Keep it. Absolutely. After long debate and consideration, the founders designed the operation of the Electoral College with extra care. The part of the Constitution (Article 2, Section 1) that describes the operation of the Electoral College has more detail than any other issue in the Constitution, including the federal judiciary, war powers, taxation and representation. It prescribes in detail how it is supposed to work.
It is good to discuss the subject. Every generation needs to be taught and reminded of the reasons and benefits of constitutional principles, otherwise liberties and inalienable rights are put in jeopardy.
The Electoral College is one of many ways our governmental system disperses power so that the minority has a voice to help protect their rights. The Electoral College is an ingenious system for electing a president and provides amazing practical benefits. Here is what the Electoral College system does for us:
• Recognizes that every part of the country is important: Because we are a Republic, we have a representative form of government. Therefore we do not vote directly for president but rather for how our state (electors) will vote for president. Because most states use a “winner takes all” system, in order to win, the candidates are obliged to campaign widely among disparate groups and to recognize the needs of the entire country — which encompasses many minority interests. Because of the Electoral College, candidates have no incentive to campaign in states already won because no electoral votes are gained by increasing the vote margin. This is a very good thing because a candidate with only a regional appeal is unlikely to make a good president.
• Gives smaller states a bigger voice: Electoral College voting is proportional to the population but still gives the smaller states an advantage. For example, the state of New York has 29 electors and Oregon has seven electors. New York has a population 5 times larger than Oregon, but the influence of New York in the Electoral College is only 4.1 times larger. This is because the number of electors is the sum total of representatives (proportional by state population) plus the number of senators (always two per state).
• Helps protect from voter fraud: In 1876, Sam Tilden won 50.9% of the popular vote, due to massive voter fraud and suppression of black votes in Southern states. However, Tilden lost the Electoral College vote and so Rutherford B. Hayes became president. It is another case where no more electoral votes are obtained by increasing the margin of victory. Also, in case of dispute, the Electoral College system makes a recount practical and possible.
• Provides a “certainty of outcome”: The Electoral College system requires the winner to have a majority, not a plurality (where the most votes are still less than a majority), of electoral votes. This method of requiring a majority discourages a large number of narrow focus parties and candidates, prevents a need for run-off elections, and gives the winner a mandate to govern the country. In many parliamentary systems where a plurality wins, there are often many parties each with a very narrow focus. A candidate can often win with a small plurality of the vote, like 10-20%. In this case the other 80-90% of voters do not feel represented and the winner receives little support and no mandate to govern.
There is always some grumbling when the Electoral College does not follow the majority vote, but that’s not an accident but rather a feature. Without the Electoral College our elections would be dramatically different, and not for the better. Candidates who succeed must represent the entire country in their campaigning.
It would require a constitutional amendment to replace the Electoral College but there are too many good arguments in its favor to ever seriously consider that. It will last to the benefit of all.