What if There Weren't an Electoral College?

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

We're getting the usual calls after the presidential election to do away with the Electoral College, especially since the Democrat who ran as one lost. Indeed, the left has been pushing for some time to effectively abolish the Electoral College. I have always been against such efforts, and agree (as explained in the first link) that this institution helps preserve the voting power of the individual in that contest.

And a recent editorial from RealClear Politics lends more weight to that argument by considering the likely consequences of abolishing the Electoral College, in light of the fact that, like Bill Clinton (twice), neither candidate in this election won a majority of the votes, anyway.

If we abandoned the Electoral College, and adopted a system in which a person could win the presidency with only a plurality of the popular votes we would be swamped with candidates. Every group with an ideological or major policy interest would field a candidate, hoping that their candidate would win a plurality and become the president.


Unless we were to scrap the constitutional system we have today and adopt a parliamentary structure, we could easily end up with a president elected with only 20 percent-25 percent of the vote.

Of course, we could graft a run-off system onto our Constitution; the two top candidates in, say, a 10-person race, would then run against one another for the presidency. But that could easily mean that the American people would have a choice between a candidate of the pro-choice party and a candidate of the pro-gun party. If you thought the choice was bad this year, it could be far worse.
Regarding Bill Clinton, Peter Wallison notes a psychological corollary to the role of the Electoral College in insuring, as mathematician Alan Natapoff once argued, that the most consistent competitor wins: it is a mechanism for establishing legitimacy. Says Wallison, "[T]here was never any doubt -- because he won an Electoral College majority -- that [Clinton] had the legitimacy to speak for the American people."

-- CAV

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