For Americans and people around the world, one of the great mysteries is the electoral college. The Founding fathers created the electoral college as a compromise between allowing the Senate to elect the President and the people. Unlike most of the world, U.S. voters are not voting for the President in their elections. Instead, they are voting for a group of electors from their state to cast a vote for the President. The complexity of the electoral college system has led to calls for the U.S. to the simpler popular vote model.
How Does the Electoral College Work?
In 1787, politicians in the U.S. had become deadlocked about how they would elect a President. The options available included a first past the post-winner-takes-all popular vote. The second option was for Congress to vote on who would be in charge of the nation.
A bitter split emerged between the northern and southern states regarding the best way to elect a President. To balance the needs of the north and the south, the Electoral College was created. The winner of the popular vote in each state is voted for by a group of electors who usually follow the result of the popular vote as they elect the President.
Electors have occasionally turned against the voters of their state. In 2016, two electors changed the name of the winning candidate in their states as part of a “not trump” campaign. A legal battle ensued that ended at the Supreme Court. The decision from the Supreme Court explained the Founding Fathers did not require the Electoral College electors to follow the results of the popular vote.
Why Switch to a Popular Vote?
Way back in 1934, politicians fell just two votes short of switching from the Electoral College to the popular vote. Support remains high among Democrats for a switch, but Republican voters feel the Electoral College gives them a better chance of winning The White House.
The biggest argument for switching to the popular vote is how Presidential candidates spend their time on the campaign trail. In Presidential elections in the 21st-century, candidates have focused their time and attention on four states. These swing states hold the keys to The White House because the other 46 states and the District of Columbia vote along party lines. Presidential candidates have spent the majority of their time and money in Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina, and Ohio in the 21st-century. By prioritizing these states, candidates are ignoring the majority of voters they hope will vote along traditional party lines.
Losing the Popular Vote but Winning the Election
In 2016, President Donald Trump won the electoral college and took The White House. The problem for Democrats was that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by three million, without taking the swing states needed to win the election. President George W. Bush also won the Electoral College while losing the popular vote to Vice President Al Gore in 2000.
Several states have introduced legislation to allow the popular vote to be used to elect the President. 33 states and the District of Columbia have introduced legislation to require electors to cast their vote with the people. The legal framework has already been passed in 15 states and the District of Columbia in preparation for a switch to using the popular vote in Presidential elections. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement requiring state electors to follow the results of the popular vote.
Using the popular vote is growing in popularity, but changing the Constitution is a drawn-out process. Although the majority of voters support changing the election model, political leaders show little enthusiasm for the change.
Saul have a political science degree and sees to it that he uses it to educate others. He goes to a lot of forums and seminars as a speaker.