10 Oct 2022


The Electoral College: One Person, Two Votes in Some States

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The complexity of American politics has rendered the officials elected to feature a relatively subversive coalition rather than the interests of the popular vote. This quagmire stems from the mode of election, in which the United States is presented as democratic, while in the true sense it is not liberal. Among its electoral practices is the Electoral College, which purports itself as representing the view of the entire political landscape while in the true sense suffocates democracy. It does not represent the actual view of the people, but elevates the political elites interests and destroys the meaning of a government of the people, by the people and for the people, as per Abraham Lincoln speech at Gettysburg. This paper contends the polarization of nearly all American political systems in numerous ways that primarily, do not represent the interests of voters and the democracy or national consensus of its people. For better or for worse, American states decide on the bearing of two opposing coalitions, and in the end, the victor represents the governing systems instead of its citizens.

The Electoral College 

To comprehend the Electoral College, it is important to look at its origins. The reason for its formation was one that stemmed from the fact that the founding fathers wanted to solve the issue of a diverse country spread across numerous states that represented a significant number of people. In addition, at that time, the thirteen colonies felt jealous of their powers and were eerily suspicious of any formation of a national government. Also at that point, the country was vast and not properly connected, and the Founding Fathers felt that the possibility of a national campaign was impractical even though desirable. They also had a political policy that the office should seek the man and not the other way round, which meant that they did not believe in political campaigns at all.

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Hence, the Electoral College came to be by decree of the constitutional convention, which devised several methods of presidential selections. An option was floated to have the Congress elect a president; however, it was overruled because, among the members, some felt that the choice represented a decisiveness that would lead to hard feelings among members of the Congress and would lead to corruption, political bargaining, and foreign nation interference. The second idea, which was to allow the state legislature selection powers of the president. The idea faced rejection because it would allow the erosion of the federal power and consequently undermine the concept of a federation. Thirdly, was the notion of electing the president by popular vote. Notably, this idea was also vetoed since, without enough information of candidates, voters would naturally vote for their ‘favorite one’ that is, the candidate who had come from their state. Eventually, the aptly named “Committee of Eleven” came up with an indirect presidential election by means of an electoral college.

A brief history traces the way the Electoral College is structured to the Centurial Assembly System that was used in the Roman Republic. It is important to note that under this system, there was a division of all the male inhabitants of Rome with respect to their wealth. These divisions formed groups of 100 termed Centuries and each group entitled to one vote which was cast either in favor for or against the Roman state proposals. This system is interestingly similar to the Electoral College in that the states symbolize the Centurial groups; while each state’s Congressional delegation determines the number of votes. The Electoral College has evolved over time. Assorted federal and state changes have happened since the 12 th Amendment of the Constitution. The issues handled include the manner and time of choosing electors.

Current workings of the Electoral College 

Many people hear of the Electoral College and think it is a place. This notion is false; the Electoral College comprises of a delicate process that represents a compromise between presidential election by popular vote or by the Congress. The process, therefore, mimics the form whereby the people vote for electors, then the electors vote for President. Critical to note is that the National Archives, which is a federal government agency, is mandated to supervise the whole process. There is an allocation of two electors in every state equal to the number of senators. In addition to the electors, there is the number of representatives who rely on population census. A good example is the populous California state that has 55 electors, while a state like North Dakota has two to three. The Selection process is different in every state; during the party conventions, electors may be nominated by the state political party leaders. Consequently, during the general election, voters in each state choose according to the pledges for a presidential candidate, the electors. As at now, the electoral college constitutes 538 electors, that is, one elector for the 435 members of house assembly plus the 100 senators and three for Washington, D.C., and a majority of the electoral votes, roughly above 270 votes accounts for the president and vice president-elect.

Following a strict procedure, the Electoral College determines the president-elect. There is the maintenance of the balance between the executive and the legislature through barring the members of Congress and federal government employees from participating as electors. When the primaries and caucuses are over, the major parties present their nominated candidates for president and vice president to the chief election official of the state for their names to appear on the election ballot. In years divisible by four, on the Tuesday following the first Monday of November, people from each state vote the party electors as their representatives for vice president and president. Notably, the party that wins the most popular vote takes the mantle of becoming the elector for the state. This produces the eventual turnout that the presidential ticket who receives the popular vote in a particular state subsequently wins all electors in that state. According to the federal law, the Monday that follows the second Wednesday of the month of December, every state elector assembles in his or her state capital and casts their vote, one for vice president and one for president.

To discourage biases, one of their votes has to be for a candidate who is not of their home state. After this, the votes are sealed submitted to the president of each state, who in turn opens them and reads them before the houses of Congress. In the event that the presidential candidates do not obtain the undisputed majority of electoral votes, the House of Representatives takes the mantle and selects the president from the top contenders. Similarly, in the event that the House of Representatives fails to elect a candidate, then the U.S. Senate selects the president between the two remaining candidates. This clearly shows that the presidential election in the U.S. is not entirely up to a democratic process. Although elections are in every stage, there is a deficit in the representation of the entire population.

Electoral College Myths 

Pro-government citizens are under the delusion that this system is right and that it is an accurate representation of democracy. They believe in myths that dissuade them from the truth of democracy, its meaning and applicability. One such myth is the one that openly states that the electors represent the passion of the people. This is obviously false in every sense possible. To make the matter worse is that young people are the ones who believe in this outright lie. On first learning about the Electoral College, students in Universities defend the system citing that the authentic purpose of it is to provide a kind of check in the event that the population makes a poor choice for president. A learned person should know that the electors do not work as independent agents or under the influence of the legislature, party leaders in conventions choose them, consequently making the sole interest of the elector that of the party they represent. This in effect negates the basis of the whole process to serve the citizens; rather, it serves a particular political agenda.

Another myth is the ignoring of rural areas. A while back in the year 2000, several conservative news outlets and websites initiated a propaganda that without the Electoral College presidential candidates would effectively ignore rural areas and concentrate on campaigning in the major cities. In the real sense, however, one finds that through the Electoral College system, candidates spend time campaigning in the cities. This is so since most presidential candidates spend time in ten to twelve states compared to the forty to fifty states. This argument apparently propagates false reason since both popular vote and the Electoral College system do not affect its hypothesis in any meaningful way. In looking at the Electoral College workings, it is clear that the system does not create a campaign that is inclusive of the rural populations. Much of its campaign does the exact opposite, representing political supremacy and the political elite only.

Another myth is that it creates a strong mandate to lead. Support of this reason is that of the landslide win of President Ronald Reagan in the election of 1980. Reagan won with a landslide victory of 51 percent in the popular vote and 91 percent in the electoral one. This ensured his power to influence the Congress to approve most of his agenda. Although this is the case, in the election of President Donald Trump in 2016, he did not win the popular vote but won the electoral vote, consequently undermining his mandate to lead. This is so since the New York City Major announced in a statement widely viewed as an affirmation, that Trump’s electoral win gave him the mandate to govern.

Reasons for Reform and Abolishment Proposals of the Electoral College 

As stated earlier, the matters that easily vexed the constitutional convention in the early days of the nation also weighed heavily on the shoulders of the Philadelphia Convention of 1787. The manner of the election of the president is a thorny issue in a country with fifty states spanning a wide area of outright variation in geography, its people and color. On this occasion, the basic form of the Electoral College became an emphasis, and other provisions received enactment, particularly, the election of the chief executive. This system, generated in the overall faith that is, will carefully balance the compromise that reconciled differing states and interests pertaining to the federal rule and preserves the presidential office as being independent of the Congress has failed democracy. It provides a circumspective limitation to the degree of popular election participation. I reiterate that in the general elections, the people who vote cast their ballots, not for the candidate in whom is their choice, but for the electors, who in turn vote for them.

Political reformers are the frequent criticizers of the Electoral College. Their arguments are quite valid and more often symbolize popular opinion. Several points arise on the case against this electoral institution. The largest consensus that is usually reached is that this institution is undemocratic since it sometimes leads to the election of a president and vice president with fewer popular votes than their opponents do. A good case in point being the election of Donald Trump in 2016. The occurrence of such case is not once, but on 16 occasions, a candidate has won the presidency through an electoral majority while attaining less than 50% of the popular vote. Another case for its undemocratic nature is that this electoral institution weighs the votes of Americans, placing some as being of more value than others are. This is so because the smallest states have a high ratio of electors compared to its population.

The winner-take-all feature that is largely superimposed on this system by states tends to elevate the significance of voters in areas where there is a large population. This problem manifests in the sense that a candidate who takes the state of California by one popular vote, for example, receives 54 electoral votes, and the one who takes Delaware gets only three. Consequently, this makes candidates constraint their time in less popular areas and tailor their platform in more favored places. Ultimately, this leads to the marginalization of groups of people and the effective misinterpretation of their views. In addition, among the reform appeal is the unaccountability of the electors. Most electors are anonymous people, not the envisioned figures the founding fathers thought about when they founded the Electoral College. Inasmuch as they are chosen by the parties in order for them to elect certain leaders, they on occasion decide not to do so, thereby failing the overall political agenda and leaving a concern for integrity on the part of the electoral college system.

The depression of voter turnout is one reason that begs the abolishment of this kind of system. The argument being that in every state the same number of electoral votes is already pre-established regardless of the voter turnout and there is little to no incentives that motivate voter turnout in the states. The funny thing is that on occasions, there may even be discouragement in participation especially in the south. The reason for this is so that a minority of citizens will now decide the electoral vote for the entire state. Although this argument is far-fetched since states also carry out other election activities, in a hypothetical case, one may find that without the Electoral College, the voter turnout is likely to increase .

Initial proposals to reform the Electoral College were put forward in the early 1800s, and more than 150 years later, such plans advanced to a number higher than the 600 mark. One of the first major proposals was that of the automatic plan. The pioneers of this reform aimed at abolishing the office of the elector, award electoral votes to the statewide popular winner and eliminate the recurring phenomenon of a faithless elector. The second robust proposal was that of the proportional plan. This plan proposed the likewise abolishment of the office of elector. The idea proposed the split of each state’s electoral vote among candidates in relation to the overall percentage of the popular vote. Inasmuch as such ideas geared their argument toward changing the Electoral College to enable popular vote, such proposals failed to take root due to various demerits that rendered them inapplicable.

The above scenarios, arguments, explanations and proposals clearly show a dysfunctional system. The Electoral College is flawed in many ways, the major one being that it gives more power to people in swing states instead of representing the majority of the citizens. There are numerous ways to mitigate the problem yet the Republican Party and its Presidential candidates are using this system to their advantage. Currently, the Republican-controlled Congress is unlikely to see any change in the coming years.


American National Government., The American Electoral College: Origins, Development, Proposal For Reform Or Abolution. Kentucky, 1979.

Arrington, Theodore, and Arrington Brenner. "Should The Electoral College Be Replaced By The Direct Election Of The President? A Debate". American Political Science Association 17, no. 2 (2012): 237-250.

Boylan, Thomas. "Boylan Timothy “A Constitutional Defense Of The Electoral College And The Election Of The American President”". The Open Political Science Journal 1 (2008): 50-58.

Goldstein, Joel. "Electoral College Is It A Dinosaur That Should Be Abolished Or A Last Bastion Of Democracy?". American Bar Association 20, no. 3 (2013): 34-36.

Grofman, Bernard, and Scott Feld. "Thinking About The Political Impacts Of The Electoral College". Public Choice 123 (2008): 1-18.

Kimberling, William. THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE. Ebook. 1st ed., 1992. Accessed March 29, 2017. http://www.fec.gov/pdf/eleccoll.pdf .

Kimberling, William. "The Electoral College - Pros And Cons". Uselectionatlas.Org. Last modified 2017. Accessed March 29, 2017. http://uselectionatlas.org/INFORMATION/INFORMATION/electcollege_procon.php .

Morley, Felix. "Democracy And The Electoral College". Paradoxes and proposed reforms (2013): 373-388.

Poole, Keith, and Howard Rosenthal. "The Polarization Of American Politics". The Journal of Politics 46, no. 4 (2003): 1061-1079.

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