself in American politics. The crowd-out effect on third parties under the Electoral College could manifest itself in the presidential election.

The role of the electoral college in the election process

Recent polls have presumptive Libertarian nominee, Gary Johnson, polling at 11 percent in a hypothetical matchup between current Democratic frontrunner, Hillary Clinton, and current Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump. Because Clinton and Trump both have low favorability ratingsmany voters are seeking a more favorable alternative.

However, with the structure of the Electoral College, Johnson would struggle to win a single electoral vote, even if he manages to capture one-ninth of the national popular vote. Rather than establish the Libertarian Party as a viable alternative to both major parties that a majority of people crave, this election will likely result in more of the same, reinforcing the two-party system.

Some advocates of the Electoral College have argued that the system requires both a candidate and his or her political party to have broad national support. A regional favorite — like a Republican in the South or a Democrat in the Northeast — has zero reason to campaign a region where he or she can expect to win.

While this argument that no single region has the power to elect a candidate is correct, a candidate does not need to win every region in the country to win an election. Electoral College Results inPhoto Credit: The primary reason it has yet to be replaced is lack of political will.

For Democrats, the relatively recent memory of the election still stings, but as it stands, the political map strongly favors the party. While the choice to scrap the system entirely and replace it with a popular vote format would be the simplest alternative, it would require an enormous amount of political will to achieve.

The closest the country came to abandoning the Electoral College for a popular vote format was when the Bayh-Celler Amendment was proposed during the 91st Congress between andbut the amendment died in the Senate before the states could ratify it.

While tempting at first glance, this would afford Republicans an enormous electoral advantage. If successful, NPV would render the Electoral College obsolete, as a majority of electors would always end up electing the candidate that wins a plurality of the popular vote.

Ten states plus D. The main roadblock to actualizing the NPV is that no foreseeable path to getting the requisite number of states on board currently exists. Other Democratic-leaning states could be poised to sign on, but none have the electoral votes to make much progress toward reaching a majority e.

Swing states that receive plenty of campaign attention each election cycle would not have the incentive to sign on to the compact because it would require forfeiting their crucial role in elections. Von Spakovsky argues that the electoral makeup of safe states under the Electoral College deters voter fraud because members of the minority party in a safe state know that, in spite of attempts to stuff voting boxes, their state will invariably elect the candidate of the opposite party.

In a non-state-centric national election, however, von Spakovsky believes that such a deterrent would disappear, unleashing a wave of voter fraud.Nevertheless, proponents of the Electoral College state that it is a proven workable system, it discourages election fraud, and it preserves the two party system.

If the electoral voting process creates a tie, the Constitution provides for the vote to be moved to the House of Representatives/5(1). Options for Electoral College Reform The recent presidential election has re-raised the question of electoral college reform, since the presumptive winner of the electoral college lost the popular vote, like Benjamin Harrison did in The election of President and Vice President of the United States is an indirect election in which citizens of the United States who are registered to vote in one of the 50 U.S.

states or in Washington, D.C. cast ballots not directly for those offices, but instead for members of the U.S. Electoral College, known as electors. The Electoral College can also produce contentious elections with disputed results. Most recently, and perhaps most controversially, Democratic presidential candidate Al Gore received over , more votes than the Republican candidate, George W.

Bush, in the presidential election, but lost the electoral vote, to , with one elector from D.C. abstaining. Is the Electoral College anti-democratic? Some would say yes. After all, the presidential candidate with the most popular votes has nevertheless lost the election at least three times, including Pick up a newspaper and read about the Electoral College.

It is a sure recipe for losing respect for the institution. Media commentators are swift to dismiss the institution as outdated and elitist, an anachronism that should be replaced by a direct popular vote.

How the Electoral College Works | HowStuffWorks