Is there any reason to keep the literal Electoral College?

Every fourth January, a bunch of people whose names are known to an extremely small (as measured by % of the population) group of citizens gather together in Congress to formalize the election results for their state as were decided the prior November (or in 2000, December).

I understand that once upon a time, these electors were people known to their community, who ran personal campaigns in their states, whose judgment the people of the state relied on for choosing a presidential and vice-presidential candidate. But that time is long since past. When I go into the voting booth on presidential election day, the ballot explicitly names the presidential candidate that the elector is pledged to vote for. In fact, I have no idea, and probably will never know, who my elector ever was, as his name is not mentioned on the ballot in my state.

I understand that in theory, there could be a so-called “faithless elector.” But that would be even less fair to the voters, if they never know the elector they are voting for.

I’m not questioning the electoral-vote system in general. I am not suggesting scrapping it and going with a full popular-vote system. I just want to know if there’s any point in having relatively anonymous warm bodies sent (I’ll bet it’s at taxpayer expense, too) to Washington when all the information you really need to declare the winner of the presidential election can be counted off of a red-and-blue map published in any newspaper nationwide the prior November.

You’d have to amend the Constitution to make the change and that’s too much of a pain in the ass.

I think everyone agrees that there is really no point to the electoral college anymore, but the real argument against it is that it inherently gives more voting power to someone who lives in Wyoming than to someone who lives in California (or similar states).


Voting Population of Wyoming in 2008 (in thousands): 404
Electoral votes of Wyoming: 3

Amount of electoral vote per 1000 persons in Wyoming = 3/404 = 0.00743

Voting Population of California in 2008 (in thousands): 27,156
Electoral votes of California: 55
Amout of electoral vote per 1000 persons in California = 55/27,156 = 0.00203

As you can see, the electoral college gives a lot more sway to voters in small states than voters in big states, and is pretty undemocratic. But the founding fathers didn’t really want the process of selecting presidents to be democratic anyway (in fact, in the 1700’s and early 1800’s some states’ electors were selected by the legislature, NOT by direct popular vote).

Get rid of it, I say.

That’s pretty much it. It’s a hell of a lot of trouble to go through, just to deal with the faithless-elector problem, which isn’t very much of one. The last Presidential election with more than one faithless elector was 1912.

The issue of whether we should have electoral votes rather than a national popular vote, or whether we should apportion electoral votes differently than we do, is a different debate than the OP raises - see his last paragraph. He’s just asking about whether there’s any logical reason to have flesh-and-blood electors, as opposed to an automatic tally of each state’s electoral votes.

I agree, but if we are going to ammend the constitution to change it to an automatic tally (no actual human voters necessary), I just wanted to put in my 2 cents on why we should get rid of it all together.

They don’t go to Washington; they meet in their respective state capitols.

As drewtwo99 pointed out the electoral college gives more power to small states. Since amending the constitution requires ratification by 3/4 of the states, eliminating the electoral college is only slightly more likely than eliminating the Senate, which is there for the same reason.

I already answered that. The Constitution calls for flesh-and-blood electors.

Would you miss it if we did get rid of it? (The Senate, that is)

Without the literal Electoral College, there would be no electoral keggers or Rush Week!

I certainly would. The Senate is designed to make it harder to pass legislation. A very valuable feature.

Has it tried Viagla?

There are situations where having Electors differs from simply assigning electoral votes. In the event that both of a political party’s nominees die before they meet the party can substitute other candidates. If either one of the candidates dies they can have Electors name a different Vice President (assuming that if the POTUS candidate died the VP candidate would move up).

Alternatively, Electors could facilitate compromises within or between political parties. That is, Electors pledged to certain candidates could instead vote for others. This could allow for a third party to support to a major party with enough Electoral Votes to take a majority. Or for a single party to that is divided or running a regional candidate strategy (as the Whig Party purportedly did in 1836) to combine on a single ticket rather than throw the election into the House of Representatives.

Whether any of these situations are favorable or not is debatable but there certainly is the possibility (however remote under our current political structure) of a role for Electors other than passively voting for the candidate they are pledged to vote or individually selecting another as a symbolic gesture.

This is not so. Some version of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (developed independently on this board by Yours Truly in 2000) might go into effect with the support of considerably less than 3/4 of the states.

Because of this I would argue that the Electoral College system itself is amazingly fragile. If one political party were to take a strong stand against it, it might easily crumble. A state by state crusade could effectively roll up enough states over time. Since it is generally unpopular it would take more of an effort to repeal a state’s agreement to the Interstate Compact. That this doesn’t happen has less to do with the advantage (or perceived advantage) of “small” or swing states and more to do with the leverage the system gives to political fixers who can promise to deliver key constituencies.

Once an Interstate Compact is firmly in place, amending the Constitution to simplify the process is hardly controvertial. See *Oregon v Mitchell *and the 26th Amendment.

I would argue that even supporters of the Electoral College today only approve of the numerical distribution. In a situation like you describe, I don’t think that anyone (pro or anti EC) would cry tears to get rid of a bunch of party hacks picking the next President of the United States.

It seems rather uncharitable of Wikipedia to describe the 1912 Republican electors as “faithless”. Their VP candidate had died, and they voted for the man specified by the RNC as his replacement.

If the electors serve a purpose, then they need to have their names on the ballot so we know who we’re counting on to do this for us. As it stands, in at least some states (including mine, New York), it just says “Electors for (presidential candidate)”

I think the vast majority of us would agree. But are people any more enamoured with the party hacks in Congress? At least in these situations we would know that the president was of the same political party as the one people voted for. If it went to the House of Representatives as it is with the majority candidate dead the House could only chose the person who lost the election unless a third candidate had at least a single electoral vote. Presumably, of course, you would address that posibility in the amendment doing away with Electors.

To be clear, I’m not arguing that we should keep the Electors. Merely that grounds exist to do so.

Right. The “Neutron Bomb” amendment to the EC would have to include a contingency if either the Pres/VP elect dies before they take office.

I would propose that if the VP dies, the new Prez picks a VP as is done now. If Prez elect dies, then the VP becomes Prez and picks a new VP under the same conditions.

If BOTH die, then the Speaker of the House (then so on down the line) should be “Acting President” for say, 6 months until a new election is held.