Electoral College/Winner Take All vs. Direct Popular Vote

Should we keep he Electoral College/Winner Take All system or replace it with Direct Popular Vote to choose our President based on who wins the most popular votes in the entire country, using Ranked Choice Voting? (The National Popular Vote Compact is not actually proposing using Ranked Choice Voting in a popular election. But I am because this new voting system has many advantages. To understand how Ranked Choice Voting works go to FairVote.com)


(Recommended reading, Why We Need The Electoral College, 281 pages by Tara Ross)

First, the Pro’s say we don’t live in a democracy but in a republic that our great Founding Fathers created in 1787 and has lasted for over 200 years. A democracy is where all the people vote directly on the laws, also called a direct democracy, like when we vote on state ballot measures in an election. A republic is where the people elect representatives in the government to vote for them to create the laws. The Founding Fathers didn’t like the term democracy because they associated it with mob rule. In fact the word democracy appears nowhere in the Constitution.

There is a major flaw with the Direct Popular Vote system of choosing our president. Currently the Electoral College gives small states a small advantage in voting to counter the principle of the “Tyranny of the Majority” where the big city/urban large states almost always would outvote the small town/rural small states in a straight popular vote election because in today’s America there are more people living in large cities/urban areas than in small town/rural areas.

  In the 2016 election Trump won 30 states and Hillary 21 states. Because each state gets two extra Electors for their senators in addition to the Electors based on distribution of population in the House, Trump received an extra boost in the Electoral vote of 9×2 or 18 votes out of the 36 he won the Electoral College by(he got another 46 Electoral College Votes from Winner Take All advantages in Wisconsin, Michigan and Pennsylvania).

There are other minor advantages to keeping the Electoral College/Winner Take All system that are explained further in your reading.

* Prevents political power from being shifted from the states to the national government which is an important part of our federal system deliberately designed by our Founding Fathers.

* Recounts only need to be done in a few states instead of in all 51 states.(We will have 51 states when D.C. becomes a state. Puerto Rico too?)

* Promotes a mare stable two party system.


(Recommended reading, Why the Electoral College is bad for America 3rd Edition by George C. Edwards III, 279 pages)

The Cons say we live in a democracy, which technically is a representative democracy, which is the same as a republic, which is the term the Founding Fathers used for our country.

Some say to abolish the Electoral College requires a constitutional amendment. However there is a legal loophole in the Constitution. When the Founding Fathers created the Constitution in 1787 they gave the state legislatures the power to choose the electors in any way they saw fit. Today all the states choose electors with a popular state election using Winner Take all where all of a state’s electors go to whoever wins the most popular votes in that state(Maine and Nebraska have a modified Winner Take All system). The National Popular Vote Compact makes just one simple change to this. Instead of all of the Electoral College votes of a state going to who won the most popular votes in that state they go to the candidate that won the most popular votes in the entire country. Since the Constitution allows the states to choose their electors any way they want, the National Popular Vote Compact will be legal without requiring an amendment to the Constitution. And even more amazing it actual does not abolish the Electoral College/Winner Take All system but preserves it while still having the president chosen by the winner of the national popular vote.

   The Pros say that with a national popular vote we will have to change from 51 state elections to one national election administered by the federal government with uniform voting rules for all 51 states. The National Popular Vote Compact does not propose this and in fact would keep our present system of states administering separate elections in each of the 51 states with each state left to determine their own voting rules. (Some other people are proposing one single national election with standardized voting rules for the whole country but the National Popular Vote Compact is not proposing this in their plan.)

There are three main flaws with the Electoral College/Winner Take All system and they all involve violating basic principles of democracy.

  1. Allowing the presidential winner with the most Electoral College votes but losing the popular vote. This has happened five times in U.S. history: 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016. The country will also worry that it could happen in every future election.  A bedrock value of democracy is that the winner of an election is the one with the most votes.

2. Under the Electoral College/Winner Take All system votes in small states are worth about twice votes in large states. This violates the bedrock principle of democracy that all votes should be equal.

3. Because of the creation of 12-15 swing states in an election voters in the remaining 75% of the country that are not in swing states are virtually disenfranchised because votes in those states will have zero chance of affecting the outcome of a presidential election. Candidates now spend all of their time and money in just those few swing states. They will listen to the concerns of the voters in swing states and totally ignore the needs of the other 75% of the country.  In a democracy the voices of all of the people should be heard at the ballot box, not just the 25% of the people who live in swing states.

   Yes, a direct popular vote election will shift the candidates focus from swing states to mostly large population states. But because every vote in the whole country will count equally the candidates will adopt a 51 state strategy and small states will get a small amount of attention. That’s better than the zero attention their getting now, unless they’re a swing state like New Hampshire.

  There are other minor advantages to a Direct Popular Vote system using Ranked Choice Voting.

  The Pros say we should keep the Electoral College/Winner Take All system because the Founding Fathers created such a great system in 1787 and that it has lasted for over 200 years. The Founding Fathers created the Electoral College in 1787 but they did not create the Winner Take All part. That part was created by political parties in the early 1800’s.

   Also the Electoral College/Winner Take All system operates nothing like it was designed to work in 1787. In the first presidential election of 1792, where all 13 original states voted, only 40% of the states chose their electors in state elections by the people, like all states do today. In 60% of the states the state legislatures chose the electors. When the Electors met to vote for President the Founding Fathers expected these men(no women) to be the “best and the brightest” in the country who would exercise their own independent judgement to vote for the best possible candidates in the entire country, not political party appointees restricted to voting for whoever won the popular vote in their state like today. And because of poor transportation and communication in 1787(“mass media” were 2-4 page newspapers that spread across the country only as fast as a horse could go), according to George Mason of Virginia the electors would want to vote for native sons from their own states and 95% of the time no candidate would get a majority of Electoral College votes. Then the election would go to the House of Representatives where they would select the president with each state getting one equal vote, from among the top five vote getters in the Electoral College, (later changed to the top three vote getters by the 12th amendment in 1804.) This is nothing like the popular vote in each state today determining how the Electors from each state would vote determining the winner of the election.

* Under the Winner Take All system when the Electors meet in mid December votes from the loser in each state are actually switched from their vote to the other candidate in all 51 state elections when the Electoral College votes are counted.

* With the Direct Popular Vote we will know the outcome of the election after all of the votes are counted in November instead having to wait until January 6 when they are officially counted in the new Senate using the Electoral College/Winner Take All system.

* With Ranked Choice Voting the voices of third party candidates and Independents can be better heard in the election but without risking destroying the stability of our two party system.

* With Ranked Choice voting no need to have a second run off election if the winner has less than 40% of the popular vote (Hitler won in 1932 in Germany with only 37% of the vote) since Ranked Choice Voting guarantees that the winner will always have at least 50% of the popular vote.

* Much simpler to operate and way simpler to understand for the average voter.

  I am going to go out on a limb and take an educated guess as to when these events could happen. To pass the National Popular Vote Compact will require signing up enough state legislatures with a minimum of 270 electoral votes. Assuming many of the states are large population states that lean blue the number of states will be slightly less than half of 51. Congress will also have to approve the Compact by a simple majority vote of both houses. This will enable the compact to take effect in time for the 2032 election.

   To pass a constitutional amendment will require a 2/3 majority in both houses of Congress and 3/4 of the state legislatures. Because this is such a high hurdle it will not take place until there is a major demographic change in the country like California and Texas becoming swing states. It will also require having a presidential election where the Republican candidate has the most popular votes but the Democrat wins the presidency with a majority of the Electoral College votes. This will literally take 50 years. Our grandchildren could see this but most of us will not.

So what’s the answer? Do we keep the Electoral College/Winner Take All system or replace it with a Direct Popular Vote election to choose our president? After weighing all the pros and cons this question will be decided by you the voters.

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