No Need to Defend a Flawed System

In an editorial Monday, the Denver Post defended the Electoral College, writing,

Until such time as candidates regularly start landing in the Oval Office despite having lost the popular vote, there is little reason to change course on the Electoral College.

I suppose this all depends on what we mean by “regularly,” but in four instances — 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000 — the Electoral College chose a president despite the plurality of voters having preferred someone else. This represents roughly seven percent of all the presidential elections held in this country. It is difficult to imagine us designing a voting system today in which the plurality winner was denied the office roughly one out of every 14 times a vote was held. If a blackjack table awarded the pot to the player with the lower hand seven percent of the time, we would complain that the system was rigged. And yet this is the system we are asked to uphold every four years, all in the name of providing extra political power to states with fewer residents.

Sorry. Not a fan. I’ll concede that no voting system is perfect, but there’s a large gap between “imperfect” and “occasionally producing wildly perverse results.”

[Cross-posted at Mischiefs of Faction]

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Seth Masket

Seth Masket is an associate professor of political science at the University of Denver.