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Knowledge Base

The Surprising Reason To Keep The Electoral College

How often does a presidential candidate win an election without winning the popular vote?

This doesn’t happen often. In fact, only five times in the history of the United States has the winner of the presidential election not won the national popular vote: Donald Trump (2016), George W. Bush (2000), Benjamin Harrison (1888), Rutherford B. Hayes (1876), and John Quincy Adams (1824). However, when people do not understand the important purposes of the Electoral College, even once is enough for the system to be deemed undemocratic.

How would abolishing the Electoral College influence candidates’ campaigning?

Currently, candidates spend a good portion of their time campaigning in “battleground” or “swing” states, where neither political party has an advantage among voters. Campaigning in these states requires that candidates appeal to more moderate and independent voters in order to gain the electoral votes for those states. By abolishing the Electoral College, candidates would no longer have an incentive to appeal to voters in swing states and would instead choose more partisan platforms to appeal to their bases. Candidates would focus their campaigning efforts in populous places where they already have an advantage, such as California, New York, or Texas.

Is there a way to reform the Electoral College without abolishing it?

One way to reform the Electoral College without abolishing it is to change the way states award their electoral votes. Currently, 48 states award their electoral votes by the “winner takes all” strategy. However, two states, Nebraska and Maine, award their electoral votes based on how candidates performed in particular districts. Though this method of electoral vote distribution has had little effect thus far, it could be a better way of addressing critics’ concern of the Electoral College. Under the Constitution, states are permitted to allocate electoral votes in whatever way they deem fit. Therefore, unlike a complete abolition of the Electoral College, this reform would not require a constitutional amendment.