With Monday’s meetings of the Electoral College, the nation elected a president who lost the popular vote for the fifth time in its history and second time since 2000.
The Associated Press reported that Republican Donald Trump garnered 304 electoral votes, versus 227 for Democrat Hillary Clinton; 270 were needed to win. Clinton, however, won the popular vote by a margin of roughly 2.8 million votes, or 2.1 percentage points.
Critics say the Electoral College system violates the principle of one person, one vote and favors small and swing states. The New York Times, which first editorialized against the Electoral College in 1936, on Monday wrote that “for most reasonable people, it’s hard to understand why the loser of the popular vote should wind up running the country.”
But others argue that it helps maintain the nation’s federal character and prevents disproportionate influence by heavily populated urban areas. Most respondents to this week’s RBJ Daily Report Snap Poll apparently agree: Sixty percent said the Electoral College should be retained.
When the same question was posed to RBJ readers in November 2012, after Barack Obama won re-election with 332 electoral votes but a much narrower popular vote margin, the result was very different: 61 percent of respondents favored ending the Electoral College, and only 25 percent wanted to keep it.
A constitutional amendment would be required to abolish the Electoral College. Another approach, the National Popular Vote, would preserve the Electoral College, but individual states would agree to pledge their electors to the national winner of the popular vote. Ten states—including New York—and the District of Columbia have approved it. In its Monday editorial, the Times endorsed this approach.
In both this week’s Snap Poll and the one conducted in 2012, fewer than one in six participants favored the National Popular Vote proposal.
Nearly 775 readers participated in this week’s poll, which was conducted Dec. 19 and 20.
Which of the following best reflects your views on the Electoral College?
Keep the Electoral College 60%
End the Electoral College 31%
Keep the Electoral College, with individual states pledging their electors to the national popular vote winner 9%
The Electoral College was a brilliant method to balance the interests of small and large states. We are a united collection of individual states, republics and commonwealths.
How many more presidents who lose the popular vote but win the electoral vote do we need? The Electoral College is a sham that has failed our country. Any system that gives a vote cast in a sparsely populated state like Wyoming three times the value of a vote in New York will continue to deliver elected officials without the support of the majority of Americans.
—Mike Bergin, Chariot Learning
One Citizen = One Vote. I want my vote to count in all elections.
—Eve Elzenga, Eve Elzenga Design
If the Electoral College is abolished, the urban population centers such as New York, Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles and San Francisco will determine the presidency each election. The rest of the country will be an afterthought for any candidate. Possible solution: have each elector vote for the candidate who won in their congressional district. This would split the votes in many states, such as New York, where Clinton would have won about 18 electors and Trump about 9 or 10. This also would have forced both candidates to campaign here for electoral votes.
—Al Kempf, Fairport
It’s a travesty that the person who won the popular vote by almost a 3 million vote margin will not be the president of the United States. Get rid of this archaic provision that was intended to insure that only a qualified person became president, which failed to work in this election.
Modify the Electoral College similar to Maine’s system—the winner of each individual congressional election district gets that electoral vote, and the two Senate electoral votes are determined by the overall state winner.
The Electoral College works great. It helps prevent the citizens of a few heavily populated states from always dominating over the voices of the vast majority of less-populated states on this important matter. Our Founding Fathers were brilliant people.
We should never have a situation where the popular vote is ignored like this. It has happened twice in my lifetime and I find it very disturbing. We try to encourage people to vote, telling them their vote really does make a difference. When we see the results of the popular vote overridden by the Electoral College, it feels like your individual vote really does not make a difference.
The Founding Fathers got it right by creating the Electoral College. Imagine if one state somehow grew its population so large that it had half of eligible voters. Does that mean it should be able to control the will of the other 49 states? I think not. Just like smaller states still have two senators, just like the larger ones. It’s all about checks and balances. We are a constitutional republic, not a democracy. And there is good reason for it. It was carefully thought out and had served us well for over 200 years!
—George Thomas, Ogden
The Electoral College was created by the so-called Founding Fathers because they (the landed aristocracy) didn’t trust ordinary people. They never intended ordinary people to elect the president—you had to be white, male, property owners to vote. Hopefully we have moved beyond that and we should move beyond the Electoral College too. When one person outpolls another by more than 2.5 million votes and “loses” the election, something is wrong! This is twice in 16 years this has happened! And God help us if no candidate ever failed to receive a majority in the Electoral College and the election went to the House of Representatives as it has done on at least two occasions. What a disaster that would be! Before real disaster strikes, let’s change the system.
—Paul E. Haney
It is essential to keep the Electoral College in order to avoid having a few heavily populated areas determine the outcome of presidential elections. The system worked perfectly this election. After all, the president is supposed to be for all the United States! I understand the uneducated disappointment of the Hillary voters, but our Founding Fathers got it right again.
The Electoral College is an anachronism. In 2000 and 2016, it resulted in the popular vote winner NOT becoming president. It disproportionately favors small states. We should be a true democracy.
—C. Lewis, Perinton
Funny how most Americans had no idea of what the Electoral College was for before this election. If ever removed, only a few states would dictate who the president would be. This, of course, was one of the more divisive elections ever, but the Electoral College, if working correctly, should represent the national voice. One idea to adjust could be the “winner-take-all” in most states, but not sure what impact this would have. All in all, a lot of unrest across the county (and world). The president and Congress are going to have to put in some OT to address any real and perceived issues.
We have an example in New York State of what would happen without the Electoral College. New York City dominates and dictates to us in upstate because of their overwhelming numbers. Nationally, it would be CA, NY, MA and NJ combining in the same role and we in flyover country would be overwhelmed and dictated to by them. Our country would become a one-party leftist country, just like NYS. The Electoral College levels the playing field.
—Jim Cronin, Classic Fashion Resources
I would like to see the Electoral College modified. Leave the present state electors, but add a national popular vote component. This component will be allocated to the winner of the popular vote. In the case of most elections this would not alter the outcome of the election. However, in situations like we have today the popular vote would be considered in conjunction with the state by state results. In the case of today’s situation, Mr. Trump would still be the next president, but the erroneous claims of a mandate would be offset by the reality of his standing with the majority of the people.
—Wayne Donner, Rush
She lost. Get over it.
—Lester Wilson, North Syracuse
The National Popular Vote alternative was developed because it is more achievable (although still a stretch, because Republicans control many of the state legislatures that would need to approve it, and given recent results, it’s not to their benefit) than a constitutional amendment and accomplishes the same objective—allowing the popular vote to determine the election of the president. Another benefit of the National Popular Vote approach is that it would be reversible in the future, should states wish to return to winner-take-all. In this age of information, the argument that allowing a popular vote would disenfranchise sparsely populated states is specious.
The Electoral College was intended to also ensure someone unfit for office was not allowed to enter the office. Trump is woefully unfit. The Electoral College didn’t do its job. This already great country is essentially doomed.
—M. Curtain, Rochester
The Electoral College should be kept intact with the electors voting the will of the people in the electoral district they represent. No electoral nullification should be allowed.
Thomas Reidy, CEO, Thomas Reidy Inc.
The Electoral College no longer reflects what it was intended for. Electors are hand-picked by the candidates, which makes the purpose of it being a fail-safe to prevent unqualified candidates from taking office a conflict of interest. Then again, conflict of interest is something we’ll all be hearing a lot about over the next four years.
Options 2 & 3 are basically the same, and revert to a popular vote. In their wisdom, the Founding Fathers set up the Electoral College to prevent lopsided influence from heavily populated states. Currently the two most populous states, responsible for almost all of Clinton’s popular vote lead, are New York and California. I think almost everyone would agree that these are the two states LEAST like the other states, and should not have more say in the country’s direction than other states.
—Joe Fabetes Rochester
One only has to look at the alternative to the Electoral College: 48 states being led by two of the most corrupt. Ultraliberal blood-sucking states. Let’s not get emotional about this; Hillary lost because she should have lost, and Trump won because he was the better choice!
—JA DePaolis, Penfield
It most certainly should be preserved. Otherwise three or four boroughs downstate, Chicago and California would have enough votes to elect someone all on their own.
—Daniel Mossien, architect
Without the Electoral College, presidential elections would simply be decided by the heavy populated cities and states. The rest of the country would have no say.
—Jim Weisbeck, Bloomfield
When our nation was founded, communication between the various states could take weeks or months. Each state ran its affairs fairly autonomously. This is not the case today. Instant communications and less diverse state populations make the popular vote more representative of the will of the country. I think it is time to end the Electoral College completely.
—Al Schnucker, Schnucker Packaging Inc.
Blame the Electoral College on Thomas Jefferson. He drafted the Constitution. The purpose of the Electoral College was so the northern large industrial cities could not swamp the voting of the rural South. Guess what was also in the rural South. Guess in what state Thomas Jefferson lived and what he may have been protecting. Let’s correct a wrong and shameful line of thinking as soon as possible.
Do we want the state of California to have complete control of the electoral process? HRC won 62 percent of the vote and a 4 million vote plurality! Without that, Trump won the popular vote total for the other 49 states by 1 million votes! This is the exact reason the Electoral College was founded. The land of Feinstein, Pelosi, Boxer and Moonbeam Brown would be the kingmaker. In New York State, four counties of New York City gave Clinton a 2 million plurality. Think I’ll stick with things as they are.
—Art Elting, Palmyra
Without the Electoral College, California would be the only state that matters. The popular vote margin for Secretary Clinton was (roughly) 2.9 million. She carried California by over 4 million votes. The framers of the Constitution wanted each state to have a voice, regardless of size or population. Also, without the Electoral College, we could have chaos, with recounts demanded in every election district nationwide in a close election. This would take months and paralyze the government. Lastly, if the candidates knew the election would be decided by popular vote, this year’s campaign strategy (for both) would have been totally different, so we can’t assume the results would have been the same.
The Electoral College provides a check on the decision process, much like the three computers used on airplanes. The Electoral College provides a decentralized form of decision making by state. Upstate New York probably has similar checks to prevent state domination by New York City. —Chuck Masick, mit (magic institute of tutoring)
It’s a fool’s game to argue that a presidential candidate won the “popular vote,” because we don’t elect our president on that basis. A campaign would be run completely different if that were the goal. The Framers of the Constitution installed the Electoral College to ensure that we would elect a president of the “United States.” If we elected our president on the basis of the popular vote, we would effectively be electing a president of California and New York—arguably the two most corrupt and dysfunctional states in the union.
The Electoral College unfairly favors rural states. There are various solutions to the issue, including allocating electors by state population, having electors split votes based on the split within their state rather than casting all votes for one candidate, abolishing electoral votes altogether in favor of a popular vote. I think these are all valid options, but any of them will require a constitutional amendment, which isn’t going to happen without bipartisan congressional support and a supporting president. Since the current president-elect wouldn’t be achieving office and the Republican Party wouldn’t own the White House without the Electoral College, it seems unlikely they will vote against it, since self-interest seems to rule that party’s politics.
—Lee Drake, OS-Cubed Inc, email@example.com
Keep it. It allows all states to have a say in whom we elect. People, aka U.S. citizens, need to understand how and why it works. Please read the rules and why they are there.
—Kim Pandina, Panda Wear Owner & Designer
Many effective arguments have been put forth by both sides for keeping/abolishing the Electoral College. Now that the roadmap to “game the system” has been documented and brilliantly executed by the Trump campaign, it will be easier for future campaigns to do the same. I doubt history will repeat itself anytime soon, but why chance it? Either go with the popular vote winner or apportion the votes within the states, abolishing the winner take all status.
—Tom Sargent, Penfield
The questioning of the nearly 230-year-old Electoral College is the latest attack on our constitutional republic. It is unfortunately being driven by “poor sport syndrome” versus flaws in this proven electoral process. Let’s move forward together, settle our differences, and preserve and rebuild our imperfect union.
—Paul Hohensee, Webster
The Electoral College system should absolutely be upheld to preserve the diversity in and among the states. If the system were to be changed, it should be done through a constitutional amendment rather than any alternative work-around.
The Founding Fathers, particularly Alexander Hamilton (despite what the cast of “Hamilton” had to disrespectfully say to Vice President-elect Pence), had it right. The Electoral College prevents the dominance of a few highly populated places like New York and California. I’m from New York and I don’t want New York dominating. If the election had been by popular vote alone, Trump would have run a completely different campaign. Trump would have campaigned in California and New York. Don’t forget, Hillary won the polls as well as the popular vote. Hillary had the same opportunities. Bill even warned her. Maybe after her head trauma and probable seizure she just didn’t remember the “Forgotten Man.”
—Clifford Jacobson, M.D., Vanguard Psychiatric Services PC
The Electoral College should absolutely be kept! It’s a total overreach that a system that’s been in place since the United States’ founding would have to be overturned. The Founders understood that a small land mass that had a large population could rate more than an overwhelming land mass with more people and would not be an accurate representation of the population. It seems to be the Democrats should find better candidates rather than wanting to change the way our presidents have always been elected.
—Todd Black, Black’s Hardware
The Constitution consistently refers to the United States in the plural, and the key thing that’s supposed to distinguish the U.S. from other countries — remember that idea we keep hearing that the U.S. is supposed to be unique? — is that it is fundamentally a collection of societies. The idea that we are a republic and not a democracy, contrary to popular belief, is further evidence of this. In fact, the evidence for this claim is pretty overwhelming. Now hold that thought for a second, and consider this. During the World Series, we don’t add up the total number of runs scored by each team over the course of the series, and then decide who won on that basis. We count up how many games each team won. Thus: Game 1: Red Sox 10, Mets 0 Game 2: Red Sox 15, Mets 1 Game 3: Red Sox 5, Mets 2 Game 4: Red Sox 1, Mets 2 Game 5: Red Sox 0, Mets 1 Game 6: Red Sox 2, Mets 3 Game 7: Red Sox 3, Mets 4 In this imaginary series the Red Sox scored 36 runs while the Mets scored only 13, yet everyone would acknowledge that the Mets won the series. Not a single sports fan would be running around demanding that we count the total number of runs instead, or insisting that the way we determine the World Series winner is sinister. But I think this is the correct analogy with the Electoral College. How many games — e.g., how many political societies, albeit weighted to some degree by population — did you win? Also, the Electoral College puts an upper bound on how much support you can earn from any one state. Even if your whole campaign is geared toward taxing the rest of the country and handing the money to California, you still can’t get more than 55 electoral votes from that state. So to some extent, the Electoral College forces the candidate to run a national race more than would be necessary otherwise. But further, if the people and the state would like to mitigate perceived the effects of the Electoral College it is entirely in their hands; the delegation of the Electoral College votes is up to the State itself. Maine and Nebraska delegate their votes in direct proportion to the percentage of the state that was won by each candidate. Frankly, living in Rochester NY, this would be a very welcome change to me. However, this option is not generally implemented. It’s probably worth asking why. This would address 99% of concern over the Electoral College. If we are genuinely concerned about the voice of each person in our political system, one person – one vote, then shouldn’t we all be voting on the same day? When our country was founded, it was impossible to get out your message in all 13 states at once. And even if you could, the news of who had won in the previous states to hold their elections was unlikely to get to the rest of the country before they had a chance to vote. Now, particularly in the primaries, but also in general, your candidate may be out before the election even gets to your state! This is a much more pressing concern than the Electoral College.
—Kenya Burn-Moore, Rochester
12/23/2016 (c) 2016 Rochester Business Journal. To obtain permission to reprint this article, call 585-546-8303 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.