General Question

YARNLADY's avatar

Is it wrong that the electorial votes can elect a president even though the popular vote goes the other way?

Asked by YARNLADY (39487 points ) November 6th, 2012

Electoral votes re-elected President Obama, yet the popular vote has Romney running ahead.

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41 Answers

DaphneT's avatar

Maybe. It is what happened to elect George Bush the second. Gore actually won, but a lawsuit put George on Pennsylvania Avenue, because that count was that close. I haven’t heard yet which states will be doing recounts because it is so close.

DrBill's avatar

there have been a lot of presidents not elected because of them. I support “1 person, 1 vote” it should always go to the biggest vote getter, period.

gailcalled's avatar

The difference in the popular vote, at 11:55 PM, has shrunk to about 215,000 votes, which is a very small percentage of the total votes (c. 91.7 million, if I am doing the math right).

Mariah's avatar

I do oppose the electoral college, but I guess tonight I’m happy it’s in place.

Qingu's avatar

Yes. The Electoral college is a travesty.

But Obama will almost certainly win the popular vote. Romney is ahead because CA and WA haven’t been counted yet.

Mariah's avatar

@Qingu Didn’t even think of that, good call.

woodcutter's avatar

It will always really depend on if your candidate is ahead or not, be it E C or popular. Just like everyone wants term limits until, they realize it would mean their hero’s get automatically canned and then not such a keen plan.

Buttonstc's avatar

Disregard for the popular vote plus the Supreme Court is what saddled us with the dimwit Bush so perhaps a bit of turnabout is fair play.

And perhaps now the Repubs. might be a bit more willing to listen to voices for changing it.

But it’s doubtful Romney wins the popular vote anyhow.

woodcutter's avatar

Popular vote is split so close down the center that, what did Obama really win? Legally he’s in but half the electorate dislikes him and he has no mandate going in this term. I’m worried it will be 4 more years of SSDD.

Qingu's avatar

@woodcutter, popular vote’s not going to be split down the center. West coast hasn’t reported yet.

augustlan's avatar

Obama is ahead in the popular vote now. (Scroll down to see the popular vote results, which are updating live.)

Honestly, I have mixed feelings about the electoral college in general.

skfinkel's avatar

Fortunately, not a problem in this presidential election!

snowberry's avatar

I am not a fan of the electoral college. Never was. It is not representative of the true desires of the American people.

jonsblond's avatar

Yes. It frustrates me. The outcome is based upon the votes coming from just a handful of states. I don’t like it one bit. Haven’t since Gore lost to Bush

blueiiznh's avatar

In a word :
No

I do however think some reform to the current system is in order.

Qingu's avatar

@jonsblond, I agree, and one important consequence of that is that issues unique to certain states, like Ohio or Florida, become the only issues that matter in campaigns and eventually in policy.

For example, there is no reason that manufacturing jobs should be the focus of our economic policy—most Americans work in service jobs, and that seems to be the future trend anyway—yet manufacturing is vital in the swing state of Ohio, so that’s all Obama ever talks about.

glacial's avatar

I find it ironic that Republicans were twittering about the electoral college last night, after their silence on Bush v. Gore. Shouldn’t Republicans be guarding the electoral college because the founders wanted it? Progressives are the ones who should want it thrown out in favour of proportional representation.

CWOTUS's avatar

I actually do support the Electoral College, but I would like to see states follow the examples set by Maine and Nebraska and apportion their electoral voters proportionally.

That maintains the Founders’ genius in preserving the importance of “states” over simple “majority rules”, and it would have the benefit that many don’t currently see of making every state have at least one ‘swing’ vote in the EC. That would dramatically change how elections are run – and how people’s choices are more honestly represented in presidential campaigns.

JLeslie's avatar

I was kind of hoping Romney would win the popular vote. It is Republicans who are usually against getting rid of the electoral college. Although, I would be pretty freightened of some Republicans if Romney did win the popular vote and Obama won the presidency. The electoral college might finally go away when enough republicans win the popular vote and lose the office, or when more and more liberals move into the bible belt, and Alabama and Mississippi begin to freak out that all the electoral votes go to the blue candidate.

As far as it being wrong, to use the OP’s word, I don’t agree with having the electoral college, but for now I would not call it wrong because it is how we legally conduct the Presidential election. I can see some wisdom in the electoral college voting for President, I just really hate my vote barely counting in one state and making all the difference when I live in another. From what I understand countries that have Parliament and Prime Ministers also sometimes elect a PM that does not go along with the popular vote? I think that recently happened in Australia, at least that is what some Australians were telling me, that they people hate the current PM. I’m not really sure how that works.

ETpro's avatar

Wrong? No, it’s the law of the land, and the United States is a Republic. However, I think it’s a Constitutional artifact of the past that has long since outlived its usefulness.

It’s an arcane left-over of internal jealousies between the original 13 colonies. In my view, it’s terrible for democracy in today’s world, delivering virtually none of the things it was originally designed to ensure. Instead, it means that once each four years, two or more people will campaign to be the president of Ohio, Florida, Virginia, New Hampshire and a few other swing states.

Perhaps I wouldn’t feel so strongly about it if I didn’t live next door to one of the battlegrounds. Those who either live in those states of are in media markets that penetrate them, as I am, are treated once every four years to months of politicians from both sides constantly puking in our ears over radio, TV, billboards and the op-ed columns in our local papers. Many of the messages are frustratingly false and deeply dark. I’m a patient person, and it wears on my nerves as much rattles little Abby’s nerves.

Also, the Electoral College undermines any chance that the current two-party system(United_States)#Encourages_stability_through_the_two-party_system will eventually crumble, and that independents or alternative party candidates will hold more sway; something I think would be a tremendous blessing to democracy in America and eventually force political parties to learn to compromise and get the people’s work done instead of focusing only on partisan gain.

glacial's avatar

@JLeslie In Canada, the Prime Minister is the leader of the party that has the most members of parliament (MPs) elected in the general election. The PM is usually the elected MP in his own riding – if he somehow manages not to get elected in his own riding, some junior MP will give up his seat so that the PM can be elected in that riding in a by-election. No direct vote is cast for Prime Minister, the point being that we are meant to be choosing individual local representatives instead of parties – although in practice many people choose along party lines just as in America. I think that because we have multiple parties with serious support from the electorate, there is less strict partisanship than in the US; a liberal really does have 3 parties to choose from, and is not likely to feel a staunch loyalty to a specific one. Lately, there is only one conservative party, but the parties change over relatively short periods of time (i.e., shorter than the time it takes for the US parties to change their focus).

In other words, the system is designed to reduce partisanship – but if one party has a particularly impressive and charismatic leader (or a particularly odious one), then people will often ignore their local representation and vote according to who they want (or don’t want) to be Prime Minister.

Of course, technically the Prime Minister is appointed by the Governor General (the Queen’s agent in Canada), but if the GG tried to choose outside of the system that has now become a long-standing practice… we would have to have some very stern words over a cup of tea or something.

Edit: So to answer your question more directly – we don’t have proportional representation either, and minority governments are quite common here, and often welcomed. Because we have more than 2 parties, who are after all not as polarized as in the US, there is usually more cooperation when a minority government is elected, and it has the effect of softening the extremes.

JLeslie's avatar

@glacial Thanks. Do you wish people had a popular vote to elect the PM? It seems like there isn’t as good of a check and balance if the PM is elected by the party that has the most members in parliament. In America some people purposefully vote for a congressperson in the party who is not the same party as the President. Or, it at least is a consideration. For some people. In America the electoral college winds up going with the popuar vote of the particular state, even though I think technically they don’t have to. I could be wrong about that last part.

glacial's avatar

@JLeslie To be honest, I never can quite decide if I want proportional representation. A lot of liberals do want it, and I understand why… but I think I am becoming increasingly disillusioned by how easily the electorate is swayed by what I see as obvious lies. I actually believe that there is some merit to giving more electoral power to big cities where people are on the whole better educated and have more varied experience. I know that labels me as an elitist (and that seems jarring to me, given that I’m such a left winger), but I seriously worry about what would become of my country and yours if every vote had equal value.

Of course, in a perfect world, every citizen would be well informed and every citizen would vote – in that world, I would absolutely want proportional representation. But we don’t live there.

JLeslie's avatar

@glacial Interesting.

ETpro's avatar

@glacial Actually, here in the USA, the Republican Party is the great supporter of the Electoral College and that is because it weights rural votes much more heavily than urban ones. They fear that a one-person-one-vote election would favor the industrialized urban centers and that is not where their base resides.

glacial's avatar

@ETpro Is that so? I was unaware of that. I assumed Republican support for the electoral college was entirely due to the timing of its inception.

JLeslie's avatar

@glacial Actually, @ETpro is correct. Generally the Republicans favor the electoral college more than Democrats, because it gives a more weighted vote to more rural areas and rural states with small populations.

glacial's avatar

Very interesting – has it always been that way? Or do the number of votes in the electoral college change proportionally to the state population?

Mariah's avatar

@glacial Electoral votes change with respect to state population, but are not directly proportional.

Here’s how it works: Electoral votes allotted to a state are equal the sum of congressmen and senators for any given state. Every state has two senators, but congressmen are proportional to population.

The way this works does increase the influence of small states. For example, a state like Montana, with 3 electoral votes; just 1 congressman. The addition of the senators triples the number of votes Montana gets compared to what it would receive if it were based purely on population. Whereas a state like California, which has 55 electoral votes, doesn’t benefit as hugely from the addition of 2 senators.

JLeslie's avatar

@glacial The votes do change according to the population, but part of the number of electoral votes are static no matter what the population. Each state gets two senators no matter what the population, and a minimum of one representative in the House of Representatives, even if their population doesn’t really warrant it when you look at the overall total of the US population and evaluate the ratio the population represents in a particular state against the sum total of the US population. So, states with small population get more vote than their population warrants mathematically. To clarify, the number of representatives to the house does go up according to the population in a state, but again, the state gets a minimum of one for sure.

Congress by the way is made up of the Senate and the House of Representatives.

Mariah's avatar

Is there a word that specifically means congressmen in the house of representatives? Because if there is, that’s the word I should have used.

Qingu's avatar

@Mariah, “representative.” :)

jca's avatar

I think it’s wrong.

rojo's avatar

It is the all or none feature that I do not care for. Popular votes should be proportionally distributed in the college.

Mariah's avatar

@Qingu Pfft, makes sense. Thanks.

Mariah's avatar

Another point about the electoral college: so many people I know didn’t bother to vote because they believed their votes didn’t matter, because we are not in a swing state. Switching to a popular vote would mean that nobody would feel unimportant, and people would be more motivated to be informed and active members of the political system.

deni's avatar

Yes it is wrong. I’m glad Obama came out on top of the popular vote too. Otherwise it would have been uncomfortable and questionable.

ETpro's avatar

@deni It didn’t seem to bother Bush in 2000.

deni's avatar

@ETpro Lol, yeah, I thought about that. I was thinking, well, the Republicans got away with one, if it happens that way for Obama in this election they can’t say much. But, you know they still would have. That’s why I’m glad it didn’t happen, just would have been annoying.

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