The debate already is rising across the nation: Is it time to shake up the Electoral College?
Hundreds of news stories from NPR to newspapers are raising questions under headlines such as: “Is the Electoral College antiquated?” “Tampering with the Electoral College,” and one recent Washington Post commentary headlined “Leave Bad Enough Alone.”
Debates about our system of indirect election have arisen since the beginning when it was prescribed in the U.S. Constitution, as we will discuss in our series this week.
Today, I’d like to ask this fundamental question: Would you rather have the president elected by popular vote—that is, elected directly by the American people—or do you prefer the current indirect system, where voters elect electors who formally cast the vote?
Under the current system, the candidate who gets the most votes nationwide is not always the winner. This has happened three times so far: 1876, 1888, and 2000. The winners were all Republicans: Rutherford Hayes, Benjamin Harrison and George W. Bush. In each case, the winner received more electoral votes than his opponent, though the opponents received more votes cast by citizens. In the latest instance, many Democrats felt Bush “stole” the election, while many Republicans renewed their faith in the wisdom of the founding fathers to avoid direct democracy.
Almost every state operates with a winner-takes-all system. This means that the candidate with the most popular votes gets all electoral votes. All but two states—Maine and Nebraska—use this method. Maine and Nebraska use the Congressional District Method. This means that a candidate gets electoral votes proportionately, based on the popular vote in each state congressional district.
Today, there’s a proposal to use this proportional method in Pennsylvania. If it had been used in 2008, McCain would have received 11 electoral votes to Obama’s 10—even though Obama won the statewide popular vote by 10 points. Republicans who favor the change say it’s a fairer system; opponents say it’s just a Republican political ploy meant to get their candidate in office in 2012.
But the Pennsylvanian proposal still retains the Electoral College system.
Is it time to do away with the Electoral College altogether?
Do you prefer abolishing the Electoral College in favor of direct voting?
Or, do you think it’s better to stay with our system of indirect elections?
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.