Electoral College Debate – Negative Side Abstract. Be it resolved that the US congress amend the constitution to eradicate the Electoral College in favor of the popular vote. As a member of the negative side of this debate, I firmly believe that the Electoral College should not be abolished.
The Electoral College is a system set up by the founding fathers in the Constitution in Article 2, Section 1, and then altered by the 12th amendment. It assigns a certain number of electoral votes to each state for the purpose of determining presidential elections. The number of assigned electorates equals the number of congressmen where one vote is given for each House member and two votes for two Senators (maitreg.com).
In order to understand the necessity of the Electoral College, one must understand the foundation of the Unites States first. When this country was made up of 13 different colonies under the British control and undergoing economical and materialistic exploitation by the British government, each of the 13 colonies united and declared their independence from England. Subsequently, they knew that the British Government would not give up the control over the rich and fertile colonies in the new continent and hence decided to build strong alliances with each other not only to defend themselves from England, but also from Mexico, France and other future invasions. Therefore, “the consensus was that a strong union needed to be formed, a union of independent states with a centralized limited government that could call on the states to defend each other in the future when necessary” (maitreg.com). On this ground, the founding fathers needed to come up with a presidential election system in which all of the states’ beliefs contributed to the selection of the leader of the union (Robert D. Brown).
To counterpoint the affirmative side’s argument that the practice of the Electoral College is undemocratic, we, in defense of the system, have two arguments against the point.
First, Electoral College System works much the same as every democratic institution in the United State, only, to paraphrase Martin Diamond, it does so not nationally, but in the states (Martin Diamond). To state this differently, The Electoral College system is state centered, combining what are the two most dominant themes in the Constitution: “the balancing of state and national concerns, and the safeguarding of minority rights within a framework of majority rule (Robert D. Brown).” As aforementioned, by creating a federal system of intergovernmental relations, with the states remaining the basic political units, the Electoral College system allows the incredible diversity of political views that exists throughout the nation to be accounted.
The second point is that the US is actually not a fully democratic country. The US is a federation/republic mixed with indirect democracy. The best example of this is the US congress, which is made up of the House of Representatives and the senate. The house of representatives was created as a representation of the people, giving each equally populated group of people equal power. On the other hand, the senate, which is more powerful than the House of Representatives, is not a representation of the people, but a representation of state governments. In the senate, each state has two representatives, regardless of the population of the state, giving every state equal power (meitreg.com). Therefore, if the Electoral College was abolished, small states with less population would practically lose its right as a member of the union, infringing the fundamental principles of the foundation of the nation.
A second major criticism of the Electoral College system is that the practice of giving all the state’s electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote (The winner-take-all system) is does not represent everyone’s vote in states.
The most common complaint is that this system augments the power of the larger states, and thus not treats voters equally. For example, candidates are more likely to campaign very hard in larges states such as California, where the victory will give them 54 electoral votes, one more than the fourteen smallest states combined. Therefore, the voters in California are much more powerful than the voters in New Hampshire, making the system unrepresentative. However, when considering this issue, one must be aware of the fact that the least amount of electoral vote one state can have is three. This denotes that small states also benefit from the practice of the Electoral College. “When we examine the seven smallest states, each with three electoral votes, we see that the ratio of citizens per electoral vote is, on average, 177,125. In the seven largest states, on the other hand, the average ratio is a whopping 528,188 citizens per electoral vote (Best, Judith).” By this calculation, one can see that smaller states are overrepresented, which balances the bias in representation among the states.
Another criticism of the winner-take-all system is that when such a large portion of the country’s population has an important role in electing the president, it cannot be considered democratic. However, those big states with more electoral votes are the states where the presidential campaigns are the most competitive, and where the populations are more diverse. Therefore, to win in these big states, it is demanded that the candidates accentuate in consensus rather than division. Also, it is often criticized that larger states often represent the interests of racial minorities that are more populated in these states; it is a well known fact that whites in California are considered minorities due to the exceedingly high population of Hispanics, Asians and Mexicans (Frank Pellegrini). “For a country in which one of the fundamental tenets is the balancing of minority rights and majority rule, such a “bias” is much more of an advantage than a disadvantage.” (Robert D. Brown)
Based on the aforementioned arguments pertaining to the fact that the Electoral College is a corner stone of the fundamental principles of the Constitution, the negative side calls for rejection of the proposal – Be it resolved that the US congress amend the constitution to eradicate the Electoral College in favor of popular vote. Abolishing the Electoral College would grant more power to bigger states and less power to smaller states, intruding the fundamental principles of the US constitution. Also, the practice of the system allows the incredible political diversity throughout the nation to be accounted for. This is a deep-seated principle in the constitution since one of the major themes of the constitution is: “the balancing of state and national concerns, and the safeguarding of minority rights within a framework of majority rule.” Another constructive element of the Electoral College system is the fact that it encourages presidential candidates to put more emphasis on consensus rather than division of political views. By balancing the rights of states within a federal electoral structure, the Electoral College continues to be a important component of the presidential selection process. For the reasons stated above, the negative side calls for rejection of the US’ Congress amending the Constitution to eradicate the Electoral College in favor of popular vote.
Diamond, Martin. The Electoral College and the American Idea of Democracy. Washington, D.C.: American Enterprise institute for Public Policy Research, 1997.
Brown, D. Robert., edited by Gary L, Rose. NO, The Electoral College Should Not Be Abolished: Controversial Issues in Presidential Selection. SUNY Press, 1994.
Maitreg. Electoral College. “http://www.maitreg.com/politics/articles/electoralcollege.asp.”
Best, Judith. The Case Against Direct Election of the President: A Defense of electoral college. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1975.
Pellegrini, Frank. The Coming of the Minority Majority. Time. Aug. 2000. http://www.time.com/time/search/printout/0,8816,53774,00.html