Argument For and
Against the Electoral College
Arguments in Favor of the EC:
- It contributes to the
political stability of the nation by encouraging a two-party system
and discouraging the proliferation of splinter parties such as those
that have plagued many European democracies. The winner-take-all
system means that minor parties get few electoral votes, so a
president who is the choice of the nation as a whole emerges.
- The Electoral College, in
recognizing a role for states in the selection of the president, reminds
us of their importance in our federal system.
- It enhances the status of
- The Electoral College
encourages more person-to-person campaigning by candidates, as they
spend time in both the big cities and smaller cities in battleground
- In close, contested
elections, recounts will usually be confined to a state or two, rather
than an across-the-country recount that might be required if we had
direct election of the president.
- The Electoral College, with
its typical winner-take-all allocation of votes, often turns a small
percentage margin of victory into one that appears much larger, thus
making the victory seem more conclusive and adding to the winner’s
- Finally, the electoral college system has worked. No election in
this century has been decided in the House of Representatives. There is
uncertainty over whether any other method would be an improvement and
that an effort to change the system could lead to the dismantling of the
in Opposition to the EC:
- Most Americans believe
that the person who receives the most votes should become president.
Direct election is seen as more consistent with democratic principles
than is the Electoral College system.
- The possibility that a
candidate who wins the most popular votes could lose in the electoral college. As is explained above, this can
happen primarily because the EC is structured to favor the small
states. (See Paradoxical
Presidential Election Outcomes for historical
- The risk of “faithless”
electors defecting from the candidate to whom they had pledged their
- If presidents were elected
by direct popular vote, they would wage a campaign and advertise all
across the nation, rather than (as they do in the Electoral College
system) concentrating almost all of their time and effort in a handful
of battleground states. The Electoral College system encourages
candidates to pander to the interests of voters in a few closely
- The possibility that voter
turnout will be depressed (due to perceived concerns regarding the
Electoral College itself and/or by the states’ winner-takes-all method).
- Finally, there is the
possibility that an election could be thrown into the House of
Representatives. In such a case each state has a single vote, which
gives the sparsely populated or small states equal weight with more
populous states such as California or New York.