Monday, December 19, 2016

The Electoral College

By Zach Bush

20161219-01: Mistakenly listed New Hampshire as not having a "winner-take-all" method. Correct to Nebraska. 

Every four years there is a renewed interest in the Electoral College of the United States. The wake of the 2016 presidential election has been no different.

The general complaints go like this: candidate X lost the popular vote but won the electoral vote, therefore the Electoral College (EC) is bad. The structure “prevents the tyranny of the majority” when it benefits you, it’s “antiquated” and “outdated” when it produces a result you do not prefer.

This year marks the first time, in my admittedly limited experience, that the losers are openly calling not for an abolishment of the EC, but to utilize it to achieve the result that they prefer. They do so on the basis that the original intent of the EC was to prevent the election of a tyrant.

I will therefore address the following claims:
  1. The Electoral College prevents less populated states from being ignored by the candidates, thus requiring the candidates to consider their points of view when developing their platform. In other words, this prevents a tyranny of the majority over the minority. A similar form of this argument pits the interests of cities versus the interests of rural districts;
  2. The Electoral College was put in place to prevent the election of an unqualified person or a tyrant.
To do this, I will examine each claim from both a theoretical (i.e. intent) and practical (i.e. does it actually do what is claimed).