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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.

What the winner take all system does is to make it extremely difficult for any third party candidate to make any headway in presidential elections. Unless, and this is the one interesting exception, unless that third party candidate is a regionally-based candidate. That was the case with George Wallace in 1968, when he won 46 electoral votes.

A winner take all system in the election in one distric for the senator or governor, like we elect almost all officials in America, does foster the two-party system. However, the Electoral College, discourages it. The Electoral College is basically irrelevant to fostering the two-party system.

I think that the most visible and probably most important practical effect of the Electoral College on electoral campaigns and on electoral politics right now is that it means that presidential campaigns are, by and large, conducted in about dozen states or a half dozen states. They're not conducted in most of the rest of the country. Most people in most states of the country have not seen a candidate or even an ad since the summer.

Not only do they ignore small states, but they ignore large states. They ignore California, they ignore Texas, they ignore New York. I mean, the three largest states are also ignored. And they're ignored because they're not competitive. And that's due to the Electoral College.

the Electoral College does enhance federalism in the sense of giving individual states a role that they would not have otherwise. I think that in the early 21st Century when we are in fact, an economically and socially integrated nation and a superpower on the world stage, that that is not necessarily the most important value. It's not really who we are -- we are a nation.

Well, I think that basically the Electoral College is irrelevant to federalism. It doesn't enhance the power or the sovereignty of states at all. Federalism is based on the Constitution which gives state power. And it's based on our representation in Congress, which is by state.