The Electoral College is essential to sustain America’s federalism. It ensures that all states of the union, small or large, have a fair say in the selection of the nation’s chief executive. It is due to this feature of the American system that a President cannot ignore smaller states and their issues. Without the College, the smaller states would only have a say in the nation’s legislature (via their equal representation with larger states in the Senate) but not in the executive branch. Since decentralized local administration is one of America’s key strengths, eliminating the College would hurt governance on the ground.
The issue of doing away with the Electoral College is hot again because Trump won the presidency despite losing the popular vote. Yet again, the media is ripe with views for and against. Professor Larry Arnn (President Hillsdale College) writes in the WSJ that “the Electoral College continues to recognize that Americans vote by state—in the same way that they elect the Senate and the House, and the same way that they voted those many years ago to ratify the Constitution.” The College ensures that “they are not ruled as colonies from a bunch of blue capitals, nor from a bunch of red ones,” he says.
Arnn explains his thoughts more simply in this video on Fox. He says those who want to do away with the College are being foolish.
Similarly Professor Charles Fried (Harvard Law School) feels strongly that the College is an important part of American presidential elections. In the NYT he explains that “the notion is that the states are not simply administrative units of the national government.”
The view against the status quo, from Professor Akhil Reed Amar (Yale University), is that instead of the Electoral College states should get creative and increase their share of the national popular vote. This way, he writes, “states with higher turnout would have more clout.” But how would states like Wyoming or Vermont (with about half a million people each) compete with states like California (38 million) or Texas (26 million), he doesn’t say.
Trump of course thinks he would have won big even in popular vote had there been no College…
[Update December 12, 2016]
Another scholar has just confirmed the importance of the Electoral College for America’s states. In an article in the Washington Post Josep M. Colomer, a research professor in political science at Georgetown University, writes…
In presidential elections by nationwide popular votes, campaigns would focus not on swing states but on more populous states. Overall voter turnout would probably be higher than it is today. Smaller states would no longer have such influence during primary season. Even the number of viable candidates might change, depending on how the new electoral rule were designed.
More on U.S. Electoral College…