Is it possible for a presidential candidate to receive the most popular votes and still not be elected president? Many Americans are shocked to discover that the answer to this question is yes. For proof of this one needs to look no further than Article II of the United States Constitution. The Electoral college was established in the Constitution as a compromise between presidential election by a vote in Congress and presidential election by a popular vote of citizens. The Electoral College consists of 538 electors, and a majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Our founding fathers thought it was necessary to create the Electoral college because they thought citizens didn’t have the erudition to control the fate of our country and they wanted elections to be fair pertaining to state populations. However, many believe that there are significant drawbacks in this electoral process.
In the 2000 U.S. presidential election, for example, more Americans voted for Gore, but Bush actually won the presidency because he was awarded the majority of Electoral College votes. The Electoral College displayed its failure to accurately reflect the national popular will. It’s a political upset that’s occurred several times since the first U.S. presidential election; four presidents have been elected by the Electoral College after losing the popular vote. If a candidate runs up large margins of victory in the big states but loses many of the small states by close votes, he can win more votes and still lose in the Electoral College. This is what happened to Al Gore. Nationally, Gore won 560,000 more votes than Bush. Bush’s closer victories in many smaller states gave him more electoral votes than Gore’s larger margins of victories. Another discrepancy in this election is the “winner take all” formula used. If a state has the winner take all feature that means that whoever wins the state gets all of the state’s electoral votes. So, a candidate may take a state by only a fraction but all of the electoral college votes from that state will go to that candidate. This is factor also that allowed Bush to win the election when he got 27 electoral votes from Florida, even though Gore won majority nationwide. So, while winning the popular vote may not ensure a candidate’s victory, a candidate must gain popular support of a particular state to win the electoral votes in that state.
Since then, a push to reform the Electoral College has gained steam. One reform idea that has been brought forward is the proportional allocation of Electoral votes. This is a modification of the current Electoral System. This would change how a candidate receives the electoral votes from the state. Almost every state has a system where the candidate who receives the most votes then gets all of the electoral votes. This new modification would give out electoral votes based on how many popular votes you received. For example, if you received 30% of the popular vote, you would receive 30% of the electoral votes of that state. This reform idea could potentially lead to a great positive impact on voting that motivates more citizens to vote and their voices to be heard.
10/27/14 blog post #4