Given the real possibility of Mitt Romney winning the popular vote, but losing the Electoral College, discussion about the role — and the value — of the Electoral College is a common topic this election season.
The debate over the merits of the Electoral College compared to a direct popular vote is as old as the America itself. There are some who consider our current electoral system to be obsolete. The reasons America's founders favored and, ultimately, implemented the Electoral College remain as valid today as they were two centuries ago.
Our founding fathers intended to create an electoral system that both accommodated the needs of the day and ensured future stability. Because citizens and politicians in the 18th century were burdened by slow travel, citizens could not possibly make an informed direct vote based on knowledge of a given candidate's policies and character. Accordingly, the proponents of federalism, led by James Madison and Alexander Hamilton, suggested that citizens elect their own state electors -- a group of men that local voters knew.
Even early opponents of the Electoral College recognized the need to protect the rights of a people from all abuses of power, be it the agenda of a king or the arbitrary will of a majority. This was common ground among Federalists and Anti-federalists. As a result, the American Constitution compensates for the rights of underrepresented minorities or populations. That's why each state is granted two national senators, regardless of a given state's population. This ensures that smaller states are protected and their interests equally represented. The Electoral College, by placing value on states, offers the same protection.
A direct popular vote would enable presidential candidates to appeal solely to those most populated regions of the country. Wining over voters in the East Coast and California would be enough to snag a win under a popular election. People living in other areas of the county could be dismissed entirely with a popular vote system. The Electoral College ensures that less-populous states have a voice in federal government -- and that presidential candidates continue to appeal to their interests.
In 2000, President Bush managed a win over Al Gore despite a slight loss in the popular vote. National polls suggest that Mitt Romney stands the chance of winning the popular vote by a small margin and losing among state electors. Those who bemoan such occasional occurrences should consider the repercussions of the alternative.
Quite simply, under a direct elect system, minorities -- in any sense of the word -- would be all but forgotten.