OpenStudy (anonymous):

The electoral college has many weaknesses. Several reform plans have been suggested to strengthen these weaknesses. Which plan would use popular votes to decide how many electoral votes a candidate would get?

5 years ago
OpenStudy (anonymous):

You'd have to define the weaknesses, because whether are any in fact is a matter of considerable debate. For example, residents of large "blue" states like New York and California don't like the Electoral College because it is (barely) possible for the winner of the popular vote for President to not win in the Electoral College. This has actually happened about 3 times, I think, the last time in 2000. The reason is that even the smallest state has no fewer than 3 electors (representing two Senators and one Representative). Thus winning several small states can represent a smaller share of the vote than winning one big state. It becomes possible to squeak out a victory in the Electoral College, if you barely lose the popular vote, by winning more smaller states than your opponent. Let's take an extreme case: suppose candidates A and B are exactly tied in the popular vote, except that A wins 90% of the vote in Pennsylvania and B wins 51% of the vote in Montana, Wyoming, North and South Dakota, Vermont, Delaware and the District of Columbia. There are typically about 4 million votes in Pennsylvania, and the state sends 20 electors to the Electoral College. So A would have won 90% of 4 million = 3.60 million votes, and all 20 electors, while B would have won 10% pf 4 million = 0.40 million votes and zero electors. All together there are about 2 million voters in the other seven states, and all together they send 21 electors to the Electoral College (3 apiece). So A would have won 49% of 2 million = 0.98 million votes in those states, and zero electors, while B would have won 51% of 2 million = 1.02 million votes and all 21 electors. So all together A wins 4.58 million (76%) of the 6 million votes cast in these 8 states, but only 20 electors, while B wins 1.42 million (24%) of the votes cast -- but 21 electors! B wins the election, despite having received 3 million votes LESS than his opponent. This is obviously extreme, because it's pretty weird for a candidate to win overwhelmingly in a few big states but then barely lose in many small states. But it's certainly possible for a situation like this, but less drastic, to happen, and in fact it has. Whether you think this is a weakness or strength of the Electoral College depends on your point of view. People who love the idea of direct rule of the people, i.e. "progressives," and those who live in big states, think this is a weakness, because it means the guy who got the most votes, even if by only a handful, may not win. On the other hand, people who live in small states (and fear being crushed by big states controlling the Federal government), and conservatives, tend to think this is a strength of the Electoral College, because it forces candidates to pay attention to even the smallest state -- they can't just focus on the largest concentrations of voters and say to hell with you few folks out in the sticks. Another way to put it is that the winning candidate has to not only appeal to a lot of voters, he has to appeal to a broad range of voters -- both those in the city and t hose on the farm, those who work in high-rise office buildings and those who drive a truck in a mine -- and that, in a close election, the candidate who has the broader appeal across the political spectrum has the edge. You can see this in action today, actually. Notice that both President Obama and Mitt Romney are campaigning hard in Colorado, a fairly small state. They wouldn't even bother if the winner of the popular vote always won -- they could just focus on the biggest states and cities, and ignore Colorado. But with the EC system, Colorado's 9 EC votes are important. So the people of Colorado get a respectful listen from the candidates.

5 years ago
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