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Con (against)
The Contender
Pro (for)

The Electoral College

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Voting Style: Open Point System: 7 Point
Started: 3/20/2017 Category: Politics
Updated: 3 years ago Status: Debating Period
Viewed: 1,143 times Debate No: 101155
Debate Rounds (5)
Comments (9)
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In this debate, I will argue that the way the electoral college currently works is not a good way to elect the president. I would prefer to debate with someone genuinely supportive of the electoral college to better understand both points of view. Please keep the debate civilized and on topic, so don't be partisan on other topics. The burden of proof is shared, meaning that I have to prove that the electoral college is bad, and you have to prove that it is good.

Round 1 is going to be acceptance. Try to make your arguments in round 2, and further rounds are going to be rebuttals. Goodluck!


I accept and look forward to this!
Debate Round No. 1


I would first like to thank you for accepting this debate. I hope we can both expand our horizons and know more about this topic. I will now start with why the electoral college is bad. Since we share the burden of proof, you also have to make your arguments, so try not to do rebuttals until round 3.

When I say "large state" or "small state," I'm referring to the population. I'm also going to refer to DC as a state for simplicity. Since 49 of the 51 states use the winner take all approach, and the different approach of Maine and Nebraska realistically cause a deviation of at most 1 electoral vote in each direction had they been winner take all, I'm going to go over the issues of the winner take all approach.

Here's a quick overview of how the electoral college basically works. By that I mean that the following explanation isn't how the electoral college technically works, it's what the way the system functions right now does. Presidential elections are split into 51 statewide elections. In almost all of them (49 of them), the candidate who wins a plurality in that state wins all of their electoral votes, and a candidate with at least 270 votes (out of 538 total) wins the election. However, many electors are not forced to vote for the winner of their state. States start out with two electoral votes, and electoral votes are added on proportional to population, meaning that smaller states get proportionally more representation than larger ones. As of 2010, 710,000 people equated to one additional electoral vote. The number of electoral votes a state has is and the population to electoral vote ratio is updated every 10 years in the census.

The first issue of the electoral college is that it gives small states more power. The divide is not between small and large states; for example, DC and California are relatively similar, despite one being the largest state and one being the third smallest. States are arbitrary boundaries; someone living on the Eastern edge of New York shouldn't get less power than someone 50 miles East in Vermont. Voters in smaller states getting more power is therefore unjustified.

Another issue with the electoral college is that it is inaccurate. The electoral college runs into rounding errors and is slow to update how many electoral votes each state gets. Take Wyoming and Montana. Montana has nearly twice as many people as Wyoming does (75% more), and yet it has the same amount of electoral votes that Wyoming does. On the other hand, Rhode Island has almost exactly as many people as Montana does (just 6% more), yet it has four electoral votes to Montana's three. Why? Because of rounding errors. Wyoming's population is on the low end for 3 electoral votes, while Montana's population is almost high enough to qualify for four electoral votes. However, Montana only gets three because it is just short (it deserves 3.4 electoral votes) and so rounds down to three. Conversely, Rhode Island has just enough population (it deserves 3.5 electoral votes) for its electoral vote count to round up. There is no reason states should get penalized for being just short of qualifying for an additional electoral vote and rewarded for barely having enough population to get the extra electoral vote. This leads to unfair situations where two states have nearly the same population but one gets more power than the other.

Rounding isn't the electoral college's only inaccuracy. Since electoral votes are updated every 10 years, any change in population since then is not accounted for. This can lead to seriously unfair situations. Take Michigan and North Carolina. Michigan has one more electoral vote than North Carolina, or 7% more representation. However, Michigan has 30,000 less people. The reason for this is that at the time that electoral votes were reallocated, Michigan had more people than North Carolina. However, North Carolina then increased in population, meaning that there were more voters, but the electoral college had to wait until 2020 to give North Carolina increased representation.

Another issue with the electoral college is that it bases itself off of population rather than voters. This was used by Southern Democrats. States in the South had inflated population counts due to slaves counting as 3/5 of a person, but they couldn't vote. This meant that Southern whites had more representation than they deserved. This isn't as much of an issue now, but it does not logically make sense. If you live in a state but don't vote, you increase the number of electoral votes a state has despite not voting.

The most problematic feature of the electoral college is that (in most states) it uses a winner-take-all system. This is a serious problem for a multitude of reasons. First of all, it means that winning by a thousand votes is as good as winning by two million. The two million extra votes count for nothing, so those voters' voices are ignored. However, in reality, those two million voters really do matter. Why should they be ignored?

This brings us to the second point. A winner take all system creates safe states and swing states. Safe states are states that are almost guaranteed to vote for one party. These states comprise 63-69% of the population, depending on how safe a safe state has to be. Since these states are safe, no candidate needs to campaign in them; no matter how hard you try, your efforts won't flip the results. Instead, candidates fight for swing states, which are states that could vote either way. Because you only need to win by a plurality, candidates want to win a lot of swing states by just enough to be awarded all of the electoral votes. This is quite similar to my first point; just because you live in a different place does not mean your vote should count more or less.

Because candidates only need to campaign in swing states, they only need the vote of 1/3 of the country; their win in their safe states is guaranteed. In fact, 57% of all campaign events in 2016 took place in just four states, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio. 2016 isn't a fluke. In fact, 2012 was worse. 70% of all campaign events took place in four states, Florida, Iowa, Virginia, and Ohio. If you look a little deeper, you'll find that in 2016, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, Michigan, Iowa, New Hampshire, Colorado, Wisconsin, and Arizona received at least four campaign events, and together comprise of 94% of all campaign events. In 2012, the list was the same except without Arizona and Michigan. The same story goes for money. In 2012, the only states to get at least a million in TV ad spending were the ones within 3% of the national margin. The ones within 2% all got at least 30 million. The swing states consistently get nearly all of the attention in presidential elections. The electoral college disenfranchises 2/3, or a majority, of the population. Their vote counts for nothing when deciding on a president that will affect them all.

This issue is not just limited to presidential elections. Swing states get favorable treatment even when a president is in office. "[They] receive 7% more federal grants than spectator states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions."

This next flaw is really just a consequence of winner takes all and small states having more power. Five times in history, or in 9% of our presidential elections, the winner of the electoral college did not win the popular vote. (I'm including 1824 because that was decided by the tiebreaking mechanism, which is part of the system we are debating.) The president serves the people, not a specific set of states.

The final flaw is the fact that the electoral college is susceptible to the spoiler effect. This means that if a third party runs, they hurt whomever they are closest to politically. This means that third party candidates can distort the result of an election by drawing votes away from the actual opinion of the vote base. This also means that many supporters of third parties will instead vote for the primary candidates, leading to a two party system that limits choices.

Just as a reminder, your post should be about the benefits of the electoral college. Counterarguments come in round 3.


I will post main case in Round 3 along with rebuttals.
I apologize for falling behind.

Personal issues...
Debate Round No. 2


That's fine. I will not post a response here because it would not be fair, and this was supposed to be a rebuttal to your argument anyway.

I wish you well on whatever troubles you're facing right now.


Case in favor of the electoral college:

1. Your vote counts more with the electoral college. In a general election, your vote is worth 1 in 320million. With the electoral college, your vote counts almost 1.5 times as much when divided amongst the states.

2. The Electoral College stops costly recounts. The election of 1960, with the popular vote won by Kenney by 2/10 of 1%, was actually won by over 90 electoral votes, stopping the possibility of a costly and lengthy recount of all 68 million votes cast.

3. The Electoral College forces candidates to not ignore the rural parts of states. They can't focus simply on big cities because whole states need to be won in the system. This legitimizes the election.

4. The Electoral College forces candidates to not ignore minorities.

5. The Electoral College has created a two party system which has simplified American democracy, thereby forcing parties to appeal to a wider range of voters.

6. 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. 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. A tie in the nationwide electoral vote is possible because the total number of votes"538"is an even number, but it is highly unlikely.*

Of course a tie in the number of popular votes in a national election in which tens of millions of votes are cast is even more unlikely. But if the difference in the popular vote is small, then if the winner of the popular vote were deemed the winner of the presidential election, candidates would have an incentive to seek a recount in any state (plus the District of Columbia) in which they thought the recount would give them more additional votes than their opponent. The lawyers would go to work in state after state to have the votes recounted, and the result would be debilitating uncertainty, delay, and conflict"look at the turmoil that a dispute limited to one state, Florida, engendered in 2000.*

7. Everyone"s President

The Electoral College requires a presidential candidate to have transregional appeal. No region (South, Northeast, etc.) has enough electoral votes to elect a president. 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. The residents of the other regions are likely to feel disfranchised"to feel that their votes do not count, that the new president will have no regard for their interests, that he really isn"t their president.

8. Swing States

The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes induces the candidates"as we saw in last week"s election"to focus their campaign efforts on the toss-up states; that follows directly from the candidates" lack of inducement to campaign in states they are sure to win. Voters in toss-up states are more likely to pay close attention to the campaign"to really listen 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.

9. 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. Wyoming, the least populous state, contains only about one-sixth of 1 percent of the U.S. population, but its three electors (of whom two are awarded only because Wyoming has two senators like every other state) give it slightly more than one-half of 1 percent of total electoral votes. But winner-take-all makes a slight increase in the popular vote have a much bigger electoral-vote payoff in a large state than in a small one. The popular vote was very close in Florida; nevertheless Obama, who won that vote, got 29 electoral votes. A victory by the same margin in Wyoming would net the winner only 3 electoral votes. 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.

10. 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). 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. No form of representative democracy, as distinct from direct democracy, is or aspires to be perfectly democratic. Certainly not our federal government. In the entire executive and judicial branches, only two officials are elected"the president and vice president. All the rest are appointed"federal Article III judges for life.

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. But of course no voter"s vote swings a national election, and in spite of that, about one-half the eligible American population did vote in last week"s election. Voters in presidential elections are people who want to express a political preference rather than people who think that a single vote may decide an election. Even in one-sided states, there are plenty of votes in favor of the candidate who is sure not to carry the state. So I doubt that the Electoral College has much of a turn-off effect. And if it does, that is outweighed by the reasons for retaining this seemingly archaic institution.

The last 5 points come from


Overall, the Electoral College best upholds the ideals of the Federal America.

Therefore, Vote Pro.
Debate Round No. 3


Note that my opponent copied his Slate source word-for-word, and Slate did not provide any sources or proof on many of its points. Neither did Sciencebuzz; it juts gave examples and no data. Also note that my opponent only used two websites as sources. I was limited to 10000 characters so had to take measures to not go over.

1. This is not even possible. You cannot give more power to every voter because the total power of all of the voters (control the election results) does not change.

Here's a different proof. Your link says that because a candidate needs to win two states to win, they need two million votes. Voters are thought of as part of those two million getting their candidate to win. On the other hand, a popular vote voter is one in three million. The error is that in a popular vote, you need 1.5 million and one to win, so voters are actually one in 1.5 million, by that logic.

In fact, the electoral college gives a lot of people less power. Here is the election forecast made by renowned statistician Nate Silver. If you scroll down, you will find a Voter Power Index, where he lists in which states your vote counts the most. You'll find some extreme imbalance. For example, a New Mexican voter is twice as important as a Floridian and five times as important as a South Dakotan.

2. If Kennedy won by 0.2%, it shows that the public was very indecisive on whether he should be president, so the electoral college deciding isn't really saving the day, it's deciding the winner arbitrarily. It's like if you decided the winner of a tied race by flipping a coin. Anyway, let's just look at the data.

In history, there have been just two elections where the popular vote was within 0.5%, which is usually a good bar for recounts. When? In 1880 and 1960, with Garfield and Kennedy. (Side note, both got assassinated). Maybe you can stretch that number to four if you include 2000, which was decided by 0.52%, and 1884, which was 0.57%. So anywhere from two to four elections would need a recount.

How about electoral college recounts? These we'll consider when flipping a few states could have flipped the election, and that state (or states) was within 0.5%. So we have Florida in 2000, California in 1916, and South Carolina in 1876. Ohio and one more state does it in 1976, and Hawaii, Illinois, and Missouri does it in 1960. These were all within 0.6%. That is at least three and up to eight recounts under the electoral college. So as you can see, the electoral college by no means reduces the number of recounts we need. Recounts might not even be an issue at all, as most recounts find only minuscule changes in results. (also links to specific elections)

3. You phrased it "not to ignore the rural parts of states," which is ambiguous. I'll tackle both interpretations. In case 1, I would like to point out to you that the ten most rural states got a grand total of... four campaign events out of about 400. Almost all extremely rural states, like Mississippi, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Idaho, etc. are nearly completely ignored in presidential races. So that point is invalidated.

You say that the electoral college would force candidates to pay attention to the rural part of a state, but keep in mind that on the state level, the election is by popular vote. So saying that on a state level, the electoral college protects rural areas is self-defeating, that's saying the popular vote protects rural areas, which is against your side.

The popular vote does not mean that rural areas are ignored. Take the presidential election in Ohio, 2012. (Remember that the election in each state is run by the popular vote.) In The four biggest metro areas, accounting for 54% of its population, got 52% of Ohio's campaign events. Similarly, the seven smaller metro areas, accounting for 24% of Ohio's population, got 23% of the campaign events. The remaining rural areas, which were 22% of the population, got 25% of the campaign events. You'll also see that the distribution of campaign events by location was quite balanced; there are larger clusters around denser areas, but many events in the rural areas too, which is reflective of the population distribution.

4. Minorities are concentrated in the ignored safe states like Mississippi, Texas, Hawaii, California, and New York. Here's proof with data: Republicans lose big with minorities, winning around 25%-30% of the non-black minorities and just 6% of the black vote. The same story goes with religion. Under a system where it's a good idea to care for minorities, you'd expect that the Democrats to have a big advantage, but they don't; twice in the past five elections the electoral college gave the white house to the Republicans. projects. (When used again I'll call it "swing source")

5. The electoral college doesn't cause a two party system, the spoiler effect does, which is present in a plurality vote. You can tell as nearly all senators and governors are either red or blue, and those elections are run by a popular vote.

6. As we discussed before there have been 2-4 disputable popular vote verdicts, but 3-5 disputable electoral college verdicts. So the electoral college is not more likely to produce a certain verdict. This is complicated by the fact that there can be faithless electors; they may be able to sway an extremely close election like 1876, and the legitimacy of such an outcome would be disputed.

Furthermore, the electoral college doesn't even always produce a winner. Candidates need 270 electoral votes, a majority to win. This means that if there is a tie, or third parties grab enough electoral votes that no candidate reaches 270 electoral votes, there is no winner and congress must decide the vice president and president using an extremely unfair system. (Not enough characters to elaborate) As an example, in 1824, Jackson won a plurality of the popular vote and electoral vote and yet lost, and the voters were furious.

7. No region alone will allow you to win the popular or electoral vote. However, with the electoral vote, you can gain 100% of the electoral vote from that region, whereas with the popular vote, you never will. Take the largest region, the South. Under the electoral college, you can win 36% of the electoral vote by winning all of the South. More likely is that you will win 33% of it, since Maryland and Delaware are solidly blue. Under the popular vote, 37% of the population lives in the South. However, you're not going to win 37% of the popular vote just from the South, or even 33% like in the electoral college. Let's be extremely generous and say you'll get 70% of the vote in the South, more than any candidate got in any state (not counting DC), let alone region, in 2016. That's just 26% of the popular vote. The electoral college encourages relying on a regional appeal, not the popular vote. Swing source

8. The point of democratic voting (including representative systems) is that everyone's vote is equal. So this point is advocating for disenfranchisement. Not only that, it's fundamentally wrong. The most thoughtful people tend to be the most well educated, regardless of what state they live in. Just because your vote doesn't count doesn't mean you don't pay attention to the race. We can, by your logic, say we should only let well educated people vote. Even if we should only let the most thoughtful vote, there are two more reasons this point doesn't work. For one, the most thoughtful people tend to live in cities, where people are more educated. The swing states are not particularly educated. The second is that if we use a popular vote, everyone's vote counts, so by your logic, a popular vote would also be decided by thoughtful voters. Swing source

9. This is more a rebuttal to my point. Anyway, you are conceding that it is unfair for some voters to get more power than others, as you are defending the electoral college by saying it does not give voters in small states more power. You then must also concede that it is unfair for voters in swing states to get more power.

10. The electoral college is worse than the popular vote in this respect. In those elections you mentioned, the electoral college did not elect a candidate with the majority of votes either. You cannot say that that doesn't matter since under the electoral college only electoral votes matter, because then you are saying criteria for a good voting system changes based on the system. Not only that, the electoral college does not require that you win a majority in a state to win it. In fact, no candidate won a majority of votes in 14 states this election. On the other hand, the popular vote is good at electing majority winners; in the 905 gubernatorial elections since WWII, 90% won with a majority, 99% with 40%, and all won with at least 35% of the vote.

A representative democracy doesn't strive to be perfectly democratic, it strives to fairly represent its citizens. The electoral college does not do this. Remember that representatives are directly elected using a popular vote, and these representatives then vote on issues. The president is a representative that can veto and enact these issues.

I will post my rebuttal to the last part of your point in the comments, since I am out of characters.
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Debate Round No. 4
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Debate Round No. 5
9 comments have been posted on this debate. Showing 1 through 9 records.
Posted by Prestigiously-Poor 3 years ago
The electoral college does turn off voters. The turnout for swing states in percent and descending order of population: 74.5, 70.1,70.3, 76.5, 69, 65.2, 72.1, 82.9, 74.7, 74.5, 74.2, 72.8, 76.8, 62.4, 70.8, 71.9. The turnout of swing states is clearly far higher than the national average of 54.7%. Scroll down and you'll find a table linking to each state's results 2016, including turnout.

That's all for me. Goodluck on your rebuttals!
Posted by paintballvet18 3 years ago
My opening is a general Pro argument. I will assert points in rebuttal for Round 4.
Posted by paintballvet18 3 years ago
I will post tomorrow morning.
Posted by Prestigiously-Poor 3 years ago
I can't add this to my argument now but here's a great example of how the electoral college changes based on arbitrary boundaries. If Long Island (Not counting New York City) were its own state, it would be a swing state. This election, it was decided by just 6,490 votes, or less than 0.5%. However, since Long Island isn't a swing state, it gets no attention at all campaign wise.
Here's another article relating to the electoral college, gerrymandering, and arbitrary boundaries.
Posted by paintballvet18 3 years ago
For when you could post.
Posted by Prestigiously-Poor 3 years ago
What do you mean by "Monday would be much appreciated"?
Posted by paintballvet18 3 years ago
Monday would be much appreciated.
Posted by Prestigiously-Poor 3 years ago
If you want I can wait for two days before posting my response to give you more time. Of course I won't be posting an argument.
Posted by Iacov 3 years ago
I will be following this debate.
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