Willem Cohn '26
When drafting the Constitution, the Founding Fathers decided that their new nation should be a republican democracy led by a head magistrate called the president. While they had a clear vision of the president’s role, they were now faced with an equally critical issue: how the president should be elected. Fearing both foreign and internal interference and partial to federalist ideals, they resolved to create a system above a simple majority vote, in which the states held individual power. Thus, the Electoral College was born, a procedure in which each state’s population votes on a group of electors who, in turn, vote for the president based on the desires of their state’s people. This system, though still controversial, has stood the test of time. Today, the Electoral College is more important than ever, not just to maintain voter integrity but also to ensure candidates’ engagement with less densely populated states.
The first and most important reason the United States still needs the Electoral College is that it forces presidential candidates to visit the smaller ‘swing’ states. If the Electoral College were to be abolished in favor of a popular vote, presidential candidates would focus their efforts on densely populated urban areas. As the Heritage Foundation highlights, the “Electoral College prevents presidential candidates from winning an election by focusing solely on high-population urban centers,” and the Electoral College “[forces] them to seek the support of a larger cross-section of the American electorate.” In essence, the Electoral College incentivizes these candidates to build a nationwide coalition of voters. Not only does this improve the quality of presidential candidates, but it also gives representation to rural areas of the United States and works to preserve the culture of those areas.
Second, the Electoral College helps reduce fraud in the presidential election. The Founding Fathers established the Electoral College with the prevention of voter fraud in mind. They recognized that if the leader of the country were to be elected with a popular vote, fraudsters could easily fabricate votes and insert them directly into the voting pool. As James Madison said, if America had a popular vote, “[t]he ministers of foreign powers would have and make use of the opportunity to mix their intrigues & influence with the election.” In contrast, the Electoral College system mandates that anyone attempting to manipulate the election must pinpoint exactly which states will affect the swing of the election, visit each of these states individually, and manufacture enough votes for each one.
The electoral college is a crucial reason for the success of the United States’ republican government, but is highly criticized due to the misconception that it is a Republican party ideal. Contemporary Democrats often condemn the Electoral College purely because it currently favors the Republican party. For a brief time in the 2000 presidential election, Al Gore, a Democrat, found himself winning the Electoral College vote but losing the popular vote. To preserve his image, Gore had his legal team prepare a defense of the Electoral College, despite it being against his party’s beliefs. Of course, Gore lost that election as a result of his efforts to win the popular vote instead of focusing on the Electoral College. In conclusion, we all have reason to support and uphold the Electoral College system, as it benefits not just the minority states, but the country as a whole.