The effect of the Electoral College is very similar to the way that U.S. Senators were elected until the government realized that it was a stupid idea for electing Senators (appointment by your state's congress) in 1913, when the government passed the 17th Amendment to the Constitution, allowing for direct election of Senators.
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So, 220 years ago our founding fathers decided not to have the popular vote determine the officeholders of the President, Vice President, and Senate. 100 years ago, our government realized that when it came to the Senate, that idea was stupid. Why have we not done the same for the Presidency & Vice Presidency?
The effect of the Electoral College today is to dampen voter enthusiasm in a majority of the country. In most elections, the results of the Presidential election in your state are decided long before the voters take to the polls. That is why if you are a Democrat living in Texas or a Republican living in California, congrats, your vote for the Presidency means Jack Squat. Knowing this, what incentive is there for you to go vote? I live in Illinois, a state that is a lock to go for Obama this election. If I didn't want Obama to win the Presidency, like some of my friends, my hands are pretty tied as to what my options are.
|Credit to Jack Ohman with The Oregonian|
Also, the Electoral College gives some states a massive, disproportionate influence compared to the rest of the country. In each election there are "swing states" that could go either way and are not a lock for one side or the other. In this election, it appears that those states are going to be Florida, Colorado, Iowa, Virginia, North Carolina, Ohio, & Pennsylvania, and possibly a couple of other states. Why should the election results of those 7 states determine the result of the Presidency? That kind of sucks for the rest of us in the other 43 states. (Although the one plus side is fewer election ads in the states that aren't as competitive). In fact, Ohio, Florida, & Pennsylvania, due to their large electoral vote totals, are the most important of all the swing states, in election after election.
In 2000, Bush won the Presidency through the electoral college, while losing on the popular vote. In 2012, if Obama wins reelection in the electoral college but loses the popular vote, I can forsee two things happening: 1. A massive gridlock in the federal government as Obama would not have a popular "mandate" to get anything accomplished and 2. A massive call by the Tea Party wing of the GOP for direct elections. In their eyes it'd be bad enough that a Kenyan not born in the U.S. (as far as they're concerned) was elected in the first place, but now they'd have even more incentive to reform the system as he won while losing. There is a part of me that wants to see this outcome happen, as a truly national Presidential election is something that our country desperately needs
One last thing - In the party platform for the GOP this year, they said the following: