Should the President be Elected by Popular Vote?

Thanks to the Electoral College, every presidential election comes down to the candidates' performance in a handful of states. Should that system be abolished in favor of direct election by popular vote?

With Election Day one week away, many polls show President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney running neck-and-neck nationally -- but a decided, if slight, advantage for Obama in the electoral vote.

Each state gets a certain number of electoral votes, based upon its population. In order to win the presidency, either Obama or Romney must win at least 270 of the 538 total electoral votes.

The system has the effect of making your vote count a lot more in "swing states" -- states where the majority could conceiveably vote for either candidate -- than in other, more politically predictable states. It is a virtual certainty, for instance, that Georgia will vote for Mitt Romney, so an individual Georgian's vote for Barack Obama doesn't mean a lot -- Georgia's 16 electoral votes are going to be cast for Romney. Conversely, an individual voter's choice for Romney in ultra-blue New York won't stop that state's 29 electoral votes from going to Obama.

However, a voter in a state like Ohio -- where the race is much closer -- wields a lot more power. Ohio's 18 electoral votes could -- and probably will -- decide the presidential election.

And that leads to a bit of a conundrum. The national race is very tight, with many polls showing Romney with a slight lead. Most polls in Ohio and other swing states like Wisconsin, however, show an advantage for Obama. It's entirely possible that Obama could win the electoral vote -- and thus a second term -- while losing the popular vote.

It's happened before. In 1876, Rutheford B. Hayes won the presidency by a single electoral vote, but lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden by a margin of 250,000, according to FactCheck.org. In 1880, Benjamin Harrison won the electoral vote while losing the popular vote to Grover Cleveland. And perhaps most famously, George W. Bush won an electoral victory in 2000 while losing the popular vote -- barely -- to Al Gore.

Obviously, it's not an ideal situation. Which raises the question: Should the Electoral College be abolished? Is it time we elect our president by direct, popular vote? Or should we stick with the system we know? Tell us what you think in the comments below.

Marc Acampora October 30, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Nita, how does the electoral college not apply to all states?!
Marc Acampora October 30, 2012 at 08:24 PM
Nita, I agree with leaving time same year-round, but shifting everything by half hour would make us out of sync with most of the rest of the world. We should just stay on daylight savings time.
Steve October 30, 2012 at 08:45 PM
I subscribe to Midtown Patch to get updates on the local area not your political opinions which are very obviously Republican. Please keep politics out of what is otherwise a good service.
Michael October 30, 2012 at 08:57 PM
There are a couple other suggestions for fixing the electoral college: Option1: States (by interstate compact) agree to award all their electors to the winner of the national popular vote once there are enough states in the compact to decide the election (i.e. 270 electoral votes). Option2: Constitutional amendment to make the winner of the national popular vote get 29 electoral votes Option3: Remove the electoral college entirely Option4: Drop the number of electors to 1+1 per member of congress (down from 2+1 per member of congress) Option5: States allocate 2 electoral votes at large the current way, and the rest proportionately to the votes received. Option6: Instant Runoff Voting everywhere. No primaries, one single national election: http://www.tnr.com/article/78043/instant-runoff-voting-elections-florida-2000?page=0,1
Boneless BBQ'd Chicken Breasts February 05, 2013 at 05:31 PM
Ummmm... The Electoral College does apply to all states due to the fact that every state holds Electoral votes. Every state, no matter how insignificant, wields some power in the presidential election process.


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