This year the CT House of Representatives narrowly passed a resolution to join an interstate compact calling for the state’s electoral votes to go the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote. This is terribly misguided.
The Electoral College (EC) is an elegant institution, chosen by the Founders for a number of important reasons. First, it places a layer of protection between an election and the installation of the president, preventing a truly unfit person from serving. Second, it recognizes the sovereignty of the states (we are The United States of America, not The United People of America!) and prevents small states from becoming insignificant in the electoral process. Without the EC, candidates would entirely abandon small states. California, Texas, and Florida have over 30% of the voting population but only 23% of the Electoral College.
Third, the Electoral College is what primarily preserves our strong two-party tradition, forcing national candidates to the center and requiring broad support to govern. Without the Electoral College we would have dozens of factious parties, leading to presidents without the consensus to lead, and unstable, revolving-door coalition governments. In a large and diverse nation such as ours, the EC prevents single-issue and geographical fragmentation, leading to more truly egalitarian election results, not less. Imagine if the “winner” of the election got 8% of the vote! In last year’s Dutch elections, 28 parties fielded candidates and this in a country of 17 million people!
Fourth, the Electoral College quarantines voting disputes. In 1960, Kennedy beat Nixon by less than one vote per precinct nationally, but the recount was confined to Illinois because of the Electoral College. Similarly, in 2000, the popular votes for Gore and Bush were very close, but the recount was confined to Florida. Without the Electoral College, such close elections could paralyze the government as lawsuits, challenges, and recounts in possibly thousands of jurisdictions turned the election into a nightmare, leaving us without a clear winner long afterwards.
The Electoral College has served us very well, with the overall popular vote winner differing from the Electoral College vote winner only 5 times in 57 elections, and each of those elections was essentially a toss-up. We should be leery of tinkering with the Electoral College.
As always, if you have any thoughts or concerns you’d like me to be aware of, please contact my office direct at 800-842-1423 or email Pam.Staneski@housegop.ct.gov.