While recognizing that our American system of governance is far from perfect, we must fully evaluate our institutions before seeking to tear them down in their entirety. Fundamentally, the Electoral College ensures that states, the essential building blocks of our union, retain important political power in electing the President of the United States. This allows each state to have a clear role in selecting the leader of the national government, bolstering the legitimacy of our federal system. Moreover, in an era where many of us are concerned about election interference and security, running what are essentially 51 different elections makes it much harder for outside forces to sway the ultimate outcome. This also allows for targeted recounts to be conducted much more easily when necessary. Additionally, granting states the authority to run federal elections serves as an important backstop ensuring that partisan leaders in Congress, or even the White House, can not hijack our electoral systems for their own political gain.
The main concern which opponents of the Electoral College often express centers around occasions where the electoral vote winner loses the popular vote, a rare situation that has occurred only five times since our nation’s founding. Though often grounded in a sincere desire to craft a more “democratic” system, these arguments often fail to grasp the fundamental importance of the Electoral College in maintaining the political power of states in our federal system. They also ignore the logistical issues that would arise when stripping the states of their authority to conduct elections and placing such power into the hands of the Washington D.C. politicians who are themselves running for reelection.
The Electoral College also has a few major practical benefits, such as allowing different states and regions to receive political attention over time. With a couple of exceptions, the states deemed to be competitive “swing states” actually change somewhat frequently. In 2000, the now reliably blue states of Oregon and Washington were heavily contested, and today, Georgia is considered a pivotal swing state despite having been a Republican stronghold for decades. A popular vote system would likely draw immense, sustained attention to urban population centers, which are far less liable than swing states to change over time. New York City has been our largest city since 1790, and others such as Philadelphia and Chicago have been in the top 5 for 150 years. Thus, instituting a national popular vote would likely leave vast swaths of the population starved of political attention in perpetuity.
To be sure, the Electoral College is far from a perfect system, and it definitely has its fair share of flaws. But let us not make the perfect the enemy of the good – the Electoral College is an overall beneficial institution of our American republic that should not be replaced.