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"I am a democrat in Utah, which makes me an endangered species. I feel so disenfranchised with our electoral college in this country, as it makes my vote for president worthless. I hope your program is successful, as I want the presidential candidates to pay attention to all Americans, not just those in swing states."
-Mike Walton
Salt Lake City, UT

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The Electoral College

Here is an overview of the major problems with the Electoral College:

1. Loser of the popular vote can win in the Electoral College

In the 2000 election, the vote count showed that George Bush won Florida by just 537 votes. As a result, Bush received all of the state's 25 electoral votes, which allowed him to defeat Al Gore by a mere five electoral votes. Once this outcome was ratified by a divided Supreme Court, Bush was declared President--despite receiving 544,000 fewer votes nationwide than Gore.

2. Winner-take-all distribution of electoral votes

In every state except Maine and Nebraska, the winner of each state race receives all of that state's electoral votes. Winner-take-all in the Electoral College means that the votes of those who do not support the winning candidate are effectively discarded at the state level. For example: in a state with a strong Republican majority, such as Utah, a vote for a Democratic presidential candidate is very unlikely to count. (Lyndon Johnson was the last democrat to win the state, and George Bush won the state in 2000 by 40.5 percentage points.)

Competition in winner-take-all battles for states' electoral votes creates major incentives for mischief and cheating at the state level. In 2000, George W. Bush won with the dubious help of Florida Secretary of State Katharine "voter purge" Harris, his brother the Governor, and five Republicans on the U.S. Supreme Court. Although he lost to Gore by more than 500,000 votes nationally, he eked out an Electoral College victory. The popular vote winner, Al Gore, lost the election. The Electoral College has many times frustrated the principle of majority rule and one person-one vote.

3. No right for individual citizens to vote for Electors

As the Supreme Court told us in Bush v. Gore, the "individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States." Rather, it is the power of the state legislatures to appoint the electors. In 2000, the Republican-led Florida legislature threatened to disregard the popular vote if Gore won and simply appoint the electors for Bush. There is a danger that the legislatures will set aside a legitimate popular vote.

4. Small state voters are over-represented

Because each state receives a number of electoral votes equal to its number of senators plus its number of congressional districts, small state voters get more electoral votes per person. For example: Wyoming has an elector for every 165,000 people, while Texas has an elector for every 652,000 (http://www.fairvote.org/e_college/problems.htm).

The Electoral College was conceived by the leaders of smaller southern states as one way to impede any federal efforts to abolish slavery. It worked like a dream, with four out of five of our first presidents being Virginia slavemasters. Throughout the 20th century, segregationists like George Wallace, Harry Byrd and Strom Thurmond used the Electoral College as a way to thwart progress on civil rights. While more than 90% of African-Americans voted for Gore in 2000, 58% of African-Americans live in states that gave 100% of their Electoral College votes to Bush.

5. Less emphasis on and incentive to vote in "safe" states

There is very little campaign activity in the vast majority of states consigned to one party or the other. While turnout in Florida in 2000 went over 70%, in large 'safe' states like California, New York or Texas it hovered around 50%. Where there is no real contest, there is no real campaign and little incentive to participate. The Electoral College gives disproportionate emphasis to the concerns of voters in certain swing states while running roughshod over everyone else.

For more on the history of the Electoral College:

For more on reforming the Electoral College:

 

 

 

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