The prospect (or fact) of a candidate winning the Presidential election despite receiving less nationwide votes than an opponent causes some to call for the abolition of the current Electoral College method. Deciding the election based on who wins the most votes seems to be the fairest method, to many. Additional merits of this result include making every citizen’s vote count—even in a state where a particular voter’s preferred candidate would not stand a chance of winning under the current system. Although the Electoral College process is established in the Constitution, it can be effectively changed without resort to the difficult process of constitutional amendment. Because the Constitution reserves to the individual states the methods governing how their respective electors must vote, a state is free to require its electors to vote for the candidate who receives the most votes nationwide. By adopting the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) as law, eight states, plus the District of Columbia–combining for a total of 132 of the 270 Electoral College votes needed to win–have passed such laws already. If enough other states follow suit, then the winner will be determined by the nationwide popular vote. Before this occurs, however, we should pause to consider how the current system protects small states and minority interests, and how those protections could be lost under an effective direct vote for the Presidency.
The Electoral College gives disproportionate voting power to less populous states, which the framers thought they needed. Because a small state’s few electoral votes might make the difference in a close election, the current system encourages candidates to take into consideration the needs and concerns of those states in developing an election platform (and in governing, if elected). This tends to result in (as the framers hoped) the nomination of candidates with broad national appeal. The abilities of ethnic minorities to influence the national election outcome are also enhanced in the current system, because those population groups tend to live in or near large cities in large states,thus encouraging candidates to consider their interests in hopes of capturing large blocks of Electoral College votes. For instance, according to the 2010 U.S. Census, persons identifying themselves as “Hispanic or Latino” comprised 16% of the national population, but far greater portions of the populations of large electoral states such as Texas (38%), California (38%), Colorado (21%), and Florida (23%), as well as some other smaller “swing” states, whose votes might be enough to tip the balance in favor of a candidate in a close election. The voting power of minority groups would arguably decrease with a direct national popular vote becausecandidates might be less inclined to champion their interests or concerns in favor of majority interests. And as Colombo might have said, “Just one more thing”: If a direct vote election is adopted, and the vote is very close, imagine the recount process… // Michael Racette