Direct elections, especially those without a runoff, prevent such problems. Coming in third or fourth would gain a party no leverage in the selection of the president.
4. In direct elections, candidates would campaign only in large cities.
Under any system, candidates try to spend their time in places where they can reach the most voters. But in a direct election, with every vote counting equally, candidates would have an incentive to appeal to voters everywhere, not just those in swing states. Because the price of advertising is mainly a function of market size, it does not cost more to reach 10,000 voters in Wyoming than it does to reach 10,000 voters in New York or Los Angeles.
It’s the electoral college that shortchanges voters. Because it makes no sense for candidates to spend time or money in states they either cannot win or are certain to win, thriving cities such as Atlanta, San Francisco and El Paso get no love from White House hopefuls.
Making every vote count in every state would have other benefits. It would stimulate party-building efforts and increase turnout. People are more likely to cast a ballot if they think their vote matters.
5. Electors must vote for the candidate who wins their state.
In theory, this is true. In practice, however, electors may vote for whomever they please, and on rare occasions, they do. In a tight election, such behavior might deny either candidate a majority of the electoral vote and throw the election into the House of Representatives.
For generations, pollsters have found that a clear majority of Americans support direct election of the president. The longer we cling to the electoral college, the longer we’ll have presidential campaigns that leave large numbers of voters feeling left out, along with a system that distorts the public’s preferences.
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