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The Surprising Reason To Keep The Electoral College


Published on April 15, 2020

Many people believe we should abolish the Electoral College, but it serves important purposes. The Electoral College system requires candidates to broaden their national appeal and discourages extreme policy positions. Abolishing the Electoral College would worsen political polarization and partisanship.

 Discussion Questions:

  1. How does the Electoral College protect minority rights better than a majority vote?
  2. How might the ability to hold recounts at a national level make elections more difficult?

Additional resources:

  • Read “Electoral College,” by John Cochrane via the Grumpy Economist. Available here
  • Read “Why the Electoral College Is a Great Idea,” by John Cochrane via the Grumpy Economist. Available here
  • Read “Beware of Faithless Electors” by Richard Epstein. Available here.
View Transcript

Two of the last five presidential elections produced an unusual outcome.  The winners of the nationwide popular vote didn’t become president, because they didn’t win the electoral college. As a result, many people believe we should abolish the electoral college and elect the president by a simple national majority.

But the electoral college serves important purposes.

The electoral college requires candidates to broaden their national appeal. Most states allocate all of their electoral college votes to the candidate who wins the most votes in that state. Barely winning a state is worth just as much as winning it by a landslide.

Candidates therefore have an incentive to win as many states as possible, rather than run up the totals in states that already lean to their party.

Without the electoral college, they would likely choose more extreme policy positions, rather than try to win over moderate and independent voters. Parties would even more come to represent the interests of particular states instead of the whole country.

A direct national vote would also mean that every vote could be challenged and recounted equally. Imagine the chaos of national recounts with legal challenges all over the country, each candidate suing in districts with judges friendly to their party.

Ultimately, abolishing the electoral college would make political polarization and partisanship even worse.