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Electoral College Myths & Facts

As has become my habit during presidential election years, I've completed a series about the Electoral College: What myths persist about the system and what is the reality? A summary of these myth/fact sheets appear below. Please follow the links for more details on any particular myth.

Myth: Most states are ignored by presidential campaigns because of the Electoral College. Only swing states matter. A direct election system would fix this.

Fact: There are two reasons why this perception is incorrect. First, an honest assessment of American history shows that no state is permanently “safe” or “swing.” The identity of these states changes all the time. Second, presidential elections are not only about the TV commercials and campaign visits in the final weeks and months leading into Election Day. MORE.

Myth: The Founders created the Electoral College because they did not trust the people to pick the President.

Fact: The Founders knew that the voice of the people must be reflected in any government if it is to be legitimate. At the Constitutional Convention, George Mason, delegate from Virginia, expressed this sentiment when he declared that “the genius of the people must be consulted.” MORE

Myth: The person who wins the national popular vote should win the White House. The Electoral College does not guarantee such results and is thus undemocratic.

Fact: The question is not “democracy” v. “no democracy.” The question is “democracy with federalism” (the Electoral College) v. “democracy without federalism” (a direct popular vote). MORE

Myth: In 2000, a few hundred stolen votes in Florida could have changed the outcome of the presidential election. Such examples show that the Electoral College makes it too easy to steal elections.

Fact: The Electoral College makes elections much harder to steal. MORE

Myth: A national popular vote would ensure that every vote cast has the same weight. Every voter will matter only if every vote is equal.

Fact: Every voter in this nation is already equal with every other voter in his same election pool. The question is whether the relevant election pool should be one national election pool or 51 state (plus D.C.) election pools. Also consider the important difference between giving votes the same legal weight and making voters equal in practice. MORE

Myth: Most voters don’t count in presidential elections. The winner-take-all allocation of electoral votes in the states ensures that some voters are disenfranchised, left on the sidelines to watch, as voters in swing states determine the outcome of the election. Why bother to cast a Democratic vote in Texas or a Republican one in California? These are wasted votes.

Fact: To “disenfranchise” is to take away a person’s right to vote. No one in this country is losing his right to cast a ballot. This is a strong (and baseless) allegation that reflects a fundamental misunderstanding of how our Electoral College system works today. MORE

Myth: If a candidate wins the national popular vote, but loses the presidency because he lost the electoral vote, that is inherently unfair. The system is rigged! The winner of the national popular vote should be President.

Fact: The Electoral College does not award the presidency to the winner of the national popular vote because that vote can be won through over-reliance on one region, state, or special interest group. The Electoral College awards the presidency to the candidate who achieved a federal majority, which always requires support from many different types of Americans. MORE



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