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Juan Donado

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Should Americans eliminate the Electoral College and elect their presidents through simple majority vote?

Given that some presidents have won without persuading the majority of Americans, and the huge deal of money spent only on swing states I ask myself that question

I have always thought that it is unfair that republicans in California or Democrats in Texas are not taken into account just because people around them think differently.

Time for change?

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  • Nov 15 2012: Hi Noah,

    I largely agree with your points and have a few other thoughts to offer. I think that the bi-partisan system is inherently flawed because it encourages only voting for "the one you like better than the other" when I haven't found strong allegiance with either candidate in the last 30 years. I currently reside in the Czech Republic and I'm very intrigued by their system. This January will be their first election where the president is not elected by parliament. a) it's a popular vote (as is everywhere in the world that has free democratic elections - America is the only one that uses an electoral college) - b) they currently have 11 candidates for president. I closely identify with several of them.

    The pre-requisite for becoming a candidate here is getting 50,000 signatures from the general populace, and they must be endorsed by 10 deputies (senators). This - for a country of ~10.5 million people - makes it challenging enough that one must be a serious contender just to be nominated. So, from these 11 candidates, there is a "primary" of sorts, but it's a popular primary. No affiliation with a political party is required. From this primary, the two with the most votes go to a popular vote run-off. The most interesting thing? I've yet to see *any* mud-slinging. It is strictly business from their stance about what they will do to improve the country in their way with their methods.

    I believe that it's *because* the electoral college doesn't give us enough choice in the matter from the very beginning during the primaries, that we are forced to form allegiance with one of the two political parties.

    But my larger point, addressing your first paragraph, is that I - and tens of millions like me - don't vote because our vote doesn't matter for purely geographic reasons. How would things change if we had 80% voter turnout instead of 57.5%? Until I live in a state where my views matter in the EC, I fail to see the value in voting for president at all.
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      Nov 15 2012: Do you think the relative civility of Czech elections is to do with a less active press and therefore less ability to "buy" votes with massive and expensive advertising campaigns? Or is it more to do with the lack of a well formed bi-partisan R or D for life mentallity that seems to exist in much of the US.
    • Nov 16 2012: Age Funk, you have seen the flaws of the Electoral College system. It can discourage voter turnout. Discouraging voter turnout is probably the best argument against the system.

      The other comments about the bi-partisan system actually encapsulate the goal of the system. When the U.S. was first created, it was very diverse. The bi-partisan system normally works in larger diverse states; the parliamentary model works better in less diverse states. There were lots of immigrants in the colonies, and the economies of the North and the South were drastically different. There were lots of different ideas and interest groups with conflicting ideas. The two-party system tries to force platforms that untie as many people as possible. This would prevent one group from trying to legislate only for its benefit. (For example, if the people located in the major cities of the US could gather enough support to win the election for whoever they wanted, they could pick one candidate who put ridiculous land taxes on the entire nation. This would severely hurt the people who live in rural states while the city-dwellers were largely unaffected. This is just an example, but it demonstrates the point.) The two-party system forces the two different parties to make platforms that are broad to gather as many votes as possible. If the US had a system like the Czech Republic, the popular primary that you spoke of could very well lead to two candidates that did not represent the public at large. (Maybe two candidates that were pro-military and also pro-life. If one did not like those stances, he could not vote against them because both candidates would be for it.) The popular election would then be less representative of the wishes of the people than the two-party system.

      I see what you are saying. The system is not perfect, but the alternative has the potential to be much worse.
      • Nov 16 2012: If it was a truly popular vote, how would you end up with a run-off between two candidates who had the same views? Here, there aren't 6 of the same candidate and 5 of the other - that's the beauty of it. They are all extremely different from each other. I guess to me, it feels like the USA as a whole - through the EC - doesn't trust its people to choose from a rainbow of colors, only black or white. If you are Orange, or Blue, you have to decide what your 2nd favorite color is, but they're all different colors. You couldn't end up with two Reds to vote between because there would be no point running against someone so similar when there are so many diverse choices. By polarizing the entire nation, the EC encourages a black or white, segregationist, for-us-or-against-us mentality which frankly, goes against everything I believe America was founded upon.

        Subsequently, I believe that by not having a 2-party system, during the primaries, yes, you would have 11 people receiving (likely) far less than 50% of the popular vote, but the MOST *popular* 2 candidates would be in the runoff. It's the exact same as the USA primaries now, except that instead of having truly varied opinions as here, you get 11 Rs and 11 Ds deciding who will be black and who will be white at the end, that can only be decided by registered Rs or Ds, so it's polarized from the start. There are no shades of grey, and this is what America is: 16 million shades of grey between the two extremes.

        What you speak of about one group railroading another group into something they don't want is EXACTLY what I complain about happening today in the EC. Oregon's vote is swung every election by the urban areas - Portland and Eugene - which goes completely against the roots of the state. People don't migrate to rural areas (or they would no longer be rural) so no matter how you slice it, I politely have to disagree about it being a worse alternative, but I agree that R or D, America is terrified of change.

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