Jul 29, 2014
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Should the President be Elected by Popular Vote?

Thanks to the Electoral College, every presidential election comes down to the candidates' performance in a handful of states. Should that system be abolished in favor of direct election by popular vote?

Should the President be Elected by Popular Vote?

As Election Day draws nearer, many polls show President Barack Obama and former Gov. Mitt Romney running neck-and-neck nationally -- but a decided, if slight, advantage for Obama in the electoral vote.

Each state gets a certain number of electoral votes, based upon its population. In order to win the presidency, either Obama or Romney must win at least 270 of the 538 total electoral votes.

The system has the effect of making your vote count a lot more in "swing states" -- states where the majority could conceiveably vote for either candidate -- than in other, more politically predictable states. It is a virtual certainty, for instance, that Georgia will vote for Mitt Romney, so an individual Georgian's vote for Barack Obama doesn't mean a lot -- Georgia's 16 electoral votes are going to be cast for Romney. Conversely, an individual voter's choice for Romney in ultra-blue New York won't stop that state's 29 electoral votes from going to Obama.

However, a voter in a state like Ohio -- where the race is much closer -- wields a lot more power. Ohio's 18 electoral votes could -- and probably will -- decide the presidential election.

And that leads to a bit of a conundrum. The national race is very tight, with many polls showing Romney with a slight lead. Most polls in Ohio and other swing states like Wisconsin, however, show an advantage for Obama. It's entirely possible that Obama could win the electoral vote -- and thus a second term -- while losing the popular vote.

It's happened before. In 1876, Rutheford B. Hayes won the presidency by a single electoral vote, but lost the popular vote to Samuel Tilden by a margin of 250,000, according to FactCheck.org. In 1880, Benjamin Harrison won the electoral vote while losing the popular vote to Grover Cleveland. And perhaps most famously, George W. Bush won an electoral victory in 2000 while losing the popular vote -- barely -- to Al Gore.

Obviously, it's not an ideal situation. Which raises the question: Should the Electoral College be abolished? Is it time we elect our president by direct, popular vote? Or should we stick with the system we know?

Tell us what you think in the comments below.

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