Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America

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George C. Edwards III; Foreword by Neal R. Peirce

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Americans currently choose their president through the electoral college, an extraordinarily complex mechanism that may elect a candidate who does not receive the most votes. In this provocative book, George Edwards III argues that—contrary to what supporters of the electoral college claim—there is no real justification for a system that might violate majority rule.

Drawing on systematic data, Edwards finds that the electoral college does not protect the interests of small states or racial minorities, does not provide presidents with effective coalitions for governing, and does little to protect the American polity from the alleged harms of direct election of the president. In fact, the electoral college distorts the presidential campaign so that candidates ignore most small states and some large ones and pay little attention to minorities, and it encourages third parties to run presidential candidates and discourages party competition in many states.

Edwards demonstrates effectively that direct election of the president without a runoff maximizes political equality and eliminates the distortions in the political system caused by the electoral college.

George C. Edwards III is Distinguished Professor of Political Science at Texas A&M University. He is editor of Presidential Studies Quarterly and holds the George and Julia Blucher Jordan Chair in Presidential Studies in the Bush School. His books include At the Margins: Presidential Leadership of Congress and On Deaf Ears: The Limits of the Bully Pulpit, both published by Yale University Press. Neal R. Peirce is a prominent Washington journalist.

"Dispensing keen political insights as he goes, George Edwards punctures the fallacious arguments used by supporters of the electoral college whenever criticism of that splendid anachronism grows hot, as it once again has."—Jack Rakove, Coe Professor of History and American Studies and Professor of Political Science, Stanford University

“The best book available on the electoral college. Edwards has crafted an entirely new and up-to-date book. He provides both an excellent review of the workings of the electoral college and an incisive analysis of the failings of the institution.”—Marty Wattenberg, University of California, Irvine

“The most exquisitely precise and thorough case ever made for abolition of the electoral college system and substitution of a direct vote.”—Neal R. Peirce, from the foreword


"An argumentative treatise, based on solid empirical data and sound logic, this book should generate considerable debate—the kind that the country should have had following the election of 2000 and Bush v. Gore."—Stephen Wayne, Georgetown University

“I’ve come across few books as timely or as relevant as the one in which Professor Edwards suggests that the country now finds itself confronted not only with an absence of a coherent national politics but also with a constitutional crisis. . . . Edwards sets out to prove that the Electoral College is both needlessly complex and inherently unjust. . . . His principal lines of argument deserve extensive debate in both the news media and the Congress.”—Lewis H. Lapham, Harper’s Magazine

“Edwards . . . throws the kitchen sink, the stove and some old socks at the Electoral College. . . . His case is compelling. . . . [A] meticulous analysis.”—Glenn C. Altschuler, New York Observer

“Edwards . . . methodically presents the case for eliminating the electoral college and replacing it with national popular elections. With excellent descriptions of how the elector system works, it is the most cogent and up-to-date criticism I have read. . . . The case that Edwards builds against the electoral college is strong, even overwhelming. Why the Electoral College is Bad for America will be widely cited in debates about our method of electing presidents.”—Alexander Keyssar, New York Review of Books

“This crisp handbook . . . outlines the origins of the electoral college . . . and demonstrates the many ways it violates democratic norms.”—New Yorker

“Edwards offers a robust critique of the intricate device underpinning presidential elections. . . . A worthy, well-argued contribution to the debate.”—Publishers Weekly

"Time will tell whether the argument that the current system is so flawed and dangerous that the nation needs a constitutional amendment establishing a national direct election can gain momentum. But Edwards makes that case forcefully, as well or better than any other I know, and that is a genuine service."—Brian J. Gaines, Rhetoric and Public Affairs

“The most exquisitely precise and sweeping case I’ve ever seen for abolition of the Electoral College and adopting a straightforward vote of the people.”—Neal Peirce, Seattle Times

“[An] excellent new book.”—Timothy Noah, Slate

"In this study, the author provides a wonderfully accessible discussion of every aspect of the system by which presidents are elected in the United States. . . . [Edwards] provides a clear and detailed look at the process from election day through the inauguration, which is illuminating and informative. Edwards also points out rich examples from past elections that capture the subtleties and intricacies of the electoral college, which will engage the reader. . . . Well researched. . . . Edwards's book will be of interest to scholars and instructors focusing on the presidency (both currently and historically), as well as campaigns and elections. It is sure to spark debates in classes among all readers as Edwards does a fine job of covering both sides of the debate. However this book should be read by every concerned citizen, as it will inform them of what really happens on election day. . . . This is an important contribution to our understanding of how presidents are selected, thanks to the author's careful consideration of the inner workings of the system and the arguments for and against its continued use."—David A. Dulio, Historian

ISBN: 9780300100600
Publication Date: July 11, 2004
224 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4
On Deaf Ears

The Limits of the Bully Pulpit

George C. Edwards III

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At the Margins

Presidential Leadership of Congress

George C. Edwards III

View details