The United States president is elected by members of the Electoral College in each state. The electoral college is selected by American citizens. Each state receives a vote for each of their senators and representatives. A direct election system would directly tally the vote of each individual who is legally entitled to vote.
Small States (Con)
A reason the current election format was developed was so smaller states were at least partially represented during federal elections. Without the current structure, small states would be muted by more populous states. States automatically qualify for three of the votes. For example, while the population of California is 70 times greater than the population of Wyoming, the latter state received three votes to California's 47.
Third Party (Pro)
Because the winner of the state receives all the electoral votes, there is currently no encouragement for a third-party candidate, who would not be represented federally even if he received 49 per cent of the support. Theoretically, a third political party could have the support of 49 per cent of the country, but their political beliefs would not be represented in government. Furthermore, a candidate would be hard-pressed to raise enough money for an election. She would be coming up against well-established and well-funded political parties. With a direct election, each citizen's vote would count toward the final tally.
Campaign ads screened on TV could lie and convince people to vote a certain way. With the Electoral College, members are better tuned to the political issues and the opinions of each candidate than the general public. In the Constitutional Convention of 1787, it was established that the current system is a compromise between allowing the legislature to vote for the president and having the people vote entirely.
If every eligible citizen were to have a stake in deciding the president, it would be very unlikely that a tiebreaker would be necessary. In the event of a tiebreaker under the current system, each state is given one vote. This would mean that Montana would have the same sway as California, a state with a much larger population. A tie between two candidates under the current format would result in a score of 269-269.
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