With Donald Trump and George W. Bush becoming President after receiving fewer votes than their opponents, calls to abolish the Electoral College have increased. U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren and other 2020 Democratic candidates are leading the charge. But while elections would be fairer without an Electoral College, they still would be unfair.
The Electoral College is unfair because of its winner-take-all nature. In all but two states (Maine and Nebraska), whoever wins the popular vote in the state wins the entire Electoral College vote. President Bush and Al Gore evenly split Florida ballots in 2000, but Bush won all 25 of Florida’s Electoral College votes. Winner-take-all elections are fundamentally unfair when they leave the losing side empty-handed and lacking meaningful representation.
Deciding presidential elections by the national popular vote would be an improvement, but we still would have a fundamentally unfair, winner-take-all election. Gore received more votes overall than did Bush in 2000, but only by a margin of 1 percent. Why should he have gained 100 percent more power than Bush after beating him by only 1 percent? Or to put it another way, why should only Gore’s supporters have had their voices heard in the Oval Office?
As a general matter, we go with the majority because the majority for one issue can be different than the majority on another issue. People win on some things, and lose on others. But the majority on Election Day wins for four years, and it wins the most important policymaking office in the world.
There are important alternatives to winner-take-all elections, in which power is shared, so both sides of the political aisle have true representation. And power sharing is effective. When people have to work with the other side to get things done, they do. For more discussion, see here.