There is a myriad of reasons the electoral college should be abolished in the United States. In chapter 15 of Debating Reform: Conflicting Perspectives on How to Fix the American Political System, George C. Edwards goes over the pros of abolishing the electoral college and Gary L. Gregg goes over the cons. Overall, the arguments against abolishing the electoral college are weak. Proponents of the electoral college do not value political equality very much. They tend to be more concerned with candidates ignoring rural areas and prioritizing cities during their campaigns. They ignore the fact that the current system allows minorities to rule the majority. States themselves do not have their own coherent cohesive interests; people do. A Republican has not won the popular vote in the last two Republican administrations. Rural areas tend to lean more conservative, and it is simply a fact that conservatism has been slowly declining. (Saad, 2020). There is no reason the votes in rural areas should be worth any more than the votes in big cities. It is simply an undemocratic practice.
Edwards goes over an abundance of pros for abolishing the electoral college. One of the biggest issues is that the current system allows for some votes to be worth more than others, which is not democratic and violates the principle of political equality. Edwards also notes that the winner takes all concept in the electoral college disenfranchises voters who vote for losing candidates. If it were just by the popular vote for instance, those votes would still count. Edwards also addresses the concept of legitimacy; he argues the president would gain more legitimacy if he or she was elected by the popular vote. Many a president that lost the majority of votes but won the electoral college to be illegitimate. Edwards then attacks the concept that small states have their own interests that need to be protected by the electoral college; he argues that states cannot have interests at all, since they are not coherent cohesive entities. The people within the state have their own interests, not the state itself. Edwards notes that if small states' interests were protected by the electoral college, candidates would not be ignoring them. He , “Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton campaigned in any of the seven smallest states... Of the thirty-seven smallest states – those with eleven or fewer electoral votes – presidential candidates visited only thirteen.” (Nelson and Ellis, 271). Clearly the current system does not incentivize candidates to pay attention to small states. Edwards goes on to argue that the current system forces candidates to only pay attention to battle ground states, given those states decide the election results. Furthermore, he advocates for direct elections – that direct elections would encourage candidates to consider the needs of everyone and would stop third parties from spoiling the vote. In sum, Edward argues that the electoral college is not democratic and should be abolished.
Gregg gives an abundance of reasons in defense of the electoral college. Firstly, he argues that the current system is proven to work and has produced many successful presidents in the past. This argument falls flat on its face with mild scrutiny. Just because the electoral college literally works does not mean it is the best system. If the election decided by the popular vote this whole time, only a couple of elections would have different results, such as Bush and Trump. Secondly, Gregg argues that political equality is not a foundation of America, given the Senate and Congressional districts do not have proportional representation. This argument is also not sound. It is not good that some aspects of the American political system are undemocratic. The presidential election should have political equality between states, not just within them. That is Edwards third argument, that there is political equality within states, so it does not matter if there is not political equality between states. Fourthly, he argues against getting rid of the electoral college because it will change the way campaigns run. This point is also not sound; how does Gregg know these changes will not be for the better? Fifthly, he argues that the candidates who have only won the electoral college but lost the popular vote did so because they were only trying to win the electoral college. This statement is true; however, Gregg’s conclusion is not correct. That is exactly why the electoral college should be abolished, to force candidates to appeal to everyone. Sixthly, he says that without the electoral college the most extreme elements of both parties will be amplified. This is ignoring the fact that the most extreme elements, particularly of the Republican party, have already been amplified and are now the mainstream. According to an analysis of data from Vox, “The Republican Party is one of the most anti-democratic political parties in the developed world.” (Beauchamp, 2021). Hence, conservative areas should not be given disproportionate power in comparison to the rest of the states in terms of how much their votes are worth.
Gregg then goes on to argue that the electoral college encourages politicians to work together, which is frankly an outlandish claim. The Republican party has become an obstructionist party with the goal of not allowing the other side to get anything done. (Maza, 2018). His seventh argument is that without the electoral college more parties could form. Yet he does not fully explain why this is bad. His eighth argument is that without the electoral college, it would allow third party candidates to blackmail the president into obtaining positions, given the threat of running in a close election. Yet, there is nothing stopping them from doing that now. He also ignores the fact that elections are not that close in terms of the popular vote, President Biden won by approximately 5 million votes. Gregg’s ninth argument against abolishing the electoral college is that no direct national election will incentivize candidates to pay attention to small states, such as Colorado, Nevada, New Hampshire, or New Mexico; while candidates pay attention to them now. The problem with this argument is that none of the states besides New Hampshire even falls under the top 10 smallest states by population. Those states are not particularly small in terms of population, candidates would still pay attention to them given every vote if it were to be by the popular vote. In defense of our current system, he argues that it is a good thing that it forces candidates to pay attention to the less populated rural areas and worries that without the electoral college, candidates would only pay attention to big cities, which would help liberals. This argument is also not sound – each state is a part of the same country. There is nothing wrong with candidates focusing on areas with more people. stop pretending that each state is not a part of the same country. Gregg argues that it is good that rural areas have more power, since they would be ignored otherwise. This is simply undemocratic. A minority of the population should not be able to control the majority. Lastly, he says that without the electoral college there would be more candidates running and more vote recounts. He is concerned that a president will be seen as illegitimate if 5 candidates are running and the winner only gets 30% of the vote. However, has Gregg heard of runoff elections? It is an obvious simple solution to that valid concern. It is also not inherently bad if they must recount votes or if more candidates run. Gregg's arguments are undemocratic and allow for a minority to rule the majority.
In conclusion, the electoral college should be abolished and replaced with popular vote. Rank choice voting is also something to consider when reforming the way presidents are elected. Edwards presents the pros of abolishing the electoral college and has convincing arguments; while Gregg presents the cons and is not very convincing at all. All of Gregg’s concerns can easily be addressed when abolishing the electoral college. The current system is undemocratic and allows for some votes to be worth more than others, violating the principle of political equality. All votes should be equal, regardless of where one is from. The current system has allowed an extremist Republican party to gain control of the presidency twice in the last 20 years, even though the people voted against them. The United States is currently backsliding for many reasons and the electoral college is not helping. (Anderson, 645). The electoral college should be abolished to make the presidential election more democratic.
Andersen, David, et al. “The Case for a Historical-Institutional Approach.” Comparative Politics, vol. 51, no. 4, 2019, pp. 645–663. JSTOR, https://www.jstor.org/stable/26663952. Accessed 1 Apr. 2023.
Beauchamp, Zack. “The Republican Revolt against Democracy, Explained in 13 Charts.” Vox, Vox, 1 Mar. 2021, https://www.vox.com/policy-and-politics/22274429/republicans-anti-democracy-13-charts.
Ellis, Richard, and Michael Nelson. Debating Reform: Conflicting Perspectives on How to Fix the American Political System. Sage, CQ Press, 2021.
Maza, Carlos. “Admit It. Republicans Have Broken Politics.” Vox, Vox, 29 Oct. 2018, https://www.vox.com/2018/10/29/18037654/strikethrough-republicans-have-broken-politics-polarization.
Saad, Lydia. “U.S. Conservatism down since Start of 2020.” Gallup.com, Gallup, 29 Nov. 2022, https://news.gallup.com/poll/316094/conservatism-down-start-2020.aspx.
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