More than 60 percent of respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll call for an end to the Electoral College.
When Mitt Romney’s campaign conceded defeat in Florida last Thursday, it gave the last 29 electoral votes to President Barack Obama. In all, he won 332 electoral votes—62 percent of the total and 62 more than the 270 needed to win. Romney finished with 206, or 38 percent.
In contrast to the electoral vote, the popular vote was much closer: With more than 120 million votes cast, 51.4 percent were for Obama and 48.6 percent went to Romney.
Critics say the Electoral College system violates the principle of one person, one vote and favors small and swing states. But supporters argue that it helps maintain the nation’s federal character and prevents disproportionate influence by heavily populated urban areas.
A quarter of respondents to this week’s poll favor keeping the Electoral College as it currently exists. However, more Democrats than Republicans or non-affiliated respondents favor preserving it.
A constitutional amendment would be required to abolish the Electoral College. Alternatively, some—including Paychex Inc. founder Thomas Golisano—have voiced support for the National Popular Vote, under which the Electoral College would be preserved but individual states would agree to pledge their electors to the national winner of the popular vote, so long as enough other states do the same. Eight states and the District of Columbia have approved it.
Among the poll respondents, Democrats wanted this option least, with 10 percent, compared with 15 percent of Republicans who favor this alternative.
In the nation’s history, four presidents have been elected despite losing the popular vote—most recently, George W. Bush in 2000.
Roughly 880 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Nov. 12 and 13.
Which of the following best reflects your views on the Electoral College?
End the Electoral College: 61%
Keep the Electoral College: 25%
Keep the Electoral College, with individual states pledging their electors to the national popular vote winner: 13%
What is your political affiliation?
Among those who identified themselves as non-affiliated and other:
End the Electoral College: 63%
Keep the Electoral College: 23%
Keep the Electoral College, with individual states pledging their electors to the national popular vote winner: 14%
End the Electoral College: 63%
Keep the Electoral College: 22%
Keep the Electoral College, with individual states pledging their electors to the national popular vote winner: 15%
End the Electoral College: 57%
Keep the Electoral College: 32%
Keep the Electoral College, with individual states pledging their electors to the national popular vote winner: 10%
The founders created the Electoral College because they feared that a popular vote would allow the populations in larger states to subjugate those in the smaller states. The framers of the Constitution never intended us to be a pure democracy that elects a president by a popular vote. As Benjamin Franklin said: “Democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch. Liberty is a well-armed lamb contesting the vote.”
—John Woodman, Pittsford
Everyone’s vote should carry the same weight, regardless of their geographical location.
We should keep the Electoral College because: 1. The office is president of the United States, not “president of America.” 2. Can you imagine a Florida recount on a national scale?
Had we gone with only popular votes, Gore would have won the election against George W. Infer what you will.
The Electoral College preserves the federal nature of our government. To those who say it violates the principle of “one man, one vote”: Yes, it does; so does the Senate.
The Electoral College was part of a grand bargain to adopt the Constitution that attempted to give the smaller population states more say in the presidential elections. Perhaps more states should agree to allocate Electoral College votes in accordance with the popular vote rather than winner takes all.
—Nathan J. Robfogel
The Electoral College was state-of-the-art in the late 1700s. Time to move forward. I say this even though it means I will have to see those putrid super PAC ads.
—C. Lewis, Perinton
I recommend a modification similar to Maine and Nebraska. The popular vote by congressional district is the basis for allocating the Electoral College vote. A candidate gets one Electoral College vote for each congressional district he/she wins. Others can decide whether the two senators allocated to each state should continue to exist. Important in the decision to keep the Electoral College and assign votes by congressional district is the requirement that each state establish a nonpartisan group to create congressional districts. Gerrymandering must come to an end!
—Mike Bleeg, Strategic Results
A hallmark of democracy is the promise that eligible citizens participate equally—either directly or through elected representatives—in the proposal, development and creation of laws. The Electoral College can strip the right of each citizen of the United States to an equal vote in the election of a president. In a "user-take-all" Electoral College, the votes of the minority are lost, with the majority taking all electoral votes. A popular vote, with each person having an equal vote, is a more democratic means of electing our commander in chief.
I believe we should keep the Electoral College but require the state to choose electors in proportion to their state popular vote. Currently, only 20 percent or so of the electorate (those in the swing states) actually see the candidates. The rest of the states, because of their past voting history, are essentially deprived of access to the candidates. With this proposal, a Republican or Democratic individual vote in New York would be worth as much as one in Ohio, which is not the case now.
—Bob Worden, Penn Yan
The Electoral College is an important bulwark against demagogues and extremists. Without the Electoral College, candidates would be able to win by focusing solely on turning out their most dedicated voters, rather than having to run a national campaign and appeal to a broader selection of the electorate. In addition, the Electoral College provides a truer indication of the margin of victory. If one only looks at popular vote totals, nothing looks like a landslide. Even Reagan's 1984 landslide looked "close" in the popular vote. But in truth, Reagan took 49 of 50 states, giving him a huge margin in the Electoral College, and his victory was rightly termed a landslide. Abolishing the Electoral College—or, worse, neutering it with the National Popular Vote scheme without going through the Amendment process—would be a travesty.
—Matthew D. Wilson
The Electoral College system places the fate of the nation into the hands of a small number (less than 10 percent) of voters in a small number of states (fewer than 10). More important, it makes the votes of the majority of Americans irrelevant. Individual voters in NY did not matter since NY is solidly "blue," which is why neither Obama nor Romney mounted a campaign here. This undermines our democracy and is not healthy for the future of the country.
The United States government was designed by our founders to extenuate the positive attributes of the states, as well as an efficient and relevant central federal administration. The best of both worlds. Preserving state's rights and local "home rule" while also facilitating cooperation for the benefit of all states and citizens when and where needed. To do this they created a specific form of democracy—a representative republic, with three independent branches of government. This deviated significantly from the parliamentary systems (then and now), in a really good way in my opinion, that most Americans never take the time to appreciate. But the only way it works relative to the Executive branch is with the Electoral College in place to protect the representative rights of less populated states within the Union.
—Steve Strasser, Honeoye Falls
The Electoral College should be kept because it contributes to the cohesiveness of the country, sustaining a distribution of popular support to be elected president. It enhances minority interests, otherwise, the president would be selected either through the domination of one populous region over the other. Moreover, the Electoral College contributes to U.S. political stability by encouraging a two-party system, and it maintains a federal system of government and representation. To abolish the Electoral College in favor of a nationwide popular election for president would compromise the federal structure designed in the Constitution and would cause nationalization of the central government, weakening the power of states.
—John Brown, John Brown Advertising
If you remove the Electoral College what will my friends at SEIU do and how will we get out the vote by registering dead people and Mickey Mouse? It's very important that we bus people into the polls using union money and it's even more important that the black panthers stop voter intimidation. If we remove the swing states, all of this will be lost and my heart will be broken.
The Electoral College is not the problem. Barack Obama is not the problem—our current president and Congress are symptoms. As de Tocqueville said, “The American Republic will endure until the day Congress discovers that it can bribe the public with the public's money.” Why are people so easily bribed? Because we are cold to the God of the Bible. Our country has embraced the morality of Sodom and Gomorrah. We insist on building a monument to ourselves on the crumbling foundation of our past—personal, local and national repentance is the highway back.
Each state gets an electoral vote for each congressional district and one for each Senatorial seat. Keep the Electoral College but tweak it. Instead of winner-take-all by state, it should be winner-take-all by congressional district with the two "senatorial" electors going to the popular vote of the state as a whole. The only caveat would need to be the elimination of gerrymandering district lines by one party or the other. But this system would bring greater weight to the individual's vote and lessen the concentration on the "swing" states, leaving the rest of the states completely ignored.
—Peter Short, Pittsford
Whatever 18th century value the Electoral College had, it's time to join the 21st. We also need to find a way to draw our election districts to prevent gerrymandering. All these things serve to make us less a democracy.
Every four years, we hear this absurd proposal. The argument is based on the disparity of the electoral vote count versus the popular vote count. There is no consideration for the fact that many voters simply do not vote because they live in a state that their candidate has no chance of winning. Or, that weather conditions on voting day may not allow people in one area or another to get to vote on that day. We are not a homogenous people and need things like the Electoral College to filter out the results. A popular vote may seem “fair,” but our current system is still “correct.”
The people who created the Electoral College in the first place were the most capable people at creating government who ever lived. It might be worthwhile to examine their reasoning rather than abolishing the Electoral College because it "feels" like a good idea.
Under the Electoral College system, someone can be elected to office and not be the choice of the majority of voting citizens. Having only a few key states decide an election is not true democracy. It is uncommon that the percentage of electoral votes is the same as the popular vote percentage. If someone lives in a red or blue state, then quite often their vote doesn't matter. Only in the “swing states” is it possible to make a difference. Let's let all the people decide.
The Electoral College was put in place prior to the existence of political parties and because the original framers of the Constitution did not believe the American population could do a good job choosing a president. It was only supposed to be a temporary fix and quite frankly is a slap in the face to the American citizen!
Keep it. But it should be set up so that the electors pledge their vote based on who carries the district they represent rather than all electoral votes going to one candidate based on whether that person carries the popular vote in the entire state. This would provide the best representation of the wishes of the people in a district. Maine and Nebraska have the best system for dealing with the Electoral College.
Ask why we have a president of the United States, not a president of America. Besides giving a slight advantage to the smaller states (abolish the Senate next?), the Founders deliberately wanted the President to obtain the support of various, separate, heterogeneous entities. Harrison and Bush2 lost the popular vote, but both carried more states than their opponents. If you want to see what happens without the Electoral College, imagine a candidate promising housing subsidies for "high cost" markets to get 85 percent of California and the Northeast states' votes. What if she offered a "Gulf Coast" subsidy to get the votes of the South? The College works just fine by forcing candidates to visit more states. Very few proponents of abolishing the College think through all the ramifications of not having it.
—Peter Durant, Nixon Peabody LLP
I would keep the Electoral College, but require that electors cast their votes to reflect the popular vote in each state.
The rationale behind the Electoral College has never sat well with me. What happened to majority rule and one man one vote? It infuriates me when a candidate wins the popular vote but loses the electoral vote, even if the candidate is not mine. That's just not right.
—Dick Weldgen, Dramatic Landscape Lighting
For all of its ills, the Electoral College is a guarantor of a two-party system. Without it, a multiparty system might ensue. Can you imagine the results of a five-party race with the winner garnering 21 percent of the vote? The Ku Klux Klan could win the White House! In addition, candidates would focus their campaigns exclusively on the largest population centers to the exclusion of all others. It would be perfidious for electors to vote for a candidate who the majority in their state opposed. As we continue to deal with a polarized populace, we can expect conflicting outcomes relative to the electoral and popular vote. I believe that the Electoral College should be reformed. Add 100 additional "national electors," two from each state who will endorse the majority popular vote. This would honor the will of the people while safeguarding the presidency. In 1943, E.B. White wrote that, "Democracy is the recurrent suspicion that more than half of the people are right more than half the time." We need to find a way of honoring that.
—J.P. Gleason, Gleason Fund Raising Consultants
The Electoral College would be much more useful to the individual voter and each state if the electors were allowed to cast their ballot for whoever wins the popular vote in each (their) district. This would split-up many states as some electoral votes would go to one candidate (Romney may have picked-up 10-12 in NYS, and Obama the balance of our 29 votes).This would make it a priority for each candidate to campaign in more states, not just the seven to eight swing states. Here in New York, Romney never campaigned, and Obama only visited Manhattan for fundraisers. What is obsolete is the "winner takes all" notion of the Electoral College. It diminishes the voter, as evident this year that some 12 million fewer voters went to the polls compared to 2008.
—Al Kempf, Fairport
I think we have far bigger things negatively impacting our political process such as the archaic and dysfunctional filibuster, lack of term limits and the corrupting Citizens United ruling. Spending time debating the Electoral College is low on my priority list.
The electoral college is an antiquated system put in place when people had little to no means of communication in parts of the country and it was determined that the more informed/educated populous should assume responsibility for those uninformed citizens. Because some states are so skewed in one direction or another today, it discourages the vast majority of the population from voting, leading to a lack of participation as well as a poor representation of the democratic process.
—Jon Freitag, Rochester
Considering the reason the electoral college was established, I believe it should remain in place because it helps level the playing field against those who (let's just say) have more super PACs, money, and those who can buy political power. Thank you for allowing my opinion to matter.
This historical tragedy has got to go! The most important national office should be decided by majority vote of the national citizens. States should have nothing to do with electing this particular office.
—Fred Dewey, Victor
Our founding fathers were brilliant in creating the Electoral College. Remember, this is the "United States of America,” not just "America" and not "United states." The Electoral College rightfully and constitutionally gives a bigger influence to small states to temper the influence of large states (and large urban areas). It was a great compromise that has worked well for over two centuries.
The main defense of the Electoral College tends to be that it gives the power to the center by limiting a presidential election to nine or 10 swing states. In a divided electorate the center would still hold the balance of power in a popular vote in all 50 states. I cannot view the Electoral College as consistent with democratic principles when the votes of a majority of people in a majority of states, regardless of political party, don't count. The 2000 Electoral College debacle, with a huge assist from the Supreme Court, gave us one of the worst administrations in our history. In my view one that was even worse, thanks to this system, was President Rutherford B. Hayes. In 1876 N.Y.'s Democratic Gov. Sam Tilden got 51.5 percent of the vote but fell one vote short in the Electoral College due to three southern states turning in dual and different Electoral College slates. The election went to the House of Representatives. During Reconstruction Blacks in the South could vote and some African Americans were elected to Congress. A deal was made in the House, The Compromise of 1877, which removed the troops from the South ending Reconstruction in return for crowning Hayes President. He was widely referred to during his one term as “Rutherfraud.” This would end Black suffrage, begin the rise of the KKK and nearly a century of American Apartheid or Jim Crow, that included terrorism, the torture and murder of blacks, including children. Though racism was the root, the Electoral College was the vehicle. The Founding Fathers, fearing Democracy, limited suffrage to white male property owners and with Blacks counting as three-fifths of a person in the Electoral College, were preserving the institution of Slavery. This should be remembered by those that think the Founding Fathers and the Constitution should never evolve. In this Presidential election the votes of Americans in 41 states did not count and that is not right.
—Jim Bertolone, Rochester AFL-CIO
11/16/12 (c) 2012 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.