In last week’s election, for example, Obama received 61.7 percent of the electoral vote compared to only 51.3 percent of the popular votes cast for him and Romney.(I ignore the scattering of votes not counted for either candidate.) Because almost all states award electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis, even a very slight plurality in a state creates a landslide electoral-vote victory in that state.
1) Certainty of Outcome A dispute over the outcome of an Electoral College vote is possible—it happened in 2000—but it’s less likely than a dispute over the popular vote.
The reason is that the winning candidate’s share of the Electoral College invariably exceeds his share of the popular vote.
It can be argued that the Electoral College method of selecting the president may turn off potential voters for a candidate who has no hope of carrying their state—Democrats in Texas, for example, or Republicans in California.
Knowing their vote will have no effect, they have less incentive to pay attention to the campaign than they would have if the president were picked by popular vote, for then the state of a voter’s residence would be irrelevant to the weight of his vote.
5) Avoid Run-Off Elections The Electoral College avoids the problem of elections in which no candidate receives a majority of the votes cast.
For example, Nixon in 1968 and Clinton in 1992 both had only a 43 percent plurality of the popular votes, while winning a majority in the Electoral College (301 and 370 electoral votes, respectively).Voters in toss-up states are more likely to pay close attention to the campaign—to really to the competing candidates—knowing that they are going to decide the election.They are likely to be the most thoughtful voters, on average (and for the further reason that they will have received the most information and attention from the candidates), and the most thoughtful voters should be the ones to decide the election.There is pressure for run-off elections when no candidate wins a majority of the votes cast; that pressure, which would greatly complicate the presidential election process, is reduced by the Electoral College, which invariably produces a clear winner.Against these reasons to retain the Electoral College the argument that it is undemocratic falls flat.So a solid regional favorite, such as Romney was in the South, has no incentive to campaign heavily in those states, for he gains no electoral votes by increasing his plurality in states that he knows he will win.This is a desirable result because a candidate with only regional appeal is unlikely to be a successful president.4) Big States The Electoral College restores some of the weight in the political balance that large states (by population) lose by virtue of the mal-apportionment of the Senate decreed in the Constitution.This may seem paradoxical, given that electoral votes are weighted in favor of less populous states.So, other things being equal, a large state gets more attention from presidential candidates in a campaign than a small states does.And since presidents and senators are often presidential candidates, large states are likely to get additional consideration in appropriations and appointments from presidents and senators before as well as during campaigns, offsetting to some extent the effects of the malapportioned Senate on the political influence of less populous states.