Lv 4
Greg asked in Politics & GovernmentElections · 4 weeks ago

Is there any well-known reason for using the electoral system instead of the popular vote in presidential elections?

The only reason I can think of, is maybe the electoral system is intended to keep the more highly-populated regions from pushing around/bullying the less-populated regions, but I really don't know

8 Answers

  • 3 weeks ago


  • 4 weeks ago

    the reason is well known to anyone who paid attention in school

  • Anonymous
    4 weeks ago

    It's a vestige of a failed plan by the founding fathers. 

    The founders didn't want to have a direct election for President because they feared the masses would be easily swayed by demagogues (it's a little more complicated than that but that's close enough).  So they created the electoral college to pick the president.  It's similar to how Parliament picks a Prime Minister, but they didn't want the President to be a creature of the legislature so they created the EC to act as sort of a one off body which would pick the President and then dissolve.  In their conception, the electoral college would be composed of the "best sort" of men, those with the education, and supposedly the disinterestedness, to make a rational dispassionate choice. 

    But after Washington that plan fell apart.  Rising partisanship made it so that the electors were really making decisions not based on dispassionate logic and consideration of the good of the people, but instead based on what their party wanted.  In the 1800 election this caused a problem.  Under the original rules, the person who got the most electoral votes became President and the second place finisher became vice president.  This reflected the idea that the electoral college was supposed to be making an actual deliberative choice.  The second place finisher, as the second most qualified, would get the second slot.  In 1800 though, Jefferson ran with Aaron Burr as his pick for VP.  The loyal Jeffersonians all voted for both candidates, giving them both an equal amount of votes.  A little bit of angst ensued before Jefferson was confirmed as the President.  To avoid this happening again, they passed a new constitutional amendment which had Presidents and Vice Presidents run on the same ticket.  This effectively turned the electoral college into a rubber stamp.  It no longer exercised any independent judgment but just voted for the partisan winner in their state. 

    As of today there's no functional reason to keep the electoral college.  Some people will argue that the purpose of the electoral college is to make sure small states are represented.  That's false.  That was the purpose of creating the Senate, which has equal representation regardless of population.  The electoral college, which uses Congressional representation to determine electoral votes, replicates this imbalance.  But the purpose of it was never to give small states outsized power.  Furthermore, it doesn't work that way today, even if that had been the intention.  When was the last time you saw a candidate campaign in Wyoming?  Or Vermont?  Or Delaware?  Those are all small states, but they're also all "safe" states.  So candidates don't bother campaigning there.  Instead, with it's "winner take all" method of awarding electors, the electoral college creates incentives for candidates to campaign in closely contested states and to ignore states which are sure to vote one way or another, regardless of how big or small they are. 

  • Clive
    Lv 7
    4 weeks ago

    Of course there is, which you would have learned at school if your country actually had a decent education system.  When the constitution was written, the smaller states refused to agree to it unless they got some extra say for being states.  "The USA IS federal, you know!"  So the Senate was set up with 2 senators per state regardless of size, and the electoral college was set up with electors = senators + congressmen so all states, even if they're tiny, get at least 3 electors.

    So you're basically right - it prevents the big states dominating the vote all the time.

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  • Foofa
    Lv 7
    4 weeks ago

    That's a paraphrasing of why the bigger colonies had to install the Electoral College to get the smaller colonies to join the union, yes. 

  • Tmess2
    Lv 7
    4 weeks ago

    The battle between large and small states was more significant to the set-up of the House and Senate.  And there has never been an election in which one candidate got elected solely based on winning all of the small-sized and medium-sized states while losing the popular vote and the large-sized state.  (in 2016, Trump won seven of the ten largest states by total votes cases.  Of course, most of the seven that he won were by relatively small margins, and he got wiped out in the three states that he lost.  But Clinton did much better in the second ten states than she did in the first 10 states.  In 2000, the breakdown in the top ten favored Gore by a 6-4 margin.  Finally, in 1888, the Republicans won eight of the ten largest states while losing the popular vote.  So if the goal was to protect the small states from the large states, that goal failed miserably.)

    The main reasons why the framers wanted an electoral college are mostly dated and proved wrong very quickly:  1) they thought that the method would be very indirect and would lead to well-informed free agents casting that initial vote (within 20 years, electors were running pledged to specific candidates); 2) they thought that we would have multiple factions allowing a candidate to win a plurality of the popular vote with a tiny fraction of the vote but the electoral system would allow Congress to choose the best of the top candidates when nobody got a majority of the electoral vote (again within 20 years, we had two dominant parties); and 3) they lived in a day in which each state had its own rules on who could vote, and a national popular vote scheme would have given an incentive to expand the eligibility to vote (within 60 years, every state eliminated most limits on voting -- at least for adult, white, male citizens).  Today, the best reason for using the electoral college system is that it is in the Constitution meaning that it would take a constitutional amendment to change it.  And, since the current rules benefit the smaller states, those in the medium-sized and large-sized states just have to live with it.  

  • Jeff D
    Lv 7
    4 weeks ago

    The reasons WHY the Constitution specifies an electoral college instead of a popular vote have to do with the founders mistrust of direct democracy.  They wanted a republican form of government, where you chose people who then in turn vote for laws, Presidents, etc.

    It also gives a bit more weight to smaller states, insofar as Senators are counted in determining the number of electoral votes that each state has; so you could argue that it was one of the 'carrots' used to entice the smaller states to join the union (the larger carrot by far was the Senate).

  • 4 weeks ago

    It is designed to give smaller states some say. If we didn't have it, cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, and New York would solely elect our President. 

    It is a perfect system, as designed by our Founding Fathers. 

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