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The Dysfunctional Electoral College

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The use of the Electoral College in electing the President and the Vice President of the
United States should be reformed as it is not an accurate process nor useful. It allows candidates
to only campaign in swing states, causes bias in the selection of Vice Presidents, eliminates a
third-party candidates chances, doesnt require winning the popular vote, and impairs the value
of an individuals vote which leads to a decrease in voter turnout. When the Founding Fathers
designed the United States government, they debated several possibilities for electing the
President and the Vice President and came to an agreement on the Electoral College. Within this
process the 538 electoral votes, which correspond to each representative of Congress, are divided
up into their respective states and the candidate that wins the popular vote in that state is awarded
all of the states electoral votes. This is the case for every state in the United States except,
Nebraska and Maine, which divide up their electoral votes for the Congressional Districts in the
House of Representatives to the winning candidate, and the statewide majority winner receives
the two electoral votes that represent the states Senators.
Today the Electoral College remains a highly debated topic in politics. More than 850
amendments have been proposed in Congress to reform the Electoral College, standing second
only to the Equal Rights Amendment. However, only two amendments have passed to reform the
Electoral College. The Twelfth Amendment was passed to prevent a tie in elections and requires
voters to differentiate between their votes for President and Vice President. Additionally, the
Twenty-third Amendment gave the District of Columbia representation and the minimum of
three electoral votes (Vile, J. R., 2010). Furthermore, there have been amendments to reform the
system that have not passed with the required two-thirds vote in both houses. These reforms are
categorized into three different plans, the Automatic Plan, the District Plan, and the Proportional
Plan (Neale, T. H., 2011). The most popular and successful reform is the District Plan, which

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dates back to the 1800s. This plan was proposed in Congress in 1813 and 1819 passing in the
Senate both times. Although, the House of Representatives did not vote on the proposal in 1813,
it did have success in 1820 when the vote was just shy of the two-thirds majority to pass (Vile, J.
R., 2010). Due to the ineffectiveness of the Electoral College a reform such as the District Plan
that abides by the guidelines used in Nebraska and Maine would be beneficial for the United
States.
The Electoral College requires candidates to focus all of their campaigning in the swing
states, otherwise referred to as purple states or battleground states, in order to win. This is
essential for a candidates success as these states typically include the majority of the undecided
and independent voters throughout the country, but this also causes candidates to ignore the
remaining states. For example, states such as Alaska, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota,
South Dakota, and Nebraska consistently vote for the Republican candidate in presidential
elections, by fairly large margins, and therefore candidates rarely campaign in these states
(Grabianowski, E., 2004). Instead, they focus in the swing states, which is beginning to include
the Midwest states, Virginia, and North Carolina. On top of those states, Florida has remained
one of the largest swing states and in the 2000 election, between George W. Bush and Al Gore,
the winning margin was so narrow they had to recount the votes (Rakove J. N., 2004). If the
Electoral College would divide its votes up among the districts within states, this problem would
be less of an issue in the campaign process. Although candidates would still campaign in the
urban cities they would not be tied to one demographic region, and would be able to give
campaign speeches throughout the entire United States influencing and educating a larger
amount of voters.

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Additionally, the Electoral College has caused bias in modern presidents selection of
their vice president. Presidents have been known to select their running mates based on their
home state, ideological values, or their specialized areas. In doing this, they will select a running
mate that is supported in another region of the country or one that could possibly carry a swing
state in the election. Presidential candidates will partake in these selections to balance out their
ticket and appeal to a wider audience. For instance, John F. Kennedy used Lyndon Johnson to
help him win his election, and Ronald Reagan selected George H. W. Bush because he lessened
Reagans conservative views. Additionally, Dwight Eisenhower chose Richard Nixon to be his
running mate and even though Eisenhower did not like Nixon, he chose him to be able to carry
the state of California (Ragone, 2004). The District Plan would not place a large importance on
carrying a single state and therefore Presidential candidates could select their Vice President to
support them in office rather than to support them in the election.
The design of the Electoral College and its winner take all rule destroys a third-party
candidates chances of being elected. Even if a third-party candidate decides to run in an
election, it is rare for them to receive any electoral votes and their impact on the campaign is
really measured in how many votes they took away from the two main parties, not how many
votes they received. For example, in the 1992 presidential election, Ross Perot campaigned as an
independent against Bill Clinton and George H. W. Bush and received twenty million popular
votes, but not a single electoral vote (Lyon, 2014). Despite Perots success many third-party
candidates are not fortunate enough to experience the same. It is difficult for many third-party
candidates to accumulate campaign funds, because many citizens see them as a loser before the
election even takes place. Additionally, even if they accumulate enough funds it is difficult for
them to get their name on the ballot in enough states to win the electoral vote.

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Despite the impact the Electoral College has on the candidates and their campaigning, it
also affects voting in elections. The most popular complaint about the Electoral College is that it
does not require the winning candidate to carry the popular vote. This situation is not rare either
and has occurred over the past several decades. The election of 2000 is the one most criticized, as
George W. Bush narrowly won the electoral vote despite losing the popular vote to Al Gore by
nearly half a million votes (Vile, J. R., 2010). The major issue of elections similar to the one in
2000 is if winning the electoral vote accurately represents the nation. Critics of the Electoral
College claim that the majority of the country should support the elector, and therefore believe
that Electoral College cannot accurately represent the entire nation. Plus, this issue is caused by
the winner take all rule, which also impairs the value of an individuals vote in elections.
Depending on which state an individual lives in, depends on the value of their vote to the
overall election. Each vote cast in the state is of equal value, but when comparing the value of
votes in different states they vary considerably. For example, in Alaska the weight of a vote is
2.50 percent compared to a value of 0.83 percent in California. The reason for the difference in
the weight of the votes is due to the states population and the number of individuals that
represent each Electoral Vote (Walbert, David, 2005). This weight variation is caused by the two
electoral votes that represent the states Senators, and the District Plan would benefit the nation
by balancing out the weight of votes. Each member of the House of Representatives, represents
the same number of citizens. Therefore, in the District Plan each vote would be of the same
value. The only electoral votes that would be influenced by the weight differences of an
individual vote are the 100 votes that represent the Senators of the United States. This would be a
tremendous benefit for the nation, because in the current Electoral College every vote is
weighted differently.

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Additionally, the majority take all rule can result in individuals feeling their vote is
wasted, which typically leads to them not voting in elections. For example, if an individual
resides in a blue state, but votes Republican they may decide that their vote is irrelevant and
decide not to vote at all. Even though their vote is of equal value to every other individual in the
state they know that the candidate they support will lose and find their voting pointless. Although
switching to the District Plan would not completely eliminate this issue, it would still provide
benefits. The majority of Republicans and Democrats reside in the same suburbs and towns,
therefore the Congressional District that the voter resides in may support their party but the
overall state does not. This situation has been seen in the state of Nebraska, where the second
Congressional District composed of Omaha and its suburbs vote Democratic and have given
their Electoral Vote to Obama in the previous two elections.
Although, switching to the District Plan does not guarantee an increase in voter turnout,
as the turnout has been linked to other factors such as the difficult process of registering to vote,
education, and socioeconomic status, any efforts to increase turnout would be beneficial for our
country. Over the past several decades, presidential elections have been decided with just over
half of the registered voters voting. The lowest voter turnout occurred in 2000 with 51.2 percent
of citizens voting and the highest turnout occurred in 1960 with 63.8 percent of citizens voting
(Watts, D., 2010). As a country we should be trying to increase this turnout by passing
legislation, even if that includes altering the method of electing the President and Vice President
of the United States.
Due to the negative impacts of the Electoral College on campaign process and voting in
elections, legislation to reform the current system needs to be passed in the United States. The
District Plan is the most logical option as it is being used in two states already and the idea of

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this reform has been around for several years, being proposed twice. However, regardless if the
District Plan is capable of being passed in the United States Congress, legislation needs to be
passed to make the voting process the same in each state. When electing a federal office the
method of voting should be consistent across the entire nation. Due to the current system not
providing this consistency and not being accurate or rational, legislation to reform the Electoral
College is necessary for future Presidential elections in the United States.

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Bibliography
Grabianowski, E. (2004). Electoral College - How the Swing States Work. HowStuffWorks, pp.
1-2. Retrieved 17 November 2014, from http://people.howstuffworks.com/swingstate1.htm.
Lyon, Richard. (2014). Third Parties Have No Chance in the US Political System. Retrieved 21
November 2014, from http://www.dailykos.com/story/2014/03/16/1285187/-ThirdParties-Have-No-Chance-In-The-US-Political-System.
Neale, T. H. (2011). Electoral College Reform: 111th Congress Proposals and Other Current
Developments. The Electoral College: An Analysis. Hauppauge, NY: Nova Science
Publishers.
Ragone, Nick. (2004). Selecting a Vice President - American Government. Retrieved 21
November 2014, from http://www.netplaces.com/american-government/the-vicepresidency/selecting-a-vice-president.htm.
Rakove J. N. (2004). Political Science Quarterly, Vol. 119, No. 1, pp. 21-37. The Academy of
Political Science.
Vile, J. R. (2010). Encyclopedia of Constitutional Amendments, Proposed Amendments, and
Amending Issues, 1789-2010, Volume I pages 161-166. Santa Barbara, California: ABCCLIO.
Walbert, David. (2005). Does my vote count? Understanding the Electoral, Section IV. Retrieved
3 December 2014, from http://www.learnnc.org/lp/media/lessons/davidwalbert723200402/electoralcollege.html#4.
Watts, D. (2010). Dictionary of American Government and Politics, pages 300-303. Edinburgh:
Edinburgh University Press.