"Loser takes all - it must be time to abolish the Electoral College". Discuss.

Authors Avatar

c) “Loser takes all – it must be time to abolish the Electoral College”. Discuss.

The outcome of the 2000 American election, in which the electoral college produced a result that was inconsistent with the popular vote, led to many calls for the reform, and even the abolition of this institution and the introduction of some form of direct popular election of the President. A mass of protestors dissented against the electoral college, branding it as a “dinosaur that should be retired to a museum” (Senator Richard J. Durbin). Polls taken in the two months after  the 2000 election seemingly indicated that Americans largely supported abolishing the Electoral College in favour of a system of direct popular election of the president. Even without the salience of the 2000 election, finding such poll results would not have been surprising. Outcries to the Electoral College is nothing new - Gallup public opinion polls since the 1940s show that majorities of the public have consistently favoured reform. (Newport 2001). Indeed, there have been more attempts to reform the Electoral College than any other part of the Constitution, and aspiring reformers range from across the political spectrum, including Franklin Roosevelt and Richard Nixon. In 1969, the House passed a measure to replace the electoral college by a nationwide popular vote, however, was defeated in Senate.


The Electoral College was established by the Founding Fathers for two principal reasons. First, it was based on a recognition of ‘states’ rights’. The College allowed each state to determine for itself who it could vote. Second, despite all the restrictions on the right to vote that existed at the time, the framers of the Constitution still distrusted mass democracy. An indirect system of election offered a safeguard against the possibility that a radical could be elected to the presidency. According to Glennon, many delegates of the Constitutional Convention had serious doubts about the capacity of the people to choose a chief executive wisely in a general election, highlighting the “ignorance of the people”. William Blackstone, whose 1765 Commentaries strongly impressed the Founders, wrote that history and observation will inform us that elections of every kind are too frequently brought about by influence, partiality, and artifice.” Present-day USA, however, is a different story. In the age of mass media exposure, light-speed communication and political coverage in every television new show, the general public is better informed than their forefathers, and hence no longer require “protective patronism”.

Join now!

The Electoral College has often been dubbed a ‘loser takes all’ system, since even if a candidate loses the plurality of the popular vote (Gore/Liebermann ticket actually outpolled the Republicans by slightly more than 500,000 votes in 2000), he may still win the Presidency if he wins the Electoral College (as Bush did, with 271 votes to 267). This bizarre result is a consequence of the “Winner Takes All” system, where the winner of the state, no matter how narrow his margin of victory, is awarded all the delegates of that state. Although supporters of the Electoral College system ...

This is a preview of the whole essay