Debate Club

The Electoral College Serves the Interests of All People

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The Electoral College makes American politics more inclusive, moderate, and stable than if we directly elected the president of the United States. While it can frustrate partisans—on both sides—the Electoral College has served the American voter well and should be preserved.

Put simply, the Electoral College is the constitutional, state-by-state way the American people elect the president. It is a democratic process in two-steps. The people vote to determine how their state will cast its electoral votes. The candidate with a majority of those electoral votes becomes president. It isn't really that complicated, and it certainly isn't undemocratic.

[See a collection of political cartoons on the 2012 campaign.]

While some pundits complain about "safe states" and "swing states," those labels just reflect how the people of those states are likely to vote. It's no different than in congressional districts—actually, it's much better. About twice as many people live in swing states as in competitive congressional districts.

The benefits of the Electoral College come from the need to win state-by-state. This means candidates can't just go to their strongholds and drive up turnout—or stuff ballot boxes. The Electoral College makes candidates go to the most evenly divided parts of our country to make their case to those voters. Over time, this has made American political parties less extreme and more inclusive than they would have been without the Electoral College.

[See photos from the 2012 Presidential Campaign Trail.]

The current presidential election process also provides for stability and security. In most presidential races, the Electoral College outcome is more decisive than the popular vote result, making clear who is the legitimate president. The Electoral College also uses the states like water-tight compartments on an ocean liner to contain election problems: A dispute in one state doesn't sink the whole ship, and nation-wide recounts are never necessary.

Americans are fortunate that through debate and compromise, the framers of the Constitution created the Electoral College. While it doesn't work exactly as the founding generation thought it might, it probably works better than they could have imagined. It doesn't tip the scales in favor of Democrats or Republicans—but instead serves the interests all the people.

Trent England

About Trent England Vice President of Policy at the Freedom Foundation.

Electoral College
2012 presidential election

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