Writing in today’s Tennessean, a letter writer argues we should abolish the Electoral College. The writer explained that when we vote for president, that we are actually voting for electors who then vote for president. The letter writer opposes the Electoral College but never does explain why we have an Electoral College.
The United States is not a popular democracy but a representative democracy and a republic. The Constitution was designed to be a mixture of state-based and population-based representation. The Electoral College is part of the compromise that made adoption of the Constitution possible. It is part of the fabric that makes us a republic. Without the Electoral College system, a candidate for President could be elected President by appealing only to the interest of the largest urban areas and the rest of the country could be ignored.
The Electoral College is comprised of representatives from each state and each state gets a number of electors equal to their number of Senators and Representatives. Thus, not each person’s vote for president is equal. A vote of a person from a small state counts almost twice as much as the vote of a person from a large state. If this seems unfair, then you should surely be for abolishing the U.S. Senate and being governed just by the House of Representatives alone. In the Senate, each state gets two senators regardless of how small or how large the population of the state. In the House there is a representative for about each 734,000 people. Several states have such low population they only have one representative, yet they have two Senators. If you live in a state with low population, your Senate representation is about fifty times greater than if you live in a state with a large population. Is that fair? To my way of thinking it is because I accept that our federal government is designed to represent the interest of the people as individuals and the states that comprise the Union.
As a less philosophical reason but a more practical reason for supporting the Electoral College, consider what would have happened without the Electoral College during the ballot recount of 2010 in the contest between Gore and Bush? If the president were elected by a popular vote, then every vote cast anywhere in the country would have been equal to any other vote in the country and every vote cast anywhere would have had to have the same scrutiny as the votes cast in Florida. Think what a job and nightmare that would have been.