Pell Center

The Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina is a multidisciplinary research center focused at the intersection of politics, policies and ideas.

The Electoral College: Does It Matter?

In case you did not notice the past few months, the 2012 Presidential Election is a big deal. The United States faces two choices that will lead to two very different outcomes. Stimulating our economy, creating jobs for the American people, is on the forefront of the many other issues the nation faces—issues on healthcare, foreign policy, education, and sustainable energy also need to be addressed.

Americans are highly encouraged to vote for their preferred presidential candidate, come Nov. 6, but I cannot help but wonder about the Electoral College and their role in relation to the popular vote.

Full disclosure: I knew little to nothing about the Electoral College before I did some research.

I knew it was not like a typical “college” with a campus, students, dorms, and, if you’re lucky enough, even scholarships. I was fortunate to know that much from the start.

Created in 1787, the Electoral College is a governmental process during the presidential election. Every four years, the Electoral College representatives for each state are elected by a state’s political parties. On Voting Day, the state delegates then cast their votes and counted by Congress.

To my understanding, the Electoral College was created because during the 1700s, most people were not as informed enough about the politics in the United States, let alone informed enough about much else. The majority of the educated population comprised of white, land-owning gentlemen.

Today, in the year 2012, Americans have access to a wealth of information, everywhere from the classrooms of K-12 and higher education to local newspapers in the grocery store. Information can be accessed on the go. Smartphone apps for news outlets—Twitter, CNN, Huffington Post, and The New York Times to list a few—can be viewed on the iPhone, a high-tech device that fits comfortably in the palm of your hand. Unlike the 1700s, not only do people have more access to information, but the amount of information is omnipresent and overwhelming.

It’s hard to argue that the public does not have enough information to make political decisions. If the public has opportunities to be well informed and to choose their personal stance, then why do we still need the Electoral College?

The popular vote and the Electoral College vote have differed several times in American history. The most recent example of the popular vote and the Electoral College vote dissention is the 2000 Presidential Election. Even though Al Gore won the popular vote, he lost the election because he only had 266 Electoral College votes—George W. Bush won with 271 Electoral College votes. The population is told that every vote counts, but in the end, it is the votes from the representatives of the Electoral College that are tallied for the final election results. An Electoral College prediction model from August 2012 projected Gov. Mitt Romney to win the presidential election.

What do you think of the Electoral College? Should the government consider eliminating this process and conduct elections counting only the popular vote? Do you know why the Electoral College is still in place? Please share your thoughts below.

Note: Over 700 proposals have been made to modify or dispose of the Electoral College, but none have passed through Congress.

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