The current status quo of the electoral college allows for political actions that some voters may find in contradiction with the college’s purpose. The issues that are often ascribed to the existence of the electoral college have to do with faithless electors, selected candidates that either promise or are assumed to later vote for the popular candidate but do not do so. Many argue for the installation of the direct national election of the president for a number of reasons, including lack of obstructions, increased incentive to vote, and the exclusion of cases of faithless electors.
Many argue that interior state elections of representatives, such as governors, do not adhere to a process like the one created for the electoral college. Governors are chosen directly by voters, with each individual representing a single vote. This allows for the votes to be equal, and recounting within near ties can also be performed on a national level. Essentially, the purposes of the electoral college, such as avoiding recount mistakes and allowing less populated areas to have better bargaining power, can be achieved through other means. In some ways, they undermine the power of the voters within each state.
Because a state is able to receive a pre-set number of electoral votes despite voter turnout, the incentive for citizens to show up to the polls is low (Amar & Fried, 2016). A direct presidential election would drive individual voters to be more interested in casting their votes for their desired candidate. This would result in states with higher voter turnout gaining stronger influence in the presidential election. This notion would also cause state representatives to encourage the maximum number of voters to come and vote. States may increase turnout in a number of ways, such as early voting, turning Election Day into a holiday, and through a number of other methods.
It would be the role of federal authorities to observe that states create this competitive atmosphere in ways that are fair. Without federal intervention, states may take drastic actions, such as lowering age restrictions for voters in order to increase the voter population of their state. Such issues highlight the current advantages of the electoral college, which bypasses these difficulties by installing chosen electors.
However, one of the largest, or at least most publicized, issue of the electoral college is the roles of the chosen electors. Prior to the 2016 election, two states observed acts of faithless voters, with a number of representatives choosing to cast their vote for the candidate that was not the most popular vote in their state. In Washington, where Hillary Clinton had won the popular vote, electors Bret Chiafalo, Levi Guerra, and Esther John had voted for Secretary of State Colin Powell instead of her (Howe, 2020).
The three were punished with a 1000-dollar fine. In Colorado, elector Micheal Baca was removed from his position after voting for Republican John Kasich despite Clinton also being the popular vote. Certain states currently have laws in place that allow them to remove electors that ignore the state’s popular votes, while some claim the laws to be unconstitutional. Under the current law, Congress may reject a state’s elector’s vote if both houses agree on the matter and whether or not the appointment of the electors was lawfully certified. However, there is no constitutional provision or federal law that forces electors to vote for the assigned party or state’s popular vote.
The central purpose of the electoral college is the compromise between including the votes of all citizens and the judgment of Congress in the selection of the president. However, both Congress’ ability to remove electors and the elector’s ability to ignore popular votes can impede this purpose. This allows political parties to have a large influence on voters and the results of an election. If the electoral college is to be abolished with a more federalist system being its replacement, federal authorities will have to observe that equal limitations and opportunities are given to all states. These could include the formatting of competitive tactics to incentivize voters, transparent vote counts and recounts, and removing any voter fraud.
Amar, A. R., & Fried, C. (2016). Should the Electoral College Be Abolished? The New York Times. Web.
Howe, A. (2020). Opinion analysis: Court upholds “faithless elector” laws. SCOTUS Blog. Web.