October 8

Blog #140 – Time to get rid of the Electoral College?

The Electoral College is one of a kind.  No other country uses this system to elect their leaders – in fact, no other American politician or judge is elected using an electoral college – they all get elected via majority vote.  Only the President of the U.S. is chosen with this cumbersome system.  Throughout American history, the presidential candidate with the most votes has lost the electoral vote 4 times, twice lately (in 2000 and 2016).  So why do we have it?

Some textbooks and teachers (including this one!) have said that the Framers of the Constitution didn’t trust the American voter to pick the right candidate, so someone else should pick the president.  Hence, charges of elitism.  Others have claimed that the EC protects the small states from being overrun by the larger states in an election, where a candidate from a small state would never get elected.  While others claim that the EC has its roots in racism and the protection of the slave states who feared that the Northern states would dominate the South b/c there were more voters in the North than in the South (based upon landownership). But, before we get going any further, please watch this video for a better understanding of the Electoral College, what it is, and how it works.  It also includes some arguments for and against it.

To counter the argument that the Framers were elitist, one must remember that only landowners were the voters (except in Massachusetts where all males had the right to vote), supposedly the best people in the community and not the “rabble” that some have characterized American voters were in 1787.  The Framers most likely didn’t trust local politicians given the insanity that happened between 1781 – 1787 in states like Rhode Island (remember the paper money fiasco).  Furthermore, at the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, only Elbridge Gerry expressed any concern about “the evils we experience flow from the excess of democracy.”  No other Framer expressed a similar sentiment.

To counter the argument that the Framers created the EC to protect small states, all one has to do is to look at Madison’s Notes on the Convention and see that this idea never appears in the notes.  This doesn’t mean that delegates didn’t care about the difference between the large and small states, it just means that in the discussions for choosing the president, the issue of large and small states didn’t come up (though it definitely did when figuring out the configuration of Congress).

When discussing how to chose the president, one initial suggestion was by Edmund Randolph of Virginia who said that he/she should be chosen by the national legislature.  James Madison later suggested that the lower house of Congress should pick the president.  There was also significant debate as to how many people should be president – should it be one person, a pair, or several?   James Wilson made a proposal that the president be chosen by a popular vote, using the example of New York and Massachusetts popularly electing their governors.  Gouverneur Morris also made an argument for a popular vote: “he ought to be elected by the people at large, by the freeholders (landowners) of the Country… If the people should elect, they will never fail to prefer some man of distinguished character or services; some man, if he might so speak, of continental reputation.  If the legislature elect, it will be the work of intrigue, of cabal (conspiracy), and of faction…”  Southern delegates, for the most part, opposed popular vote because the Northern states had more voters than the Southern states despite having similar populations (because the enslaved didn’t vote).    The popular vote idea would eventually be voted down.

Eventually, in mid July, Oliver Ellsworth proposed that electors appointed by the state legislatures chose the president and that the number be determined by the state’s population.  Madison feared that the South would never be able to affect the outcome if it was based upon the free population because there were more free white and Black folks in the North than in the South.  Madison would then support the EC because of the 3/5 Compromise which would give the Southern states a bigger say in who became president.  This can be seen in the 1800 election.  Jefferson had more votes than Adams because of the 3/5 Compromise but without it, Adams would have won.  In fact, 10 of the first 12 presidents elected, from Washington to Taylor, would be slaveholders.  So it might seem that the EC was created to the benefit of slave states.

For some more modern arguments about the EC, here is Adam Ruins Everything on why we should ditch the EC:

They bring up an interesting point in this video, that if the winner – take – all system was gotten rid of, you wouldn’t have so many solidly blue (Democratic) or red (Republican) states.  In the article that I asked you to read for this blog, it states that 2/3 of the states don’t even matter in a presidential election because they’re not battleground states, and that in 2016, 94% of the candidates’ visits were limited to just 12 states (and 2/3 of the visits were in just SIX STATES!).  Somehow, a popular vote would fix this, get rid of battleground states, and make sure that the candidates get around the country to go see everybody in order to get their vote.

For the other side of the argument to keep the EC, here is a video by Prager U:

The video states that the EC promotes coalition building and protects against voter fraud.  The video also stated that the Framers didn’t intend to have a pure democracy (or popular vote) when it came to the president (or the Senate for that matter).  In the article for the blog, they stated that the Framers were worried about only a few large states picking the presidency while the rest would be ignored.

Just so you know, in order to eliminate the EC, it would require a Constitutional amendment.  That would require 2/3 of both houses of Congress and 3/4 of all of the state legislatures.

So, please answer the following:

  1. Which video – Adam Ruins Everything and Prager U – had the more persuasive arguments?   Why?
  2. Do you believe that the electoral college should be eliminated?  Why or why not?
  3. Should the winner – take – all system of how states assign their electors be changed to be proportional?  Why or why not?  For instance, Texas has 38 electoral votes which Trump won in 2020 by a margin of 52% – 47%.  If the electoral votes were assigned proportionally based upon the vote, Trump would have won 20 and Biden would have won 18.

Your total answer for all 3 questions should be a minimum of 350 words.  Due Monday, October 11 by class.  

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Posted October 8, 2021 by geoffwickersham in category Blogs

57 thoughts on “Blog #140 – Time to get rid of the Electoral College?

  1. Erika Sharafeddin-Rice

    1. Adam’s video has the more persuasive arguments. Adam aims to entertain his audience as well as educate them, using comedy as a way to teach and deliver the more dull facts about his topic of choice. PragerU’s video largely consists of a woman we do not know delivering a monologue next to generic visuals and animation, and is intended only for educational purposes instead of entertainment- which isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but did not work for them in this video, since they came off as dull and monotonous while Adam’s video was more engaging and fun to watch. Overall, I would watch more of Adam’s videos as a way to educate myself on other topics, but I would not watch another PragerU video unless required to do so for a school assignment or other mandatory exercise.

    2. I do think that the electoral college should be eliminated, because the president should be decided by the popular vote instead of the state’s electors- especially because, as Adam noted, many of the electors aren’t even required to cast their votes for the winner of the state’s popular vote. Furthermore, the idea that getting rid of the electoral college would result in a “pure democracy” is silly, since representative democracy would still prevail in our House and Senate. The notion that the Founding Fathers made our democracy this way, and therefore we cannot change it, is silly. The Founding Fathers wanted us to change and update our government based on the times, and even if they didn’t explicitly create a system of government that the people could change if they so wished, they were not always the best decision makers in the 1770s! See: women’s rights, civil rights, slavery, child labor, Alien & Sedition Acts, treatment of Native Americans, etc., etc.

    3. 3. Yes, I do believe that the winner-take-all system should be changed so that it is more representative of the overall result of the election. The current system does not represent the overall population, only the political majority, which means the electoral college will never truly reflect the results of the popular vote like it’s ostensibly intended to do. The winner-take-all system also enables our system of “red” and “blue” states, which are not always representative of the actual political leanings of a state’s population.

  2. Bailey Mingus :)

    1. I don’t necessarily agree with it, but I feel more persuaded by the Adam Ruins Everything video because it’s more comedic/likable (and PragerU is also kind of a meme). Both videos made good arguments, but I’m inclined this way because I feel like I can relate more in a way.
    2. It’s definitely a system that’s far from perfect, but I didn’t know that I could think of a better way of doing things. Every voting method is going to have its flaws. If someone can think of a better way (with proof), maybe we could change it then. But especially given the atmosphere surrounding this system in the US (everyone’s used to it), I feel like changing it could do more harm than good.
    3. I’m certainly open to this option. It makes sense, and I know there are a few states that already do this. It also wouldn’t require a tremendous amount of change, so there would hopefully be less outcry. But again, you do need to consider how this would change the Republicans nature our voting systems have always taken.

  3. Angus MacDonald

    The Adam ruins everything video in my opinion was much more persuasive than the PagerU video. The Adam Ruins everything video highlighted many of the major issues today in our electoral college. He talks about the issues of swing states and safe states. Swing states are really the only states that matter in the election because the outcome of safe states can already be predicted.nHe also highlights how states with a lesser population get way more voting power than the larger ones. The Adam ruins everything video was also much more interesting. There was more variation of voice tone. While in PagerU the video was much more monotone.

    I believe that the Electoral college should be completely eliminated. Without the Electoral college. Without the Electoral college, things such as swing states or safe states would not have to exist without the Electoral college. Votes would be much more exact and people would be elected based on who got the most votes from the people. States with lower population would not have more power than the ones with a larger population. This would make the election much more fair that it is today with the electoral college votes

    I think that electoral college votes should be split up proportionally. This change should take place because it would help reward the candidates that don’t win a state. Candidates today are forced to focus on the big states. This is because The larger states have much more votes than the other states. If the electoral college votes were set up to be proportional, all the votes in one state wouldn’t go to a single candidate. This would allow for the Candidates to try and target multiple states and spread out their views to wider audiences that aren’t just in the biggest states. The Electoral college system as it stands today is also completely unfair. It makes no sense that a candidate should get every electoral college vote in a state if they get 51% of the people’s votes. The electoral college votes should be split upon the two candidates so that they each get some votes.

  4. Kaden Misra

    1. In my opinion The Adam ruins everything video was more persuasive than the PagerU video. In the adam ruins everything video he points out the major flaws in the electoral college in ways that you can understand and that are funny but get the point across well. One thing he talks about is how big of an impact swing states have on the election and how most of the rest of the united states don’t matter. He also talks about how it is unfair to have a one-party take all types of votes because millions of people’s votes just matter. In conclusion, I think the Adam Ruins everything video is better than the PagerU video.
    2. In my opinion we should keep the electoral college. but change it so that it is a more fair system. Somethings I think we could do to improve the electoral college are we could make it so that the electors have to vote for who the people decide to vote for because it is just plain out stupid that someone can win a vote but still not get the vote that they won because an elector decide not to vote for them. Something else we should change is how each state’s winner takes all it should be divided into different votes where each electoral college vote can be won by either party, not just one party wins all of the votes.
    3. In my opinion we should divide the electoral college votes up based on percentage. If our country is truly a democracy why do only some of the votes count? It doesn’t make sense. One reason we should do this is so that presidential candidates can’t just focus on swing states to try and win the election; they have to appeal to all states. It also makes no sense that if a candidate wins a state by only a percentage that they get every vote, why would someone who won a vote 51% to 49% get all votes and not just the percentage they should have won? It just makes no sense to me.

  5. Loghan Smith

    Which video – Adam Ruins Everything and Prager U – had the more persuasive arguments? Why?
    The video titled Prager U had the most persuasive arguments. The speaker in the video stated and explained information on the process and reasoning on why the President is chosen this way. The speaker also goes into detail about the efficiency of the method. The speaker uses a video of Barack Obama’s 2012 election between him and Mitt Rommey. At that specific time, in Rhode Island, if a voter voted for Barack Obama they were contributing to the four democratic electrons. During the month of December along five hundred other electors would vote officially for their next President. The speaker also mentions as well, the specific reason that the Electoral College had been chosen and has continuously been followed out throughout the years is the sole idea that in order to win, a candidate must have the support of a variety of voters throughout the country. Instead of them only focusing on a handful of states since their votes were counted as more, each vote would be valued. A given example would be the idea that you would not be able to win two hundred and sixty electoral votes with only one small part of the country voting and supporting you. You would need to expand your voters.

    Do you believe that the electoral college should be eliminated? Why or why not?
    I do not believe that the electoral college should be eliminated for the idea that our country would take it more as a popularity contest. The electoral college provides candidates running with an equal opportunity to voice their points and what they have to bring to the table. Without an electoral college, the election would be more about power rather than the serious issues needing help in the country. The colleges also make it more challenging for candidates to steal or sweep elections. With the number of swing states, it is challenging to predict who will vote for who and who will win certain states over. Another factor is that the “⅔ of both houses of Congress and ¾ of all the state legislatures” policy will be pushed aside. Under those specific circumstances, it would be extremely difficult to continue under that rule. This sums up my reasoning on why I do not recommend at all discontinuation of the electoral college.

    Should the winner – take – all system of how states assign their electors be changed to be proportional? Why or why not? For instance, Texas has 38 electoral votes which Trump won in 2020 by a margin of 52% – 47%. If the electoral votes were assigned proportionally based upon the vote, Trump would have won 20 and Biden would have won 18.
    I believe that the winner-takes-all system should be updated and changed to be proportional. That counting of states and things of such would be ten times more accurate by allowing a more detailed view of what is happening. Winners can have a negative effect on voters who disagree with their points and vote against them. The last thing you would want is for people to feel silenced and be afraid to vote for what they believe in. Or even argue the fact that their candidate didn’t have a fair run in the election. A given example would be if a Democrat in a Republican state’s vote was counted but disregarded since it had no value due to the state they were in at the time. It is not fair and sooner or later people would start to view voting as a waste of time and energy.

  6. Sandra Hussein

    REDO FOr #2
    1.The video I thought was more persuasive and got more information about the electoral college was the Adam Ruins video. In the video he talks about many issues in the electoral college . He uses funny ways to hook the audience on to the video and makes the audience understand what he’s talking about. In the video he uses real numbers and examples about the electoral college.He talks about how the electoral college relied on every vote so there wouldn’t be any cheating. He also talks about how smaller states have a greater voting rights/power. Because it takes less people for an electoral college vote.

    The electoral college was started by the founding fathers to give equal voice to all 50 states in the union. I think we should keep the electoral college because it would be unfair for the states with the least population. If we get rid of the electoral college, then a handful of large states would have all the power and they will determine who the next president is. The electoral college is also a nice tool to keep all 50 states together. Without the electoral college, smaller states would have no incentive to stay in the union and may ask for their own independence.

    3. I think they need to change it. If it was 52-48% it was so close but the 52 percent wins so that means that the 48 percent of people’s votes were meaningless. Like how biden almost beat trump’s electoral votes i think it was in texas but trump still got that state. When trump one texas’s electoral votes he got 18 free electoral college votes which were meant for biden. If it waas split up proportionally the votes would be even fair and people’s votes would actually mean something. One thing that doesn’t make sense is how smaller states have more power in voting than larger states just because of their population. It should be fair.

  7. Ronnie

    I think that the prager u argument was more persuasive. I think the Prager u argument was more persuasive because it had a really good counterargument and facts valid facts that showed why we should keep the electoral college. For example, the prager u argument showed how the electoral college helps to prevent voter fraud, because if there was not an electoral college even the most democratic or republican states could have their vote stolen. Another good point made in the prager u video was that without an electoral college and with a “pure democracy vote” only the large states would really matter and the small states would be irrelevant because candidates only have to win large state approval and not small state approval. I don’t think the electoral college should be eliminated. I do not think the electoral college should be eliminated because it does a number of good things to prevent the problems caused by a majority vote and a people-only voting-based system. One of the reasons why the electoral college should stay is because it protects small states from being ignored and deemed irrelevant as well as it protects the election from being rigged by voter fraud. Protection from voter fraud is important because it prevents unworthy candidates from being elected in office or from foreign tampering. The last reason as to why the electoral college should exist is because it prevents the population from voting for an unworthy candidate because we have smart representatives making that vote for us so we don’t choose an unworthy candidate. I think it should be a more proportional system because the majority take-all system really is not showing the overall views of the state and just the political parties. By having a more proportional-based system we get a more accurate representation of the state and their votes. This matters because without accurate representation it won’t really show the thoughts and opinions and votes of other political parties which could lead to having an inaccurate election that is not actually taking into account the overall population, which then leads to a candidate that might have been picked that is not really good.

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