The way the Electoral College balances pure majoritarianism benefits us in a particular way that isn't addressed anywhere else. We need a strong President to work with leaders of other countries and to rein in conflicts among executive branch leaders. The office’s size and term give it strength and stability. But this strength means that an entire branch of the federal government will have a political slant determined by one race for at least four years. This is true with or without the College, with or without powerful parties. Politics destabilize government from one administration to the next: a pendulum effect can occur. While the Constitution retains stability regarding the central features of our government and our founding values, the Electoral College helps balance the pendulum effect in another way. This is called the swing-state effect, and every American should understand it.
America is more moderate than parties or interest groups, but not regularly moderate. We often have regional differences. And we’re more moderate regarding some issues, more polarized in others. Pure majoritarianism can even out to centrism. Sometimes this works but sometimes centrism doesn’t work well anywhere, for anyone. Raising the importance of states in any election increases candidates' awareness of regional differences. In order to win states where regions cross by swinging their point of view to align with one region or another, they must publicly acknowledge and address those differences.
It's also harder for a large nation with a comparatively long-term Executive to pinpoint local or regional changes early. Individual and regional interests combine at the state level. One of our strengths is that states can experiment with possible solutions. Candidates who are familiar with state developments may not be well understood across the country until we’ve wasted time and possibly lost a trade or other advantage. Swing-statism forces national candidates to try to smooth the edges of regional differences in swing states, especially when economic factors are changing or when knowledge and public opinion is developing on a given issue. The Electoral College emphasizes the swing states at crossing points of regions, where the effects of shifting economic or cultural eras may first be felt.
The Electoral College increases swing-statism, but only in Presidential elections.
The Electoral College helps us elect the best candidate for a particular time.
Article II, Section 1:" The Electors shall [...] vote by ballot for President and Vice-President, one of whom, at least, shall not be an inhabitant of the same State with themselves [...]"
No region has enough Electoral votes to elect a President on its own, so no matter how large states in that region grow, it requires a candidate to appeal to voters across regions. And Article II, Section 1 establishes a balance reducing the likelihood of both President and Vice-President coming from one state: no Elector may vote to fill both offices from their own state and it's unlikely that they'd give another state both offices.
If we abolished the College, we'd have to find another way to prevent one state or region from dominating the race.
Because the number of a state’s electors equals the number of its Senators and Representatives, since House apportionment was frozen the states most adversely affected by Frozen Apportionment tend to seek repeal of the Electoral College provisions, for similar reasons: large states are underrepresented by population. This amendment by focusing on restoring provisions rather than repealing them providentially splits the difference.
This amendment reduces a couple of the Electoral College’s problems, as much as we can be sure we agree on. Any other changes would need more public debate.
Ideas for an amendment reforming or abolishing the Electoral College have been proposed but we need more public debate on this question.
We need to end extraconstitutional Presidential powers to make policy first.
This amendment addresses those parts of the question
we already agree on.
The Electoral College may be our most controversial political process. This proposal doesn’t discuss it thoroughly because this amendment doesn’t address it. It would have to be the subject of its own amendment, and that will have to wait for greater public consensus. We may one day want to abolish the Electoral College, change the way its districting and nominations are done or regulate partisanship in Electors' votes. But any of these would have other effects.
Why don't we elect Presidents by a direct popular vote?
Because the Constitution doesn't give Presidents any power to make policy. That's solely Congress' job. Since the President is only supposed to execute policies made by Congress, with no power to affect anyone's rights or powers, we shouldn't need direct election. But today Presidential power has expanded beyond the Constitution's limits. We could abolish the Electoral College - but we'd still have the problem of two legislative paths: Congress and the President! See Help Lasso a Runaway Executive for how we can bring the President's powers back where we the people set them.
Article II, Section 1, which originally established it, was reformed by Amendment XII and affected by Amendments XX and XXV, and we’re still trying to find ways to improve it. If we were to repeal or reform the sections that address it we should first try to replace its advantages. It's not as serious a concern as any of the matters this amendment addresses for the reasons below. And because its power is already checked, we can wait for consensus.
The most important fact about the Electoral College is this: the Constitution already checks it. Term limits cut the people's power to elect, but since the President is elected by the Electoral College the loss is minimal. It's worth it because that one election does determine the leadership of an entire federal branch.
Other Constitutional limits that check the College's power:
Its most-discussed problem is that a President can be elected with a minority of the popular vote (it’s happened more than once), but not everyone even agrees that that’s a problem. It only affects close races when two candidates are nearly equal in popularity. Because Sections 1, 2 and 5 of this amendment will give us a better idea of what candidates actually support and how that will affect us, our choices will be clearer.
If we ever abolish the Electoral College or change the way its districting and nominations are done we'll have to consider how reducing the power of any Constitutional clause increases the power of other clauses. The Electoral College retains one of the federalist functions we largely replaced with nationalist function in the Constitution. We are a nation, but a nation of states. We agreed on a certain balance of state and national powers when we ratified the Constitution. Either the reduction of states' power would have to be balanced somewhere, or we'd have to agree on greater central power. We haven't reached this consensus yet.
A majority of Americans agree that we need to regulate partisanship in Electors' votes.This is a hard thing to verify but definitely worth our consideration as party has gained tremendous power since the Constitution was first written. Sections 2 and 3 of this amendment will reduce the overall power of partisanship, and its specific influence on the Electoral College, in ways that are easier to verify. Section 2 requires impartial conduct of elections (see The Impartiality Clause). It also prohibits parties, as private organizations, from involvement in holding elections or districting, which includes districting for Electors (see Accountability and the Public Elections Clause). Section 3 addresses districting as well, and will reduce the concentration of power in the individual Electors by increasing their number (see Frozen Apportionment).
The Electoral College may also reduce voter turnout, but Section 2 addresses more definite ways voter turnout can be improved (see Making Elections Work and all of Section 2).