Our "Winner Take All" Electoral System

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.

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