Electoral College Part II: Where does the Electoral College come from and why do we still have it?
Why do we have the Electoral College Still? Now that technology allows us to keep track of all the votes, is there a better method?
When the United States was first formed, the creation of the Electoral College (see Part I to learn about how the Electoral College works) for electing the President occurred for two main reasons. First, technology and transportation in the late 1800's was very limited. Therefore, a system where the states' Electors convened and voted for a President on their respective states' behalf created a more convenient forum for elections. Requiring the collection and tally for every citizen that voted was simply too impractical and inaccurate during a time where technology and transportation was restricted. Second, though early American ideology favored a democracy ("for the people, by the people"), it also favored a strong central government managed by intelligent minds. Thus, the Electoral College accomplished both of these goals: by allowing the states to determine their own process for selecting how their Electors are chosen, the system preserved the voice of the people while giving the power of the vote to minds that were rational enough to represent their respective states intelligently.
Today, some argue that the Electoral College should be preserved because of traditionalism: it is the way America has always done it. Now that technology allows the collection and tally of a popular vote, however, many question whether the Electoral College is still the most appropriate method for selecting the President. The majority of states' (48) "winner take all" method (See Part I) has been met with a lot of criticism because many argue that it is not an accurate account of how all of the citizens of a state want to be represented. For example, 1,230,111 people in Arizona voted for McCain and 1,034,707 voted for Obama in last year's election. Since McCain won the majority of the vote in Arizona, he received ALL 10 electoral votes from Arizona. In other words, at the end of the day, the 1,034,707 votes for Obama were irrelevant when applied to the Electoral College even though they accounted for 45% of the state's popular vote. Thus, 45% of Arizona's "voice" went completely unheard.
The Electoral College also discourages people to vote in states that are predominantly Republican or Democratic. Arizona, for example, is predominantly Republican, while California is predominantly Democratic. For that reason, Democrats in Arizona and Republicans in California are dissuaded from voting because they know that the opposing party will win the majority vote-and therefore all of the Electoral votes- in their state. Simply put, citizens that are a part of their state's minority party believe that their vote won't matter
Finally, the Electoral College allows states that aren't predominantly Republican or Democratic-also known as "battleground" states-with too much influence over the election. States that do not have a predominant allegiance to one party over the other get all of the attention and excitement, because in a close election, the battleground states hold the key in determining who will get elected. It is no coincidence that presidential candidates spend most of their time and attention during their campaign on these states.
If America adopted a popular vote method, every vote for the Republican candidate and every vote for the Democratic candidate would count regardless of the state where each voter lives. A popular vote would more likely result in an higher voter turnout and the selection of a President who was truly the choice of most citizens. If a popular vote were adopted, every citizen from every state would feel excited about voting and candidates would have to spend equal amounts of time and focus during election campaigns on each and every state in America.