16 Advantages and Disadvantages of the Electoral College

The Founding Fathers of the United States established a compromise in the Constitution when creating the foundation of their new nation. Because of the development of the Electoral College, there was a middle option that eliminated the need to elect the President by popular vote or by appointment in Congress. That makes it one of the most unique election systems in the world today, especially since every other election in the U.S. uses the popular format.

The current structure of the Electoral college consists of 538 electors. A majority is necessary from these voters to elect the President and the Vice President to a four-year term. Each state receives an allotment of electors that equals the number of delegates that get sent to Congress each year. That means each Senator represents one, as does each voting member of the House of Representatives.

This structure means the minimum number of electors that a state can have is three, but there is also no maximum cap. It is also the only time that the District of Columbia gets to act as a state since the 23rd Amendment to the Constitution allocates three electors to it as well.

After two elections where the Electoral College winner didn’t receive the same endorsement from the popular vote since 2000, there are several advantages and disadvantages to consider when keeping it.

List of the Advantages of the Electoral College

1. It maintains the rights of the minority so that equal protection exists.
One of the primary duties of the Electoral College is that it does an excellent job of protecting the best interests of the minority in each election. It gives each community the ability to have a say in what they think is the best course of action to take for the United States. Electors have the responsibility of offering ballots that are reflective of the will of the people in this structure. Although it doesn’t allow the popular vote majority to control the final outcome of an election, there must still be a majority of state electoral votes available to secure the White House.

Even though many candidates ignore states where they think there isn’t a chance for a successful outcome, the 2016 election proved that every state can be a swing state if given half of a chance.

2. The design of the Electoral College supports a simplified two-party system.
Although some people don’t enjoy the slow nature of a gridlocked two-party system, the Electoral College allows voters to make changes every four years. This process stops the other branches of government (under most circumstances) from choosing who will get to serve in the executive branch. It supports the ideas of centrism in most election years because extreme views do not usually equate to specific votes. This advantage makes it possible for the average person to feel like their government supports them in meaningful ways.

3. It doesn’t require a 50% vote majority to create an electoral majority.
The elections where the candidate who wins the Electoral College, but not the popular vote, tends to dominate debates like these. It is also essential to remember that there are elections where no one achieved a 50% majority in the vote total, yet it was this structure that showed a clear representation of the will of Americans on Election Night.

Bill Clinton was the primary recipient of this advantage for both of his elections. When he campaigned against George H.W. Bush and H. Ross Perot, he only achieved 43% of the vote in 1992. During his re-election campaign, he finished with 49.2% of the popular vote.

4. The Electoral College eliminates the threat of a nationwide recount.
The threshold that election results must reach to begin an automatic recount is a 0.5% difference between the candidates. There have been six presidential elections that would have qualified for this issue in the history of the United States, and three of them have happened since 1968.

There have been five additional elections where the eventual president didn’t win a majority of the vote, including Donald Trump in the 2016 campaign. Only Rutherford Hayes, with a 3% difference, won the electoral college despite being in the minority in a way that a recount wouldn’t occur.

The cost of conducting a nationwide recount could be over $1 billion, which is cash that isn’t always in the budget. Sticking to the Electoral College allows us to use elector votes as intended instead of relying on counting individuals votes.

5. It allows each community to send a message to the national government.
There are 51 unique Presidential contests that occur because of the Electoral College today. That means each state (including Washington, D.C.) can send a message that represents the majority of their community to the rest of the nation. If this system were to be abolished, then there would be a bias in the vote each cycle because rural areas tend to vote for Republicans while urban centers vote for Democrats. That means the swing areas would be the suburban communities, so Americans would have the same issues without this compromise – just in a different way.

6. Most states already have a winner-takes-all format.
Most states use a system where the winner of the statewide election for President and Vice President awards all of their electors to the victorious candidate. Only Nebraska and Maine continue to use the proportional representation where each district allocates a single elector based on the vote totals from its assigned communities. Once the results are certified, then the governor will create a Certificate of Ascertainment that lists the name of electors who will represent the state when the votes are cast after the primary election in November.

Then each set of electoral votes is counted during a joint session of Congress on January 6 of the year following the meeting of electors in each state.

List of the Disadvantages of the Electoral College

1. Some voters have more “weight” in the election than others do.
Because the structure of the Electoral College is based on state population levels and representation in Congress, some voters have a ballot that carries more weight per delegate than others do. An example of this issue is a comparison of Wyoming vs. California.

Even though California has several million more people living in the state compared to Wyoming, the power of a Californian vote is 30% less than their counterparts. This disadvantage means that if you live in a rural area, your vote could count more toward who gets to become the eventual President.

2. It doesn’t always allow for the majority candidate to take the White House.
Almost 3 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton instead of Donald Trump in the 2016 election. It was Trump who won the White House because of the results of the Electoral College. There have been five elections in the United States where the eventual winner didn’t receive a majority of the vote. Two of those elections have occurred since 2000 (George W. Bush and Donald Trump). Only one election in history was close enough that it had to go into the House of Representatives for a decision. That is how John Quincy Adams won over Andrew Jackson.

The Electoral College makes it possible for the minority of the population to have control over the majority. That makes it challenging to say that the White House represents the clear will of the people.

3. The reasons for the Electoral College are no longer relevant.
The Founding Fathers compromised with the Electoral College because information management was very different in the 18th century compared to what we have today. It took days, and sometimes weeks, for Americans to learn what was happening in Washington, D.C. each day. Candidates needed to go to each state to discuss what they wanted to do to help the country. There was no other way beyond the newspaper or in-person meetings to let people know what was happening.

Thanks to our various forms of communication today, that need is no longer necessary. We can access the Internet, talk on the phone, or send an email for instant information. Each person can evaluate this data to determine if a news story has an underlying bias to it.

4. It may not serve its intended purpose anymore.
Alexander Hamilton was one of the most boisterous supporters of the Electoral College compromise. He said that this system wasn’t perfect, but it was also at least “excellent.” The Founding Fathers believed that this structure would prevent the Executive Branch from falling to a person who did not have the necessary qualifications to serve Americans.

Critics of the Electoral College would say that the elections of Ronald Reagan and Donald Trump are evidence that this impact is no longer present in U.S. politics. There will always be a concern about the tyranny of the majority in the United States, but the popular vote from electors or everyone is still a reflection of a desire to do what most people want.

5. The number of elections in each 10-year cycle change for elector counts.
The number of electors that each state receives is based on the latest census data collected by the government. That means the elections in each 10-year period are based on this information. This disadvantage causes the 2010 data to be valid for three Presidential elections, but the 2020 census will only be valid for two elections. Because Americans move more often than any other group of people, the data that gets collected to generate representative information may be inaccurate in less than 12 months after its collection.

If the Presidential elections were determined by the popular vote only, then the accuracy of household counts would no longer play a role in determining who might make it into the White House.

6. There would no longer be an issue with specific states always determining Presidential elections.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump had 90% of their campaign stops in just 11 states during the 2016 Presidential election. Almost 70% of those events occurred in only 4 states: Ohio, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Florida. Supporters of the Electoral College want every state to have a say in the outcome of an election, but the candidates behave in ways that the Founding Fathers feared they would by targeting a majority population group.

The structure of the Electoral College also discourages candidates from going into states where the votes typically go to the other party. There have been some notable exceptions to this disadvantage, such as the 1972 contest when Nixon took 520 electoral votes over McGovern’s 16. This disadvantage means some communities don’t get to discuss relevant issues with the candidates for the White House.

7. Electors have no obligation to vote for the preferred candidate of their state.
Faithless electors are people who decide to cast a vote for President that does not represent the election results of their state or district. The 2016 election saw a record number of these ballots in the modern era, with four of them coming from Washington State alone. Some even switched their vote to a different party. Although this issue didn’t impact the election results, a closer vote total in the Electoral College could have caused the entire process to go into Congress.

The Constitution allows for anyone who receives an electoral vote to be part of the decision-making process in Congress to select a President if no clear majority is present. That would mean Bernie Sanders, Ron Paul, John Kasich, Colin Powell, and Faith Spotted Eagle all had a shot at the White House from the 2016 results.

8. Some American citizens don’t get to vote for President.
The rules of the Electoral College allow people to cast ballots for President and Vice President when they have representatives who vote in Congress. That means anyone living in a territory of the United States does not receive the opportunity to vote for who goes into the White House. If you live in Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, or the U.S. Virgin Islands, then you currently receive taxation without clear representation – an issue that caused the rebellion of the colonies in the first place.

If we were to get rid of the Electoral College, then every qualifying American citizen would get the opportunity to have their vote count for something.

9. There are very few qualifications to be an elector.
The Constitution does not contain many provisions that outline the necessary qualifications to be an elector. The 14th Amendment provides that any state official who engaged in rebellion or insurrection against the country or given aid and comfort to enemies is disqualified. Article II also says that no Representative, Senator, or individual holding an office of trust or profit in the country can be appointed to this position.

Outside of those two crucial statements, anyone can be nominated to serve in this capacity. That means the general public may not have any control over who gets put into this critical role. There is no federal law or Constitutional provision that requires them to vote according to the popular vote in their state either.

10. People would feel like their vote matters.
When individuals cast a ballot for the executive branch in the United States, then they are having their opinion counted in a statewide election. Their vote doesn’t contribute to a national result. That’s why candidates for the 2020 election are saying that getting rid of the Electoral College might be a good idea.

Another option is called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Several states have already agreed to assign their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote if the compact achieves a clear majority. There are currently 16 states in this agreement that reflect a total of 196 votes.


The Electoral College may not be the best answer for U.S. elections for the executive branch, but it might also be the correct system to continue using today. It guarantees that compromises are necessary while helping to provide protections for the minority who might see their rights trampled on without its structure.

It has served its purpose well with few exceptions over its history. There have been times when territories were converted to states as a way to alter the outcome of elections, but this issue has not occurred in the modern era. Except for a handful of contests, it has been a clear reflection of the will of the people.

There may come a day when the popular vote can replace the Electoral College. Until that time arrives, this option is the next best solution compared to having Congress select the President and Vice President without any input from the people.

Author Biography
Keith Miller has over 25 years of experience as a CEO and serial entrepreneur. As an entrepreneur, he has founded several multi-million dollar companies. As a writer, Keith's work has been mentioned in CIO Magazine, Workable, BizTech, and The Charlotte Observer. If you have any questions about the content of this blog post, then please send our content editing team a message here.