Problems with Electoral Votes


In a democratic election, it is common for the people to choose their government. In the United States, the head of government is not chosen directly by the people, but by Electors who represent the nation’s fifty States and the District of Columbia – these Electors form the Electoral College and they in fact choose the President of the United States.

To put it simply, the American people decide who votes for the President they want.

“As democracy is perfected, the office of president represents, more and more closely, the inner soul of the people. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” – H.L. Mencken

To become President of the United States, a candidate needs to win the absolute majority of the Electoral Votes from the Electoral College. In order to win Electoral Votes, one needs to obtain to majority of the votes in a State.

Each U.S. State is worth Electoral Votes. The number of Votes a State is worth is determined by the population of the State. The more populous a State, the higher its number of Electoral Votes. These values are adjusted every decade.

U.S. Presidential Elections are ruled by a system called first past the post. This means that whichever candidate receives the most votes in a certain State is declared the winner in that particular State. The winner receives all the Electoral Votes of the State (except for Nebraska and Maine, which allow Electoral Votes to be divided between different candidates).

“Anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.’” – Isaac Asimov

Now, from a democratic viewpoint, this system is not ideal for a number of reasons, namely:

  • The use of Electoral Votes is not as democratic as it could be; the President of the United States is chosen indirectly. Whenever the word ‘indirectly’ has to be used in reference to an aspect of an election, it does not engender ‘more democracy’. In other words, the Electoral Vote system (indirect election) discards the Popular Vote (direct election). Hypothetically, a candidate could become President by winning just the eleven biggest States.
  • Because the Popular Vote counts for nothing as a whole, and because of discrepancies in the way Electoral Votes are assigned to States, it is possible for a candidate to win more Electoral Votes than his opponent and still lose the Popular Vote. To put it simply, one can become President of the United States by getting fewer votes from the American people than your opponent. – R.B. Hayes (1876), B. Harrison (1888) and G.W. Bush (2000) became President even though they and their party did not win a majority of the Popular Vote (in 1824, J.Q. Adams did not personally win a majority of the Popular Vote even though his party did).
  • In 157 instances, members of the Electoral College have cast their Electoral Votes in a different manner than the majority of the people in their respective States wanted them to. Electors who essentially vote against the wishes of their State are called Faithless Electors.
  • The Electoral Votes cause the votes in more populous States to be of less significance. To illustrate that, consider the following: in Wyoming, less than 200,000 votes make up one Electoral Vote; in Texas, over 700,000 votes are needed for the same Electoral Vote.
  • However, the current system does not make the votes in small States more significant either. Because votes are counted per State, only those States which can realistically be won by more than one candidate are relevant to the competing parties. These States, which do not have a predictable voting trend, are called Swing States. In a typical U.S. Presidential Election, only the Swing States which carry a large number of Electoral Votes are important to the candidates and the media. Because of this, the Americans in 80% of U.S. States receive no attention whatever.
  • Finally, participation suffers under the current system. There are two reasons for this. Firstly, in a first past the post system small parties are irrelevant since they can never realistically win the majority of the votes in an entire State. Instead, the voter is usually left with two or three flavours. Secondly, the system more often than not discourages participation. Around 80% of U.S. States usually have quite a predictable voting trend, and since only the winning party receives an electoral reward, other voters may be more inclined to abstain from participating in an election. In other words, the system causes political apathy.

“Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely. The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.” – Franklin D. Roosevelt

6 thoughts on “Problems with Electoral Votes

  1. Reblogged this on tweetlessblogmore and commented:
    Great post highlighting the fake democracy the U.S. has- and why I don’t waste my time voting…especially after Dubya took over as dictator and chief in 2000 😏 I am a political atheist- I don’t believe in our democracy because it doesn’t exist by definition😯😏

  2. On some great and glorious day the plain folks of the land will reach their heart’s desire at last and the White House will be adorned by a downright moron.” – Menken’s prophecy was finally fulfilled in 2000, with the election of G. W. Bush.

    There are SO many things wrong with the American electoral policies, the Electorial College being only one of them. Allowing Lobbists to contribute heavily to political campaigns amounts to buying the election of those who support their views, which are rarely the views of the general population.

    Although not a part of the electoral process, allowing “riders” to be attached to major bills that need to be passed in order for the country to function, allows the bill to be hijacked in effect, to permit passage of laws that would normally not succeed on their own, but since passage of the major bill is critical, the attached bill, the “rider,” is passed in the process.

    Unfortunately, the only people in a position to change any of those policies are the very inmates who are in charge of the asylum.

  3. With the current system of electing the President, none of the states requires that a presidential candidate receive anything more than the most popular votes in order to receive all of the state’s or district’s electoral votes.

    Maine (since 1969) and Nebraska (since 1992) have awarded one electoral vote to the winner of each congressional district, and two electoral votes statewide.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country.

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80%+ of the states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of Electoral College votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). The candidate receiving the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) would get all the 270+ electoral votes of the enacting states, and win.

    The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote

  4. I’m entirely in favor of a National Popular Vote bill, but one needs to realize the economic factors involved in the passage of such a bill. That handful of ‘battleground’ states you mention, Kohler, rakes in untold millions of dollars every four years, as the political campaigns focus their efforts on winning those states. Regardless of how fair such a bill might be, it would be very difficult for the legislators from those states, many of whom doubtless have interests in the media that is the beneficiary of those dollars, or campaigns themselves that are funded by those who do, to vote in favor of basically throwing away all of that money. Life not as it should be, but as it is —

  5. The National Popular Vote bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of Electoral College votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). The candidate receiving the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) would get all the 270+ electoral votes of the enacting states, and win.

    Analysts already say that only the 2016 party winner of Florida, Ohio, Virginia, Wisconsin, Colorado, Iowa and New Hampshire is not a foregone conclusion. Only 7 swing states remain. States that have recently been swing states don’t appreciate being jilted and losing their power, visits, and ad dollars now that they are politically irrelevant.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

    Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed recently. In the 39 red, blue, and purple states surveyed, overall support has been in the 67-83% range – in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.
    Most Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.

    The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, Democratic, Republican and purple states with 250 electoral votes, including one house in Arkansas (6), Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (15), and Oklahoma (7), and both houses in Colorado (9). The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    Based on the current mix of states that have enacted the National Popular Vote compact, it could take about 25 states to reach the 270 electoral votes needed to activate the compact.

    NationalPopularVote

  6. Most Americans believe that the candidate who receives the most votes should win.” – One citizen, one vote – I see nothing wrong with that.

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