November 23rd, 2007
10:39 AM ET
15 years ago

Is the Electoral College a political dinosaur?

Watch this report about the Electoral College.

(CNN) - Remember Florida's hanging chads, the Florida recounts in 2000, and waiting for the U.S. Supreme Court to decide Bush v. Gore?

In this report, CNN's U.S. Affairs Correspondent Jill Doughtery takes a critical look at the Electoral College.

Is the Electoral College a political dinosaur that ought to be scrapped in favor of electing the President through a direct national popular vote? Or, does the institution still serve an important purpose in modern times? What do you think?

Filed under: Uncategorized
soundoff (65 Responses)
  1. Dan Anderson, Berrien Springs, MI

    One of the founding fathers goals in creating the electoral college was to maintain the balance of power among the states. For example if a larger state was overwhelmingly in favor of a particular candidate (say 85%) and the rest of the states where in favor of the other candidate by only a slight majority (say 51% percent) that would not seem any more fair than having Florida decide the election. In fact a popular voting system would enable candidates to pander to a portion of the county that would get them elected while ignoring the rest of the country. They would just have to get out the vote in states. The current system forces them to do that in multiple states, especially where the race is tight.
    The current system also forces candidates to focus on states that many may deem useless in a populous vote system. Small states such as N. Dakota, now have a voice on issues that they would not have with a populous voting system.
    Remember two things 1) that Gore would have won the race if he had one just one or two other states such as Ohio or New Hampshire. If he would have put more focus there, Florida would not have even been an issue; and 2) The founding fathers did not want the agendas of the larger states to overwhelm the smaller states. The electoral college and the constitution was set up to protect the minority from the majority.

    November 25, 2007 01:08 am at 1:08 am |
  2. Kalik Crick, Brooklyn, NY

    Why not change the constitution and say censor the presss, take away our right to own guns etc, why not give the big states 4 senators and small states 3 or 2

    November 25, 2007 08:25 am at 8:25 am |
  3. John Koza, Los Altos Hills, California

    The major shortcoming of the current system of electing the President arises from the winner-take-all rule (currently used by 48 of 50 states) under which all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate who gets the most votes in the state. If the partisan divide in a state is not initially closer than about 46%-54% (as is the case in Georgia), no amount of campaigning during a brief presidential campaign is realistically going to change the winner of the state. As a result, presidential candidates have no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or worry about the concerns of voters of states where they are safely ahead or hopelessly behind. Instead, candidates concentrate their attention on a handful of “battleground” states. 88% of the money is focused onto just 9 closely divided battleground states: Ohio, Florida, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Iowa, Minnesota, Wisconsin, New Mexico, and New Hampshire.

    Another shortcoming of the current system is that a candidate can win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    A national popular vote is the way to make every person’s vote equal and to guarantee the White House to the candidate who gets the most votes in all 50 states. The bill would take effect only when enacted, in identical form, by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough electoral votes to elect a President (270 of 538). When the bill is enacted in a group of states possessing 270 or more electoral votes, all of the electoral votes from those states would be awarded, as a bloc, to the presidential candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC).

    The National Popular Vote bill has 366 legislative sponsors in 47 states. It has been signed into law in Maryland. Since its introduction in February 2006, the bill has passed by 11 legislative houses (one house in Colorado, Arkansas, and North Carolina, and two houses in Maryland, Illinois, Hawaii, and California).


    November 25, 2007 10:37 am at 10:37 am |
  4. andrew s. rostolder hillsdale nj

    i think the electoral college is still important. it gives the least populated states the same vote. the blue states are most populated but fewer in number. this levels the playing field. the change i would make is to divide the electoral by vote. if 54% of the state votes republican, the candidate gets 54% of the vote.

    November 25, 2007 11:21 am at 11:21 am |
  5. kent, madison WI

    scrape it, it is a imbarrasment to out country

    November 25, 2007 01:13 pm at 1:13 pm |
  6. Patrick, Torrance CA

    The electoral college must go for us to have fair elections in this country. It is a disaster that has empowered Southern and non-populated states while taking the power out of the people's hands. Its time to go. No other "Democracy" has a ridiculous system like this in place. It was just another concession to the South to get them to join the Union. We gave them slavery, we gave them the 3/5 clause, and we gave them the electoral college.

    November 25, 2007 03:49 pm at 3:49 pm |
  7. Chris, Pensacola FL

    It is important to choose the best candidate for all people. We all know that there are different dialogs of English throughout the US. Therefore, it is obvious there are also different ways of political thinking throughout the US.

    We just have to come up with a way that favors everyone. If the big cities run over the small ones by their choices, the small cities will have to withhold the big cities food supply to get it to comply. This might work. Everyone knows that small cities value family and God. Everyone knows that big cities value money and isolation. I'm not picking on big cities, but everyone knows there IS a difference.

    November 25, 2007 04:19 pm at 4:19 pm |
  8. Linda Newman, Asheville, NC

    It is past time to "86" the Electoral College. If people really believed that their vote did count, the other half of the people would be more likely to vote. It would be much harder for fraud to occur, since those who would try to cheat would not have a specific state where they could pre-prepare to steal the elections.

    November 25, 2007 05:24 pm at 5:24 pm |
  9. Hazlehurst, MS

    I think the president should be elected by popular vote and not by the electoral college. I live in Mississippi which tends to be a red state. I am a Democrat and feel I have little say in presidential elections. I know the outcome of our state's election before it ever happens. This makes me question every time we go to the polls why should I even bother voting. I feel my vote is not going to count. If elections were done by popular vote count, I would not feel disenfranchised.

    November 25, 2007 07:39 pm at 7:39 pm |
  10. viola g. , boston ma

    I don't think neither the popular vote nor the electoral is good; since we're prob. gonna be stuck with the two party system for a while, why not just alternate a Democratic Pres. for 4 yrs. then a Republican and switch off? Simple?

    November 25, 2007 07:47 pm at 7:47 pm |
  11. Elfarran, Vakka-Suomen Finland, formerly of Michigan

    "If the masses took control of the resources by representation they would just want money spent on housing and food and other trivial matters."

    Dude, you better come to Finland and observe the benefits on spending money on housing, food, and "other trivial matters". Finland is rated number one this year in IT, environmental standards, and social services. There are no homeless people here because government subsidized housing works well. Unemployment benefits actually pay your living expenses and the local unemployment office actively works to bring potential employees and companies together. The military is efficient because it is not overfunded. Unlike the USA, who has friendly neighbors, Finland shares a major border with Russia, so the military is taken very seriously and resources aren't squandered on useless foreign wars. The list I could prepare about the benefits of a generous social welfare system, backed by a government which understands that providing federal services for the benefit of the people plus national security are its two main functions, could go on for pages. When a government takes care of its national security without neglecting the people and the environment, the people take an active interest in the government. This is clearly what America lacks. Finns pay relatively high taxes to support the system, but when I compared my individual tax returns at the end of the last few years, I didn't see much difference in the amount of taxes I paid when I lived in America versus what I pay here in Finland. The feeling, however, is much different. When I pay my taxes to Finland, I know the money isn't going down some black hole. America has a big fat pork barrel and that's what needs to be eliminated, not the votes of the "masses". Get rid of lobbyists (particularly those representing the interests of foreign countries – why should they have any influence over what goes on in Washington D.C.???) and you take one giant step in the direction of bringing about democracy and true egalitarianism in America. In summary, I think you have a very condescending and incorrect attitude about the intelligence of the average American, the importance of social services, and the truth about the dysfuction in the anachronistic institution of the Electoral College. Maybe you should join the friendly Canadian who boasted about how their Parliament is tempered by a very important government official appointed by Royalty. We all know where the Founding Fathers of America stood on the issue of King George III. But clearly, the Canadians still think Royalty knows best, which is akin to saying the "masses" are just second-class citizens. So, Dude, I think you'd fit right in with America's friends to the north.

    November 25, 2007 10:10 pm at 10:10 pm |
  12. Jim, Perry, OK

    Of course the EC should be abolished, but it has to be abolished across the entire country. I can't believe that no one seeing what is going on. The Republicans want to only abolish the EC in California so that they can get get their fair share of EC votes in California, but they want all the votes in the red states. DO NOT ABOLISH THE EC UNLESS IT EVENLY ABOLISHED ACROSS THE COUNTRY.

    November 26, 2007 03:05 am at 3:05 am |
  13. Eric, from THE Republic of Texas

    Judging by the ignorant and ill-informed comments of many of the posters here (did ANY OF YOU pay attention during Civics Class????), it's a good thing that the EC is still in place.

    The EC was designed, among other reasons, to combat exactly the ignorance and emotionalism shown in these posts.

    Hell, I'm in favor of bringing back the requirement of land ownership as a requirement for voter eligibility. If people realized that each and every entitlement program devised in Congress would actually cost THEM (the individual voter and tax payer) money, they'd be less likely to vote for candidates who promise them a piece of the Treasury.

    November 26, 2007 12:50 pm at 12:50 pm |
  14. Williamsburg, VA

    Democrats want to abolish the Electoral College because the demographics of the population centers, primarily on the east and west coasts, guarantee a win for their Party. The Electoral College, like the 2 houses of our Congress, was pure brillance on the part of our founding fathers. The EC does even the field, and does give the less populated areas in our country a voice. A voice the Democrats would love to squash. What happened to every vote (read, "State") counts?

    November 26, 2007 04:07 pm at 4:07 pm |
  15. AN, Fairfax, VA

    "...Unlike the USA, who has friendly neighbors, Finland shares a major border with Russia, so the military is taken very seriously and resources aren't squandered on useless foreign wars..."


    Good, so you won't be insulted if the US doesn't come to your aide should Russia cross your borders? Glad to have that out of the way.

    November 26, 2007 04:16 pm at 4:16 pm |
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