Executive Summary

  • In a presidential election system that is unpredictable and, in many ways, fraught with problems, there is one enduring feature that provides stability and unites the various states into a single nation: the Electoral College.
  • Under the Electoral College system, an American presidential election is the aggregate of 51 democratic elections held in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.
  • This system ensures that no candidate can be elected president without broad national appeal, as opposed to just deep regional support.
  • Unfortunately, it has become trendy to attack the Electoral College as “anti-democratic” and to call for its replacement with one massive national election.
  • So far, all attempts to amend the Constitution to provide for the direct election of the president and vice president by nationwide popular vote have failed.
  • Because amending the Constitution has proved challenging, opponents of the Electoral College are seeking an end-run around the Constitution through interstate compact. States that sign onto the compact agree to give all of their electoral votes to the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide—even if a majority of voters in that state voted for someone else!
  • Although a nationwide popular vote has some surface appeal, it is not the best method of electing the leader of a country as large and diverse as ours.
  • A single, nationwide popular vote would undermine national cohesion, render the minority irrelevant in presidential politics, raise questions as to the legitimacy of the winner in closely contested elections, and upset the delicate system of checks and balances that protects us from the tyranny of the majority.