Debate: Electoral vs Popular –  Should the Electoral College Be Abolished in US?

In the New York Times, November 16, 20016

INTRODUCTION

James Kottor(Note: In this piece two knowledgeable persons  are arguing: one to continue the electoral college and the other to abolish it.  States are very important as far as federalism is concerned. But when it comes to electing a president, who is to be the guardian, protector and promoter of every individual in the country irrespective of his/her class, creed, color, community, educational, social or financial status in society, country of country of origin are concerned, every person in the country should have a direct say in electing him/her. Each citizen should be able to say with pride, this elected person is “My president”.

This is what we, the CCV understand by electing the top executive of a country through direct democracy, through a voting system in which every individual participates or is given a chance to participate. Here the only necessary requirement fixed should be one should have completed a fixed age, say 18 as the case in India. India’s is a parliamentary democracy where the winning party elect the Prime Minister. Yet it had some features of American democracy since Modi was projected as the PM from the very beginning. Yet the party got only 31% of the popular votes cast, making it in effect a minority government.

The tragic comedy in US election is that Donald Trump is elected president on the strength of 290 electoral votes against 232 Hilary got, although Hilary beat Trump hollow, by capturing more than 2.8 million popular votes. Which means in popularity contest she is the run away winner who can now be jailed by the short or lost runner in the presidential chair, Trump.  It only means that both India and US have a long way to go to become people’s democracies, rulled by the will of the majority in the country. james kottoor, editor)

Hillary Clinton’s growing lead over Donald J. Trump is now over 1 million votes, making this the second time a president has been elected without a popular majority since 2000. That year, Akhil Reed Amar wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times that the Electoral College should be abolished, and Charles Fried disagreed. Here they are again. 


                  This is part of the Issues for Trump and America series.

DEBATERS

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-7-17-26-amCharles Fried is a law professor at Harvard Law School. He was solicitor general of the United States from 1985 to 1989.

 

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-7-17-35-amAkhil Reed Amar, a professor of law and political science at Yale University, is the author of "The Constitution Today: Timeless Lessons for the Issues of Our Era."


Electoral College Is Important Because It Reflects the Will of the States

Charles Fried

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-7-17-26-amWe have a direct democracy: Senators, representatives and members of the Electoral College are all elected directly by the people. They do not, however, elect the president directly. This is a feature of the kind of government we have chosen from the beginning in which the states are important subsidiary (in some instances, primary) units of government.

Sometimes there will be a divergence between who is chosen by the Electoral College and who wins the popular vote, and that disparity can act as a caution to the elected president. But when the elected president's party controls the House and Senate, caution is less likely.

Even after a civil war and two world wars, the states control a large measure of the laws, administration and finance that have an impact on the lives of ordinary citizens. The states have their own political cultures, personalities and traditions which persist in spite of our far more transient population, an interconnected national economy and national news media.

In order to reflect this mode of governance, the interactions between the national government and the states in important matters often utilize the local units and personnel. The notion is that the states are not simply administrative units of the national government or its local offices. In that context it is quite appropriate that the head of state is elected state-by-state, albeit by popular vote in each state. That way at the most focused democratic moment, every four years the candidates and parties must take the states into account.

And sometimes it will happen that, as this year, there will be a significant divergence — millions of votes — between who is chosen by the Electoral College and the winner of the overall popular vote. Sometimes that disparity can act as a caution to the elected president, but where the House and Senate are in the hands of the elected president's party that caution is less likely to operate.


States Don’t Use an Electoral College to Choose Their Leader, Neither Should the Nation

AKHIL REED AMAR 

screen-shot-2016-12-22-at-7-17-35-amI prefer direct national election of our president. I take states seriously and value federalism, but in a different way than do most defenders of the status quo. Consider the fact that each state picks its own president-equivalent — its governor — quite directly: one person, one vote. All votes are counted equally and in close races recounted carefully. America should copy this state-tested model when choosing the governor of us all: the president.

The fact that no state uses an Electoral College for its governor suggests that many standard arguments for the Electoral College — recount nightmares, fairness for rural areas, etc. — are makeweight. If these arguments were truly sound, then states are stupid. And states are not stupid. 

Future direct national elections could happen, even without a constitutional amendment if the two major presidential candidates in 2020 themselves agreeing, solemnly and publicly long before Election Day, to abide by the national popular vote. Keep your eye on 2020.

Indeed, direct presidential election would harness state creativity in exciting ways. Currently, states have little incentive to encourage voting. A state gets a pre-set number of electoral votes regardless of voter turnout. But in a direct election system, states with higher turnout would have more clout in the final tally, giving state governments incentives to encourage voting. States may do this different ways — early voting in some states; same-day registration in others; making Election Day a holiday in still other jurisdictions. Federal oversight would be necessary to keep state competition within fair boundaries, but state creativity could drive a race to the top — democratic experimentalism and federalism at their best.

Some states are already experimenting with a creative plan for future presidential races. Under the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact that has gained momentum in recent years, states in the compact are promising that, if enough states ultimately join the bandwagon, these states will give their electoral votes to the national popular vote winner.

It’s an interesting idea — in 2001 I floated a precursor of this plan — but the current version does have technical wrinkles that need to be ironed out. (What if some noncooperating states refuse to hold proper elections or careful recounts? What if some states lower the voting age in ridiculous ways — letting 12-year-olds vote — to maximize their clout?) To work well, strong federal oversight would be needed.

There is at least one other way that future direct national elections could happen, even without a constitutional amendment. This way — which I also floated in 2001 — would involve the two major presidential candidates themselves agreeing, solemnly and publicly long before Election Day, to abide by the national popular vote. Keep your eye on 2020.


From among the 1189 Comments or reactions received we just produce below 5 of them just to have taste of them.


Arthur  Manby 

Never going to happen. Plurality voting (FPTP) is non-beneficial to a two party system. It erodes the voter base and completely opens the door to a viable multi-candidate race where; the majority vote could conceivably win with less than 25% of actual votes (Disregarding Duverger's Law, because I think it's becoming irrelevant in the US on this scale). Voting demographics are at an historic low for both the Democrat (29%) and Republican (26%) Parties. Could you imagine a ticket with multiple candidates and parties; each with a very respectable chance of winning? This election, under the 'no electoral college scenario', would have been had a Sanders, Clinton, Cruz, Trump, Johnson, Stein ballot, with a no-holds-barred, bare-knuckle street fight to a 25% majority.

I can guarantee Clinton would not have won the popular after ceding 48% of her votes to Sanders. Also, a two round voting system would cause complete chaos in this country for various reasons. The fairest solution is the Congressional District Method used by Maine and Nebraska, which is solely up to the State to enact. Since New York and California (more so) are champions of Progressive-ism, perhaps as a gesture of good will, you could petition your State Representatives to adopt this model. I'm sure the Republican Party would love you for it.  


A.D  California 

Yes, it should definitely be ABOLISHED. I live in CA, and we certainly didn't want this guy( TRUMP) in the White House. By the time we in CA finished voting on Election Night, it was practically too late. For years I, and millions of West Coasters have felt one pitiful thing : that each of our hard fought votes DO NOT MATTER. I know that Electoral College people will say the contrary, but, after the disaster that happened on November 8, 2016, it certainly felt like it.
It should be abolished because it is completely outdated, past its prime, and simply does not work any more. They should simply have a popular vote. Nothing more , nothing less. This ELECTORAL COLLEGE disaster is really not worth it anymore. Trump thinks(falsely, and incorrectly) that he would have won the popular vote as well. Oh really? With the BLUE states hating him, so much, that we couldn't stand the fact that he MIGHT have been president?

It should be abolished immediately. We don't want to suffer through another election night, where other parts of this great nation get their votes in before CA, and then the decision is in far before the rest of the country has had a chance. We have been through TWO (2) elections in which the person who was way ahead of the other in the popular vote, he lost because of the stinking Electoral College, so, I say, the faster and sooner that this happens, the better.


Jonathan Bar-On  New York City, New York 

The problem with a system of one person, one vote, then a voter from California, and only in the urban parts, will be campaigned for. The voter in rural Ohio wouldn't be campaigned for because their vote is probably just going to be one of a thousand, while that California vote will be one of several hundred thousands, possibly millions. Candidates would only campaign in places with high populations — catering to a vastly liberal audience.

And I admit, with the Electoral System, a vote in Ohio is almost triple the worth as a vote in California, but America is a vastly diverse nation, with the majority of the population being centered on the coasts. With the Electoral College, there is a larger amount of people that actually count. Furthermore, the Electoral College doesn't vote for the national winner. It votes for the state-side winner, the winner in that state, and then the votes are added up from each state. And finally, I can write this knowing that even though my candidate lost, my system won.


M Taylor  Washington 

I don't understand. The purpose of the electoral college was to stop a tyrant who may be elected (although not by the popular vote) but is horribly unsuited to the job. This 'person' is so stupid, arrogant and destructive because he thinks now he is empowered to do whatever – good or bad. He's a slob who actually believes that if he says is – right or wrong – it must be right because he knows everything yet he continues to demonstrate how little he knows. And don't give me the 'good businessman' nonsense. Anyone in that many lawsuits, a tax evader and under audit which he refused to share, is an honest businessman.In my opinion the man has no conscience and there is a name for that!


Brit – NZ

The Electoral College was instated in 1787 by white slaveholding men in order to placate slave owning states. (Remember this was a time when people bled fevers and witches were still persecuted). The rest of the world has progressed since the 1780’s. No other democracy uses an Electoral College – for a reason. This archaic system is profoundly undemocratic. This form of misguided American exceptionalism is imprudent and irrational.

The founders were in fact not so wise in many issues from slavery to a government that has so many checks and balances that nothing is done, coalitions become impossible and third parties will not work. I know it is a somewhat of irrational sacrosanct religion among some in the USA to say so, but elements of the constitution are empirically flawed. The Electoral College should have gone the way of muskets and tricorner hats.

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