The 2016 presidential election produced a doozy of an outcome.
The candidate who won the Electoral College finished nearly 3 million votes short of the candidate who lost the election.
Thus, the result has produced an ongoing debate over whether we should eliminate the Electoral College and elect presidents based solely on the popular vote.
Here’s what I wrote just a few days after the 2016 surprise:
I have wrestled with this notion for some time. I have decided that I am unwilling to get rid of the Electoral College.
It’s a difficult system to explain to those abroad who don’t understand how someone who gets fewer votes than the other candidate can “win” a national election. I had the pleasure of trying to explain the 2000 presidential election outcome in Greece while the courts were trying to determine whether George W. Bush or Al Gore would become the next president.
I guess I come down finally on the notion that the Electoral College was created to give rural states with smaller populations a greater voice in determining the election outcome.
As the system is currently constructed, presidential elections usually are fought in those “battleground states” that could tip either way. That has been the case over the past several presidential election cycles. As it has turned out, states such as Iowa, New Hampshire, Nevada and occasionally Montana have gotten a greater amount of attention than other larger states.
Absent an Electoral College, my hunch is that candidates wouldn’t venture past the huge population centers: New York, Los Angeles and the Bay Area of California, Chicago, the Metroplex.
Indeed, I’ve seen the county-by-county breakdown of several recent elections and I’ve noticed how, for instance, Barack Obama won despite losing the vast bulk of U.S. real estate to John McCain (2008) and Mitt Romney (2012). How did he win? By targeting those “battleground states” and campaigning effectively for those voters’ support. He ended up winning decisive Electoral College and popular vote victories.
I get that progressives are chapped at losing the 2016 election. They want to change the system that generally has worked well.
Is it time to scrap the Electoral College? Sure, but only if smaller states want to surrender their time in the national political spotlight. As that logic applies as well to Texas, which isn’t a battleground now, but it could once again become the political prize that lured presidential candidates from both major parties in search of votes.