Why the Electoral College Is Bad for America

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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.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"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

"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

Marty Wattenberg
“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
Neal R. Peirce
“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
Stephen Wayne
"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
Harper's Magazine - Lewis H. Lapham
“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
New York Observer - Glenn C. Altschuler
“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
New York Review of Books - Alexander Keyssar
“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
New Yorker
“This crisp handbook . . . outlines the origins of the electoral college . . . and demonstrates the many ways it violates democratic norms.”—New Yorker
Rhetoric and Public Affairs - Brian J. Gaines
"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
Seattle Times - Neal Peirce
“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
Slate - Timothy Noah
“[An] excellent new book.”—Timothy Noah, Slate
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780300100600
  • Publisher: Yale University Press
  • Publication date: 7/26/2004
  • Pages: 198
  • Product dimensions: 6.50 (w) x 9.50 (h) x 0.75 (d)

Meet the Author

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.

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