Visit Your Local PBS Station PBS Home PBS Home Programs A-Z TV Schedules Watch Video Donate Shop PBS Search PBS
The Journal Editorial Report
Features
Front Page
Lead Story
Briefing & Opinion
Tony & Tacky
TV Schedule
For Teachers
About the Series
Archive



Briefing and Opinion
October 29, 2004

George Edwards is the author of the book, WHY THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE IS BAD FOR AMERICA. He teaches political science at Texas A&M.

Alexander Keyssar is a history and social science professor at Harvard.
Keyssar:

The Electoral College may protect some minority interest or if not protect some minority interest, it may make some minorities into groups that will be courted by one or both political parties under some circumstances.
Edwards:

What we know is where they make up the largest percentage of the votes in a state... in the deep south. They're not competitive states at all, and the candidates ignore them. They're also not competitive, however, in California and New York which have large minority populations.
Keyssar:

I think the broader reason for changing it is that the values and principles of the country have changed in the course of the last 200 years. The country right now pretty universally subscribes to the notion that we are a democracy and that all votes should count equally. That was not the case 200 years ago, African Americans couldn't vote, women couldn't vote. Almost all Americans do think that democracy is one person, one vote, all votes count equally. The Electoral College violates that principle.
Edwards:

The fact is that there were a lot of different motivations for the Electoral College. Some of the founders felt that there would never be a majority in the Electoral College and that the House of Representatives would actually be selecting the president regularly. There would be regional candidates, favorite sons if you will, that would be getting the votes, no one would get a majority and it would go to the House of Representatives.
Keyssar:

I think there's not doubt that the Electoral College does suppress voter turnout, that there are "x" percentage of people who do not participate in elections because they know that their vote will not matter in terms of presidential elections.
Edwards:

It discourages voter turnout. Because people know that their vote won't make a difference if they're in the minority. Or if they're a state that is clearly going to go for a candidate, it won't make a difference either, because it doesn't help the candidate to get additional votes.