The Trouble with the Electoral College
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The Trouble with the Electoral College

In a fair democracy everyone’s vote should
count equally, but the method that the United States uses to elect its president, called
the electoral college, violates this principle by making sure that some people’s votes are
more equal than others. The Electoral College is, essentially, the
538 votes that determine who wins the presidency. If these votes were split evenly across the
population every 574,000 people would be represented by one vote. But that’s not what happens because the Electoral
College doesn’t give votes to people, only states. Which has some unfair consequences. For example there are 11,500,000 people in
Ohio so, to fairly represent them, it should get 20 electoral votes. But the Electoral
college doesn’t give Ohio 20 votes, it only gets 18 — two less than it should. Where’d those other votes go? To states like
Rhode Island. Plucky Rhode Island has 1.1 million people
in it, so it should have about two votes, but instead it gets four! Those extra two votes that should be representing
Ohioans go to representing Rhode Islanders instead? Why? Because, according to the rules of the electoral
college, every state, no matter how few people live there, gets three votes to start with
before the rest are distributed according to population. Because of this rule there are a lot of states
with a few people that should only have one or two votes for president but instead get
three or four. So Georgians, Virginians, Michiganders & Jerseyites
are each missing one vote, Pennsylvanians, North Carolinians, Ohioans
& Hoosiers are missing two, Floridians are missing 4, New Yorkers, 5, Texans 6, and Californians
are 10 short of what they should get. Because of this vote redistribution, the Electoral
College essentially pretends that fewer people live where they do and more people live where
they don’t. An American who lives in one of these states,
has their vote for president count for less than an American who lives in one of these
states. In some cases the Electoral College bends
the results just a little, but if you live in a particularly large or small state, it
bends them a lot. One Vermonter’s vote, according to the Electoral
College is worth three Texans’ votes. And one Wyomingite’s vote is worth four Californians’. Now, hold on there son, you might be saying
to yourself right now: you’re missing the whole point of the electoral college. It’s
to protect the small states from the big states. Give the small states more voting power and
the presidential candidates will have to pay them more attention in an election. If that’s the goal of the electoral college,
it’s failing spectacularly. Here’s a graph showing the number of visits
the presidential Candidates paid to each of the states in the last two months of the previous
election. If it looks like there are a few states missing,
you’re right. Only 18 of the 50 states received even a single visit from a candidate. And
just two of those states, Mane and New Hampshire have very small populations. The area of the country with the most small
states is conspicuously missing. The Electoral College doesn’t make candidates
care about small states. But, interestingly the biggest states, California,
Texas and New York are missing as well so what’s going on? Looking closer, just four states, Ohio, Florida,
Pennsylvania and Virginia received a majority of the candidates’ attention during the election. And if you follow the money, it’s the same
story. Why do candidates spend so much money and
time in so few states? Because the way the electoral college works forces them to do
so. The elections are winner-take-all. As long
as a candidate gets just over 50% of the popular vote in a state he wins 100% of that state’s
electoral votes. That means winning by millions of citizens’
votes is no better than winning by a single vote. So candidates are safe to ignore states where
they poll with big margins. Instead, the electoral college makes candidates
intensely interested in the needs of just a few states with close races, to the detriment
of of almost all Americans, which is why it should be abolished. But wait! You might say, won’t abolishing
the electoral college and voting directly for president cause candidates to spend all
their time in big cities? That wouldn’t fair to most Americans either. This sounds like a reasonable fear, but ignores
the mathematical reality of population distribution. There are 309 million people in the United
States, only 8 million of which live in New York, the largest city by far. That’s 2.6%
of the total population. But after New York, the size of cities drops fast. LA has 3.8 million and Chicago has 2.7 but
you can’t even make it to the tenth biggest city, San Jose before you’re under a million
people. These top ten cities added together are only
7.9% of the popular vote hardly enough to win an election. And even winning the next 90 biggest cities
in the United States all the way down to Spokane is still not yet 20% of the total population. So unless there’s a city with a few hundred
million people hiding somewhere in America that’s been left out of the census, the idea,
that a candidate can just spend their campaign Jetting between New York, LA and Chicago while
ignoring everyone else and still become president is mathematically ludicrous. Want to see the real way to unfairly win? How YOU can become President with only 22%
of the popular vote by taking advantage of the Electoral College today! Don’t believe that’s possible in a democracy?
Just watch: Here’s the action plan: win the votes of the
people who count the most and ignore the people who count the least. Start with Wyoming, the state where 0.18%
of Americans live but who get 0.56% of the electoral college votes for president. And, because it’s a winner take all system,
you don’t need all of them to vote for you, just half plus one or 0.09%. Next up is the District of Columbia where
winning 0.1% of the population also gets you an additional 0.56% of the electoral college. Then add in wins in Vermont, and North Dakota,
and Alaska. Notice how the votes your getting to win the
presidency go up much faster than the percent of the population who voted for you because
of the Electoral College’s rules. Next is South Dakota, then Delaware, Montana,
Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Maine, Hawaii, Idaho, Nebraska, West Virginia, New Mexico,
Nevada, Utah, Kansas, Arkansas, Mississippi, Iowa, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Oregon, Kentucky,
Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Colorado, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Maryland, Missouri,
Tennessee, Arizona, Indiana, Massachusetts, Virginia, and New Jersey. Congratulations, by taking advantage of unfair
rules and winning states, not people, you’ve won a majority in the Electoral College even
though 78% of the population voted against you. This is not Democracy, this is indefensible. While this particular scenario is unlikely,
if you have a voting system that allows losers to win, you shouldn’t be surprised when they
do. Not once, not twice, but thrice in American
history the candidate with the most votes from the people actually lost because of the
electoral college. Three errors in 55+ elections is a failure
rate of 5%. Would anyone tolerate a sport where, by a
quirk of the rules, there was a 5% chance that the loser would win? Not likely. Given how much more important electing the
president of the United States is, that’s a rather dangerously high percentage of the
time to get it wrong. If we abolish the Electoral College and simply
let citizens vote for the president directly, all of these problems will go away and everyone’s
vote will be equal.

About James Carlton

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100 thoughts on “The Trouble with the Electoral College

  1. This was very educational, and pretty convincing. My next questions would be:
    1. Does this make voting simpler or more complex? Not sure how this would change my opinion, I just wanna know.
    2. What would candidates do instead? I doubt they would suddenly start flying to and campaigning in every state, so what would they do, and is that fair and are we prepared for it?
    Note: I am very much not educated in the U.S. governmental system and politics in general yet. But I am trying to fix that. Slowly because of reasons but still.

  2. There sure are a lot of right-wingers outing themselves as oligarchs here. The needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few. I'm not sure what's wrong with that. The electoral college sometimes causes the opposite. Also, I feel like many people didn't watch the whole video before commenting. Grey addressed every common counterargument. Lastly, I would guess that right-wingers' defense of the electoral college is actually because it benefits them politically; the last two Republican presidents both lost the popular vote first time around.

  3. There is another reason why the electoral collage exists. It is to limit the flaws of democracy. One of the biggest flaws can be shown in Plato's analogy called the Ship of State.
    In Summary:

    Imagine a passenger ship that is lost at sea. Lets say there is a total of 20 members of the crew and 980 passengers on board making a total population of 1,000. The most qualified people to find their way would be the crew of 20. So the best plan of action would be to allow the crew to make the decisions to get everyone to shore. Following democracy, the 20 best people would make up of 2% of the vote while a group of 20 passengers with zero experience in sip navigation complacently negates the professionals say on the matter. This and thus the ship will continue be lost at sea.

    The founding fathers understood this flaw and used the electoral collage as a means to fix the issue. The electoral collage is far from perfect but it serves its purpose of making sure that the people who have the most experience are heard.

  4. I'm sick of these midwestern states having their votes count more. Get rid of the EC, it really is the only way conservatives could ever win a presidential election.

  5. Getting rid of the Electoral College would simply mean the the state of New York, the state of New, and California would be picking our president and not representing anybody else. That is the purpose of the Electoral College

  6. I've always wondered what other democracies do for voting. Are there similar limiting factors to voting like the electoral college, or do democracies exist right now where one vote is one vote (and every adult can vote)?

  7. Well then it’s a good thing that we’re a representative democracy rather than a plain ol democracy. The Constitution sets forth that the states determine the president rather than the people so all is well

  8. If the democrats take Texas, wich is slowly becoming more and more blue, the Republicans barely stand a chance anymore.

  9. Well, once Texas goes blue republicans will all but be forced to accept the National Popular vote, as they will never win the presidency again without Texas.

    Then we can finally ditch this swingstate nonsense and presidents will have to appeal to ALL Americans, instead of just a handful of them.

  10. In the Constitution: State > Federal
    The Presidential Election is not decided by Mob Rule. that is exactly what the Founding Fathers feared.
    You do a lot of interesting videos, but seem devoid of knowledge of the ideals of those who wrote the original laws for the United States of America (not the Federal Government of the USA).

  11. Let’s not forget about the 2016 election that allowed the likes of Trump to win an election without the popular vote. How is that democracy?

  12. This was a great video. I'm for the electoral college personally, but I want my students to think for themselves and I think this was well put together with great points. So thank you for that.. I only have issue with your argument and I think it is important to point it out and consider. The United States is not a straight democracy. We are a Republic 1st, then a democracy. Otherwise, I look forward to showing this video to my students and letting them see this well laid out reasoning. I will see if they catch the republic/democracy issue. I would love to see you put together a video on what if we at least got rid of winner takes all. That is more where I lean and I am a conservative from Florida. That could have huge implications in an election. Thanks again. I do honest mean this as a compliment, but, as a teacher, I also want people to see both sides and for them to be checking for all facts. Guess I can't help myself.

  13. Leftist states pass laws BLATANTLY in violation of the constitution all the time: look at NY, in most of the state (and even more so in NYC) it’s nearly impossible to own a firearm
    But you bastard leftist hypocrites don’t care, you just complain that you don’t get QUITE as much electoral college representation as you ‘feel’ you ‘deserve’

  14. Dear CGP Grey, the point of the electoral college is that it's a democracy of states, not of people. The states are sovereign.

  15. You jackass. Getting rid of the electoral college will just mean the states with more people will dominate those with less. Every time. The electoral college exists to balance that. If 5% failure in comparison to a 95% success is bad for you, then you need to find a different country. Or a new brain.

  16. It’s funny how after all the data is presented, the end of the video claims that we should just go to pure democracy and popular vote. There’s so many leftards oit there- Dems would win every single election by millions. There’s definitely a better way and it probably still involves the electoral college. Proportional or weighted systems where based on the population’s vote inside a state gives you the proportional amount of electoral votes may be a start rather than winner takes all.

  17. Unfortunately the creator of this should go back and watch some School House Rock. America isn’t a democracy, and yah when you look at it through those lenses you’ll be disappointed… the reality is this country is a representative federalist republic. Based around the idea of a coalition of states. The thirteen original colonies all had distinct identities, which is why they came up with a system where the states were represented equally and then the people proportionately

  18. Sure the electoral college by itself doesn’t technically make politicians pay attention to small or less populated states, but that is why the popular vote exists. When you vote, you vote for all the representatives and senators of your state. If a candidate doesn’t pay attention to a certain state, they will have to deal with its representatives in Congress.

  19. Someone was probably angry with the 2016 elections. (Yes I’m well aware this was made it 2011)
    Edit: Woah guys chill out. Two sentences, only one of actual content, shouldn’t cause essays to erupt.

  20. Time to have fun, for starters we're not a "Democracy" were a "Constitutional Republic", we are not a nation of people but of states. In the United States of America, elections are won by winning the nomination in enough states for them to nominate you for President. You win these states by going to each individually and convince their individual populations to vote to have their state nominate you. The reason we have this system, is because without it the heavily populated cities would run the election every year. A prime example of this is California, where the northern end is more conservative and the more heavily populated cities tend leftist, there by making it hard to win red. In a "Democracy" the mob rules, in a republic like ours every vote matters, not just the mobs, because every candidate needs to visit every state not just heavily populated areas.

  21. You're ignoring the fact that abolishing the electoral college makes it so that they don't have to campaign in any states. They can ignore all issues that smaller population states deal with. Also, the electoral college does not HAVE to give all of their votes to the winner… they can distribute them as they like. They could do it proportionally or give it all to the winner of the popular vote (some states agreed to do so, but it's not a good idea). The popular vote allows majority rule, and the minority, even if it's by a slight margin, doesn't matter.

  22. Possibly Grey's worst video. There's many other reasons the EC is in place and still valid today, not just candidate attention or swing states. Also, swing states change… a lot

  23. It's amazing that this has to be pointed out over and over to idiots, but this is not a democracy. It is a republic. and if you want to get rid of the electoral process, either you are too stupid to understand its purpose or you think your side can win every time without it. If you think your side can win every time without it, you intend to commit fraud.

  24. Hold on a second CGP Grey! The Electoral College was not originally supposed to function the way it currently does today. The Electoral College has been corrupted by political parties. The PEOPLE of each state don't elect the president, but the people were instead supposed to elect other individuals, whose judgement they trust, to elect the president on their behalf. These individuals are called electors. So when the states give their votes, it is really the electors in each state giving each vote. Once the electors are chosen, they did not need to bow before popular opinion or before political parties or before anyone. They should have been like members of the Supreme Court, who are free from the corrupting forces of politics and the the masses of people who could be seduced by manipulative rhetoric and dumb marketing. This is why the founding fathers wanted a republic instead of a democracy. And personally, I agree with them. Its not that people are stupid as much as it is that the average person (myself included) does not have the time and resources to analyze and think critically about what is best for all of us and how to achieve that goal.

  25. The Electoral College has an advantage though – and that is that it basically causes that a two-party system to occur. The benefit there is in having two comparatively moderate parties to vote on instead of extreme fringe factions such as a something like a Nazi party. And, if winning by "Majority vote" was such a good idea, then anyone could win, just as long as they got the majority vote – all you have to do is just get one more vote than all the other parties running, especially if the other parties tie up the votes between themselves.

  26. you forget the most important purpose of the Electoral College preventing an unscrupulous candidate from winning by voter fraud like we saw in 2016

  27. This video really bothers me because the problems you're outlining aren't problems with the electoral system as outlined in the Constitution. The problem is that the states adopted a winner-take-all approach to choosing electors and deciding how electors vote, in direct opposition to how the Founders intended it to work. If it worked as intended, then the argument that smaller states would have more representation would hold.

    But the trouble with the electoral college is not the system itself, it's how political parties have warped its mechanisms to serve partisan ends.

    We're supposed to vote for electors based on their ability to judge who a good president would be, not for which party they're aligned with. And they're not supposed to vote for whoever the majority in their district wants. They're supposed to make their own judgment, presumably on behalf of their district.

    Instead we have parties and legislatures deciding who electors should vote for and presenting people not with a choice of which elector they want, but which presidential candidate they want, and then awarding the statewide winning candidate with all the electors in the state. You're right that it's undemocratic, because *that's not the way the electoral college was supposed to work in the first place*.

    Abolishing the electoral college because states are doing it wrong is like scrapping the Constitution because Mitch McConnell is stacking the courts.

  28. The electoral college was not made to give small states more power.. it was made to prevent mob rule by "popular vote" the founders knew that the people couldnt be 100% trusted to put someone into office so they made a system where professionals who are elected by the people make those decisions based on what the people want.. just because a state is in favor of one candidate doesn't mean the electoral college cant vote for the other.

  29. Yeah if we do that then Texas and California control everything cuz of the two biggest states also you live in the UK why you talking about American politics

  30. I feel as though you are purposely missing the point of the electoral college.

    Pure democracy is evil and the electoral college was carefully designed to ensure a United States of America, not a United People of America. It is not a bug it's a feature. We want to ensure that the STATES, not the individuals inhabiting those states is what decides our elections.

    Please do not be so disingenuous about the point.

  31. It sucks that people still defend the Electoral System. The President represents the nation. They are the face of the United States. They should be selected by a majourity, to represent the majourity. I do not believe smaller states should be ignored, but I also believe that most of the power should be given to the Majority. It's not a hard concept. It's just how a Democratic-Republic works lmao. And how can someone say we live in an equal and just nation when people's votes are not worth the same?

  32. Then you have just one or two demographics making all the decisions for the rest of the country. Which is highly unfair since issues that California want, would devastate states made up of mostly small rural areas.

  33. Democrats want to abolish it solely because they know that there would never be another Republican (or any other party) become president again. Face it Democrats would vote for Hitler if he was the the Democrat candidate. We would have to get rid of parties altogether. Corse I do believe George Washington said we shouldn’t form them anyway. Our government is too corrupt to get rid of it.

  34. Candidates don't go campaigning in states that are already guaranteed to go one way or the other. If California/NY wants presidential candidates to visit they need to come off their fringe and represent closer to the middle.

  35. East/West coast liberal elites have been stewing over how to make those pathetic (in their eyes) mid-western fly-over states irrelevant. Removing the EC is their great big FUCK-YOU to middle America.

  36. If you don't like the EC, I assume you want to do away with the Senate and just have popular-vote representatives in congress? Certainly R.I. shouldn't have as many Senators as California! That's insane!!!

  37. @4:55 These dumb-asses that made this video think that Montana, Wyoming and Alaska are going to vote the same as Vermont, Delaware and Rhode Island?? Actually, the candidate that can win ALL of these states DESERVES to be elected, no matter how California/NY votes.

  38. @6:15 "all of these problems go away and everyone's vote will be equal" WRONG!! Millions of illegal votes in California will water down REAL citizen votes across the rest of the country.

  39. You published this too soon Grey. Now there are (sadly) four presidents decided by the electoral college. In 2000 we got stuck with the retarded Bush brother, and now we are stuck with an unelected, uneducated, unqualified clown in chief. I think the people know who should be president, don't you?

  40. I like the video and it does a good job arguing its point, but the problem is that we are not a Democracy we are a Democratic Republic.

  41. This is a silly argument. All the states you listed that would need to be won in your unfair scenario are basically split between the two parties. No one would ever win all of those states at once.

  42. I try not to comment but all you considered was "major cities" in your argument, when we know it's more so urban areas. I live in Connecticut, and NYC life is more then those who just live in the city. It stretches out to about 2 hours past it. & once you get 2 hours out, life is very different for people. Those are the people that would be left forgotten in pure democracy. The United States is not just divided by major cities or by states when it comes to job opportunity, living expenses and culture. This video is purely looking at it from a math point of view, and if you want a purely math based argument your missing A LOT of equations.

  43. There is no such thing as a national popular vote. States choose the President, not the national population. This was decided upon during the constitutional convention as an alternative to either direct popular vote or Congress choosing the President.

  44. I wish I had the time to tear this lesson in absurdity apart. Alas, I do not. I'll simply say research the history of pure democratic systems to see all the many ways they fail. Thank god the creator of this video wasn't a framer.

  45. “This is not democracy, this is indefensible.” Correct. The United States is not a democracy, and for good reason. The United States is a representative republic which gives disproportionate power to smaller states so they won’t be overlooked.

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