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Our "Winner Take All" Electoral System

Another big day in the presidential primary process, with candidates facing off in Ohio and Texas. Much has been made over the past few months about the different delegate rules in each party, with the Democrats using proportional representation and the Republicans using a winner-take-all rule. In his "Department of Human Behavior" column yesterday, the WaPo's Shankar Vedantam wrote about how their parties' respective rules actually have helped front runners Obama and McCain. If the Dems used winner-take-all, Hillary would have taken a sizable lead after Super Tuesday, having captured most of the large states. And if the GOP used proportional representation, the race would still be wide open, since McCain didn't win the early primary states decisively.

Which is to say, rules do matter. Come this fall when we elect a new president, you'll hear plenty of arguments for 48 states to change their Electoral College rules from winner-take-all to proportional representation (Nebraska and Maine have already done this). But here's one man's pitch for keeping the winner-take-all system: It's a reminder that the nation was founded as the United States of America, not the United People of America. The Electoral College recognizes a role for states in the selection of our chief executive and reminds us of their significance in our federal system. Thus, when a candidate takes a majority of the vote in, say, California, he/she wins the state and not simply a portion of the voters.

It may not always be perceived as "fair," but it's worked for over two centuries because by maintaining these federal principles it's given all states -- small and large -- a say in how we elect our leaders.

Posted 03-04-2008 8:45 AM by Stephen Gold
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Raymond A. Mazurek wrote re: Our "Winner Take All" Electoral System
on 03-06-2008 3:03 PM

The Electoral College was established because the States do have a role in our political system as you point out.  In fact, we do not live in a "democracy" but rather we have a republic.  The form of government was chosen specifically and for a reason.  The founding fathers, and mothers, were rightly concerned about the tyranny of the majority and they felt rightly that a rebublican form of government would serve to ameliorate the potential for the majority to dominate the minority, any minority.  That is a continuing concern for all of us and we should all remember that at some time or another we are members of some minority group that needs the protection from the majority.  So it is in all of our best interests to make sure that our political system remains a republic.  The Electoral College is an intricate part of that Republican form of governmnet so it is in all of our best interests to preserve it.

Jessie wrote re: Our "Winner Take All" Electoral System
on 09-15-2008 6:47 PM

i am a student at the spence school, studying american government. i found this extremely helpful to the question my history teacher, ms. yoon wrote and my best friends teacher, mr. novarr wrote, asking why we have a winner take all explanation. once again, that you very much. this was helpful.

Jessie Ella

Eli Hathaway wrote re: Our "Winner Take All" Electoral System
on 12-03-2008 5:54 AM


Of course it's not fair, if you live in the Dakota's and are a democrat there is no point in voting on election day because those states have voted republican for the last 40+ years and it's pretty certain that they will again next election.  

If we just did away with the "winner take all" system at least there would be a point in voting if you live in a non swing state.  4.5 million people voted rebublican in California in the last presidential election but those votes don't even count towards the candidate.  

The "winner take all" system is extremely flawed and I don't understand your argument for it at all.  "The Electoral College recognizes a role for states in the selection of our chief executive" ... States are made up of people and all the voices of that state should be heard when selecting the leader of our country.

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