Direct popular vote should replace electoral vote in presidential elections.
Hello, I would like to thank my opponent for posting this topic, as it is a very interesting one. Americans have tried to reform the electoral college system for awhile, but nothing material has ever come from it. I will be arguing the pro side, that a popular vote system should replace the electoral college voting system in presidential elections.
I would like to state that I live in a country (Canada) which uses a direct election method to select all its candidates. We use the first past the post system, but differ in the fact that we do not have presidents. I am familiar with the American system of election, however, and love to follow American politics (Hey, we gotta know what you guys down south are doing!).
Thank you for accepting my debate and good luck.
I negate the resolution, Resolved: Direct popular vote should replace electoral vote in presidential elections.
Contention One: Ere on the side of caution-the electoral college works.
American democracy has far outpaced any form of democracy in the history of the world. George Washington's peaceful transition to John Adams set a precedent that would be followed for years to come-that citizens of the United States would follow an orderly method of governing themselves. The electoral college has been the guiding hand in this incredibly successful system. As a panel of senators on the judiciary committee pointed out, "It is not sufficient for the partisans of direct election to argue that the electoral college is somehow defective. All mode of election are less than perfect, all provide certain benefits at the expense of certain other." The Pro in today's debate has an extraordinary burden of proof-it must show that a system which has overwhelmingly worked for over 200 years ought to be thrown away in a blink of an eye. The stakes are immensely high. The United States is the leading power in the world, it cannot afford-the world cannot afford-for even one election of the executive to be called into question. As two professors noted in the Journal of Public Choice, the public debate rages on and "If, with the advantage of 200 or so years of data on how an institution operates, we cannot agree on what it does, we must express even greater skepticism about our ability to predict what some new institution for electing the president will do." It is entirely noteworthy to uphold the electoral college because it is a system we know: a reliable and stable form of democracy.
Contention Two: Direct popular vote is flawed in many ways.
Proponents of a direct popular vote too often over simplify the question at hand. They fail to realize that, like any other system, direct popular vote will be vulnerable to numerous problems. One such problem is the increased threat of vote fraud. The electoral college is a series of self-sealing containers, so that each state does not influence the outcome of another. If fraud occurs, it is isolated. In a direct election, however, each vote is of premium importance to the national decision. As such, agents within the election will have a far greater decision to manipulate votes. Consider an election that stays in an almost complete deadlock throughout the day. As word travels, the urgency of West Coast votes becomes so great that the temptation to commit fraud by local officials is overwhelming. The election is illegitimate. The electoral college avoids this because even if one county of one state commits fraud, it will not be enough to impact the overall election.
A far greater concern in direct popular vote is the problem of inevitable recounts. As Professor Judith Best argues, "an electoral system should produce a definite, accepted winner and avoid prolonged contests and disputes that create uncertainty and public turmoil." This is the function now played by the Electoral College. To its defenders, it does so in two ways. On, it saves the nation "from the effects of an ambiguous outcome." In this way, it confers the requisite legitimacy even in the face of close elections. And two, it also "protects the nation from the crisis of a disputed election." In a direct popular vote, during a close election, candidates will be too tempted to challenge every result. Whereas before if you carry a state by 10% there is no reason to challenge under the electoral college, now a nationwide deadlock will ensure each state undergoes a recount. The judiciary committee once again explains, If one candidate contests a certain area, his opponent, to protect himself, warns of a contest where he thinks something might have been adverse to him. And in a little while, the whole electorate is involved.
Contention Three: The electoral college creates a reasonable, moderate majority.
The cornerstone of democracy is not majority rule. It is reasonable majority rule with the protection of minority rights. A nation is far better served when moderate ideologies prevail. This government ensures liberty and equality maintain an optimal balance for all citizens. As former senator James Eastland writes, "Because of winner-take-all(under the electoral system), a party is under a strong inducement to extend its platform as widely as possible within each State; it must expand its base of support to carry a popular plurality. Since both major parties face the same requirement, both must campaign in most of the same places before most of the same votes. Both must be hospitable to a wide range of minority interest which might otherwise be excluded from electoral competition." This has so many great benefits, including reasonable polices that are widely applicable in nature. Under a direct popular vote, no such system would hold. Candidates must currently be able to get a majority of votes in a statewide election to obtain even a single electoral vote. Ideologically extreme candidates are discouraged from running because they know they cannot appeal to that broad of an electorate. Under direct popular vote, however, there is no need to win statewide majorities and therefore elections will become crowded with extreme candidates. This will further polarize politics as candidates make specific appeals to narrow voter interests. Then, the President will not be elected by a large body politic. He or she will be the voice of only a few.
I affirm the resolution, Resolved: Direct popular vote should replace electoral vote in presidential elections.
There are many reasons as to why a popular system is better than an electoral one, but due to space reasons, I shall limit myself to three contentions.
Contention #1: The electoral vote system is flawed and less democratic than a popular election.
The unequal representation is further aggravated by the fact that most states (except Maine and Nebraska) follow a winner takes all mentality for the selection of electors. This system makes the popular vote essentially irrelevant as a president can be elected as president without capturing the popular vote. The most popular example is the United States Presidential Election of 2000, which saw Pr. G. W. Bush elected over Al Gore, despite the latter winning the popular vote. In fact, under the present system, the votes cast by the Electoral College usually differ significantly from those of the popular vote (e.g. Barack Obama received 68% of the electoral votes in the last election, but captured only 53% of the popular vote). The use of a winner takes all system creates other problems as well, which will be mentioned later.
Finally, while measures exist in some states to punish faithless electors, it is still a potential problem that could be subject to abuse. Although there has only been one occasion where faithless electors have prevented the selection of an expected candidate (In the 1836 elections, where the expected candidate was elected anyway by the Senate ), the problem is still present, and could be abused in a time of crisis or controversy to circumvent the will of the People of the United States.
Contention #2: The present system marginalizes what candidates perceive as “safe states” and gives disproportionate attention to “swing states”.
Contention #3: Direct popular vote has the support of most US Citizens.
I will rebut my opponent's contentions in this round. Then, he can rebut my contentions and then my rebuttals as well. I guess that is the advantage of going second.
First, I will rebut his third contention of most people supporting popular vote.
I would like to say that popular sentiment is not enough to change our system. Here is a good and informative quote from Senator James Eastland that explains this.
"How, it will be asked, could an idea which enjoys such widespread popular support be so dangerous? The answer, we believe, is to be found in an examination of certain influences which have attended the current debate over electoral reform.
It must be acknowledged, first, that direct election is a simple and easily communicable idea. That fact alone may account for its great popularity and for the widespread and uncritical support it has had from the communications media. Simplicity in the governance of human affairs, however, is not always a virtue; nor is it the distinguishing characteristic of this 200-year-old Republic which seeks to secure the blessings of liberty for 200 millions of people. Human hopes and fears are complex; politics is complex; and the Constitution is complex. Still, simplicity has its charms, and not the least of them is the capacity to conceal danger."
I will next rebut his first and second contention.
He says that faithless electors are a problem. But, even he admits that faithless electors are a rare occurrence. Historically, most electors have actually been faithful to the presidential and vice presidential tickets winning the most votes in their respective states. Only on a few occasions have there been faithless electors and none have changed an outcome of a race.
He says that the Electoral College goes against democracy. But one man, one vote was not the founders' intention. As I said before, the cornerstone of democracy is not majority rule. It is reasonable majority rule with the protection of minority rights. A nation is far better served when moderate ideologies prevail. Nothing could be clearer in the Framer's thought than their rejection of a merely numerical concept of representative government. If the Constitution stands for nothing else, it stands for the idea that mere numbers have no capacity to make legitimate that which is otherwise-illegitimate-whether those number be 51 or 90 percent of the whole. All the unique features of the Constitution are explicit departures from simple majoritarianism. This is true of the federal system, which, among other things, prevents the less populous States from being engulfed by the more populous states; this is true of bicameralism, which divides legislative responsibilities between House and Senate on grounds other than those of population; this is true of the separation of powers, whereby, among other things, great power is invested in a nonelective judiciary; and this is true of the electoral college, which incorporates the Federal principle and grants to each State, however small, a minimum weight of three electoral votes.
Next, I'd like to talk about his contention about problems about winner-take all format. The winner-take all format is beneficial.
Here is a quote from John Samples from CATO institute.
"Of course, states legislatures need not choose a winner take all rule for selecting electors. They could divide electors according to the popular vote if they believed it would attract attention from presidential candidates thereby benefiting their state. But few states do so. That suggest most legislators believe winner take all benefits their state more than the candidate attentition that might come froma division according the the popular vote. Since these legislators are elected by the people, why do we have to reason to think the winner take all system reflects the popular will. This judgment by legislators raises another issue. Why should citizens in a state be concerned about being ignored because of a lack of competition? Voters can easily gather sufficient information from the national media to cast their ballot."
My opponent brings up the Gore/Bush election. First, I would like to say incorrect election results are unlikely and overstated. While the disputed vote in Florida led to a concern about who had legitimately won the Electoral College, most ordinary Americans seemed to have no trouble accepting the notion that the winner of the Electoral College vote was entitled to be president even if some other candidate had won more individual votes. An analogy was made to the World Series, where the winner was the team winning four of seven games, and not the team that had batted in the most runs overall.
As well we would not know if Al Gore had won the popular vote if the popular vote was the method of electing president at that time. This is because candidates probably would have campaigned differently and different results could have occurred.
Next, I'd like to rebut his second contention about candidates only focusing on swing states. According to Johnson, Bonnie from Oxford University, though, no state is structurally more important.
Patterson is correct; competitive states do change all the time. However, because the identities of competitive states change, the spectators change as well. The bias in the Electoral College toward competitive states actually allows different states to be the focus of national attention at different points in time. The Electoral College does not systematically advantage particular states. These findings further undergird the federal-ism defense of the Electoral College.
Lastly, I urge the voters to keep my contentions of voter fraud, moderate ideas prevailing, recount problems, and more in their mind.
Whitaker, Paige.James, Eastland.
exempli_gratia forfeited this round.
exempli_gratia forfeited this round.
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