by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
The most popular argument against the Electoral College is that it violates the fundamental principle underlying democratic society: political equality, or, commonly phrased as “one person, one vote.”
Indeed, because all states are assigned at least three electors regardless of their population size, the Electoral College gives small states a disproportionate number of electors per capita. As a result, a person who receives the largest number of votes does not necessarily win the election, as was the case in the presidential contests of 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016.
In the wake of the 2020 election, there have been renewed calls to abolish the Electoral College and replace it with a national popular vote. …
… Yet, while it is true that in the current system presidential candidates don’t spend their energy and focus on all states equally, in a system with the popular vote, the “tyranny of the minority” would be even worse. Indeed, could well be enough to win the popular vote of highly dense, urbanized cities in states like California and New York while losing in elections in a vast majority of the country.
But as Dan McLaughlin writes in National Review, “The Electoral College, however, dilutes the influence of “hyperpartisan enclaves that are out of step with the nation,” be it California today or the American South in the 19th century. Thus, thanks to the Electoral College, candidates have to appeal to a geographically broader base that’s more politically, socially, and economically diverse.
The Electoral College is therefore a mainstay of America’s federalist system of governance, centered on the protection of certain rights reserved to the states as entities and resting on the principle of a division of power. America is a union of states, and the president is, in essence, the officer of the states rather than of the American people.