With President Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney locked in a dead heat in national polls, but state polls showing Obama edging out Romney in key swing states, it is possible that Obama could win the Electoral College and Romney could win the national popular vote (or vice versa, though that seems less likely). Such an outcome has occurred three times before—in 1876, 1888, and 2000 (in 1824 no candidate won a majority of electoral votes and the House selected John Quincy Adams, who had come in second in the popular vote). That scenario recurring this year would raise the question of whether the Electoral College should be eliminated.
The Electoral College has elected the president and vice president of the United States since the nation's beginnings. Its 538 electors reflect Congress's 100 senators and 435 representatives—which are apportioned to each state according to the national census conducted every 10 years—and three electors for the District of Columbia. With the exceptions of Nebraska and Maine, where electors are awarded according to congressional district, each state's electoral votes are awarded in a winner-take-all fashion.
The current system encourages presidential campaigns to focus on the 10 or 12 so called "swing states," which could go to either party. This has prompted some activists to question the current system, arguing that it renders the large swath of votes in nonswing states irrelevant. Proponents of the Electoral College counter that a national popular vote would shift candidates' focus to urban centers, and the current system protects the interests of rural populations. Furthermore, they say that the Electoral College preserves United States's federal character, and that a national vote would lead to an even more centralized, bigger national government.
Should the Electoral College be eliminated? Here is the Debate Club's take:
Barry Fadem President of National Popular Vote
Christopher Pearson Member of the Vermont Legislature
Lara Brown Assistant Professor of Political Science at Villanova University
Trent England Vice President of Policy at the Freedom Foundation.
Tara Ross Author of Enlightened Democracy: The Case for the Electoral College