Electoral College or Popular Vote?

we the peopleThere has been some speculation by some that Romney may win the popular vote while Obama wins the Electoral College.  While such a scenario is unlikely, it has happened three times in our history, with the most recent being in 2000 when George W. Bush won the Electoral College while Al Gore won the popular vote.  Not surprisingly, after that election there were many people who called for an end to the Electoral College and a switch to a national popular vote.  Of course, Al Gore also favored this switch.

Fortunately, there are enough people who recognize this movement for the disaster it would be and that it would be a huge blow to the federal system designed by the Founders.  Congress has rejected hundreds of bills that would have changed or eliminated the Electoral College system.

The Republican platform approved at the convention this summer also includes language opposed to any change.

“We oppose the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact or any other scheme to abolish or distort the procedures of the Electoral College,” the platform reads. “We recognize that an unconstitutional effort to impose “national popular vote” would be a mortal threat to our federal system and a guarantee of corruption as every ballot box in every state would become a chance to steal the presidency.”

The national popular vote is a misguided movement that ignores the original intent of the Founders when they drafted the Constitution. The federal coalition of the United States was designed with the intent that the states, not the direct vote of the people, would select the President. In Federalist Paper 39, James Madison wrote that “the immediate election of the President is to be made by the States in their political characters.”

The power of today’s federal government would likely give our Founding Fathers coronaries if they knew how it has evolved from what they created.  The federal system of states retaining power not specifically given to the federal government has eroded over time, but the Electoral College has remained. Switching to a national popular vote would take even more power away from the states.  As it is now, even the small states are vitally important in the presidential election.  They may not receive the attention from campaigns that battleground states do, but all are equally important and can decide an election.  Just ask Al Gore, who would have been elected president had he carried his home state of Tennessee.

If Romney wins the popular vote but loses to Obama in the Electoral College, there will be some on the right who propose changing the system, just as some on the left did after Gore lost.  But, this would be a huge mistake.  Retaining the Electoral College is vital to our federal system and doing away with it would be the death knell for what the Founders created. 

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2 comments to Electoral College or Popular Vote?

  • LD Jackson

    The Founding Fathers were much wiser than many people give them credit for. You have laid out the reasons for keeping the Electoral College alive and well. We would do well to heed your advice.