The Continuing Validity of the Electoral College: A Quantitative Confirmation
11 ConLawNOW 1, (2019)
39 Pages Posted: 29 Sep 2019
Date Written: April 12, 2019
Debates over the merits of the Electoral College historically have been characterized by philosophical arguments and arcane statistical models. In light of growing efforts to undermine or discard the electoral system, the nation needs objective answers about how the Electoral College affects presidential elections. Using accessible quantitative techniques, this Article answers three essential questions: what was the electoral system intended to do, what has it done, and what is the best (or worst) it can do? It answers these questions using a unique approach that measures the electoral system’s success and potential in terms that correspond to its raison d'être, parameterizing the problem in terms of satisfaction and population instead of voters. Also in contrast to traditional expositions, this Article dispenses with “highly stylized” and voter-based statistical models. It instead correctly recognizes the Electoral College as a discrete mathematical system and applies much simpler and more meaningful descriptive and predictive techniques to actual election data. The result is that the system’s effect on elections is quantified, related to historical data, and reliably forecast for the foreseeable future. This is the type of substantive analysis long needed to confirm or disprove the system’s merits. Part I first examines records of the Constitutional Convention seeking to determine what the Framers’ purpose was in choosing the algorithm they did. Concluding that their purpose was to provide a president who would be representative of people across the country, the Article proceeds with a focus on people and places to examine whether the system has achieved its goal. Beginning with the first election in which there was a registered popular vote, Part II briefly describes the few discrepancies there have been between the popular and electoral vote in order to fairly characterize the basis for controversy. Its novel contribution, however, is to propose and apply a framework for assessing whether the Electoral College results in an effective expression of the will and interests of the People that is consistent with the legitimizing principles of our government. Part III concludes with a mathematical analysis that proves that there are specific, calculable limitations on the size and distribution of a prevailing minority and illustrates that there is a continuing likelihood that winning candidates will be selected by states comprising a majority of the population.
Keywords: electoral college, elections, voting power
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation