America is stuck with the Electoral College because the small states that are over-represented by it won’t allow for change

The Electoral College, a constitutional method of electing the President not by the popular vote, but instead by a mere 538 votes spread among the states, is arcane. It allows for the possibility that a candidate who loses the popular vote could still win the the White House. It needs to go. It’s also going to be nearly impossible to get rid of, but not necessarily because of one political party or the other. It’s because abolishing it would require a constitutional amendment, which would require the support of three-quarters of the states, and some of those states are automatically going to oppose it because the electoral college system gives them greater representation in the presidential election than a popular vote would. For that mathematical glitch you can blame the Founding Fathers…

In the eighteenth century, the idea behind the Electoral College had merit: television didn’t exist, newspapers were strictly local, and most U.S. citizens had no reliable way of following a presidential campaign on any level. If a candidate happened to visit and speak in their city, then the local paper would cover it, and that’s the closest they’d get to any reliable election coverage. The rest was merely hearsay. And so the idea was that each state would be given a number of electoral votes proportional to its population, and the state could assign those votes to reliable people who were tuned in to what the candidates stood for. The trouble with that system is that electoral votes were, and stilll are, allotted based on how many people each state has in congress. The smallest of states only have one House representative, but they still have two Senators. That gives each state a minimum of three electoral votes, or about 0.5% of the presidential voting power, even if the population of that state is so tiny that is has, say, 0.1% of the nation’s population. Switching from the Electoral College to a straight-up popular vote would drastically reduce the presidential voting power of those in states like Alaska or Delaware, whose votes are currently given as much as five times the weight of votes cast in a larger state like California or Texas whose electoral votes match up with their respective population.

There are currently seven tiny states which are overrepresented in the Electoral college with their three votes, another five which are overrepresented with four votes, and several with five or six. Any constitutional amendment abolishing the college would require the support of thirty-eight out of the fifty states. But a headcount says that at least thirteen of the smallest states are over-counted by the current system and would lose that advantage in a popular vote and would therefore be likely to oppose such an amendment. Short of a nationwide public information campaign aimed at making the public aware of the over-representation of the small states under the current system in an attempt to embarrass them into not fighting such an amendment, the odds of being able to eliminate the Electoral College seem remote. In the mean time some larger states are promoting a system which would apportion the electoral votes to match up with the popular vote, but not for the reason one might think…

As the republican party continues to see its key demographics growing smaller, it faces a future where it can no longer win the White House under either the current system or under a popular vote. In some states such as Virginia, republicans are attempting to change the law so that the state’s electoral votes are not all awarded to the candidate who won the state, but instead divided up among the candidates in proportion to the popular vote. This sounds fair in theory, with the net result being that perhaps 55% of Virginia’s electoral votes would go to a the democratic candidate and the other 45% going to the republican – but in reality it would only be fair if the laws were also changed in a state like Texas where the republican candidate usually wins by a slight majority but gets 100% of that state’s electoral votes. Such state level efforts are being widely decried as an attempt at cheating, and even some republican leaders in Washington are distancing themselves from such efforts. The only fairly balanced method of apportioning electoral votes would be a constructional amendment which either requires every state to apportion its electoral votes, or does away with the electoral college entirely. But so long as the smallest of states reject such national reform, we’re stuck with the system we have.

Will Stabley
Will Stabley is the Founder and Senior Editor of Stabley Times.
Will Stabley


  1. maronoff on January 28, 2013 at 11:31 pm

    WRONG!!! If sates with a total of at least 270 electoral college votes pass local (state) laws where they will apportion their electoral college votes based on NATIONAL popular vote then no federal change is needed.

  2. beatweek on January 28, 2013 at 11:33 pm

    @maronoff  WRONG!!! All that would do is skew the results even further. Every single state would need to pass such legislation, or you’d end up with an imbalance where some states give 100% of their electoral votes to one candidate while others apportion theirs, and the odds of the the popular vote winner also winning the electoral college would be much worse.

  3. beatweek on January 28, 2013 at 11:35 pm

    @maronoff All that would do is skew the results even further. For what you’re talking about, every single state would need to move to an apportioned electoral allocation in the same election cycle, and the odds of that are zero, short of an amendment requiring them to do so.