Congressional and presidential elections are based on two different political theories. Members of Congress are elected directly by popular vote. Presidents and Vice Presidents are elected by the states. Does this difference make the Electoral College system more or less democratic? The answer depends on how you look at it.
Direct Election Pros and Cons: Choosing the president by popular vote sounds democratic. But, some argue, this gives an unfair advantage to densely populated areas versus sparsely populated areas. Urban areas in particular would have more influence than rural areas. Urban areas often vote Democratic. In 2008 nationwide, Obama won the popular vote in the top 15 urban counties, garnering almost 57% of the urban vote in total. He got only 41.3% of the rural vote. McCain did much better in the rural areas.
Electoral College’s Leveling Effect: This system attempts to level the playing field by giving more weight to small states and states that are not densely populated. This occurs because the number of electoral votes a state gets is equal to the number of U.S. Senators plus the number of U.S. Representatives. The number of representatives varies by population count. But every state has two Senators, so smaller states—and states without many urban centers—get a little extra weight in the electoral tally. That is the leveling effect.
Either way wouldn’t have made a difference in the Obama-McCain bout, but in other elections, as we’ve discussed this week, it has. Where this system often makes a difference is in the selection of a vice presidential candidate—picked because the candidate is from another part of the country, rather than the same region as the presidential candidate.
Do we need the leveling effect of the Electoral College anymore?
Or, has it become just an archaic system?
How would you redraw the map?
Originally published at www.OurValues.org, an online experiment in civil dialogue on American values.