With the election season just around the corner, New Hampshire has once again secured the first-in-the-nation presidential primary. Other state primaries follow in the winter and spring.
But according to a new Gallup poll, many Americans don’t care which candidate wins each state.
In fact, according to that same poll, 62 percent would prefer to amend the Constitution so that the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide becomes President. Just 35 percent of Americans would keep the Electoral College. Which raises the question, why not get rid of the Electoral College?
Before we answer that question, let’s brush up on our knowledge of the Electoral College, the body that under the Constitution formally elects the President. Each state is given a number of Electors equal to its number of Representatives and Senators. By amendment, the District of Columbia receives the electoral votes it would receive if it were a state. The candidate with the majority of Electors—270, at present—will be president. To simplify somewhat, the candidate who wins the plurality of a state’s popular vote receives all its electoral votes, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, who appoint some of their electoral votes by congressional district.
Julia Shaw from the Heritage Foundation explains that the Founders designed the Electoral College to be more than a complex way of electing the next President.
The Electoral College preserves federalism, encourages candidates to build national coalitions, and grants definitive electoral outcomes. It requires a presidential candidate to win simultaneous elections across 50 states and the District of Columbia.
The Electoral College, Shaw argues, magnifies the margin of victory for presidential candidates and creates a sense of legitimacy.
In 1992, Bill Clinton did not get a majority of the popular vote (only 43 percent) but he received 70 percent of the electoral votes. Most elections have not been close in the Electoral College, even when the popular vote is close. For instance, in 1960, John F. Kennedy won only 49.7 percent of the popular vote, compared to Nixon’s 49.5 percent. However, Kennedy won 56.4 percent of the electoral vote, compared to Nixon’s 40.8 percent. The magnification of the electoral vote can work to solidify the country behind the new President by bestowing an aura of legitimacy.
What do you think? Do you think the Electoral College serves the same purpose today as was intended by our Founding Fathers?