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Winner Takes All: The Popular Vote Versus Electoral College

JEROME CLARYSSE from Pixabay CC0 http://bit.ly/31VtO6c

Trump is one of five American presidents to be elected after losing the popular vote. Those who won did so by maintaining a majority of electoral college votes. Is this the best system for a representative democracy? Who decides how we elect the President of the United States?


Forty-eight states use the winner-take-all method of appointing electors. Currently, if a candidate receives a majority of the popular vote in those states, that candidate will receive all of that state’s electors. Texas has 38.   

Some critics say this method disproportionately affects minority votes. To avoid another election that differs from the popular vote, some alternatives have been suggested.

In a proportional vote, employed by Maine and Nebraska, electors are allocated based on voting in congressional districts. 

The National Popular Vote system would ensure the presidency is won not by electoral college votes but by the popular vote. 

What are the pros and cons of the electoral college system? Why do we use this system to vote for president? Are there better ways of fairly determining a winner?


  • Ian Smith, adjunct professor in the political science department at St. Mary's University

  • Sanford Levinson, professor of government and W. St. John Garwood and W. St. John Garwood, Jr. Centennial Chair in Law at the University of Texas Law School in Austin

"The Source" is a live call-in program airing Mondays through Thursdays from 12-1 p.m. Leave a message before the program at (210) 615-8982. During the live show, call 210-614-8980, email thesource@tpr.org or tweet at @TPRSource.

*This interview was recorded on Tuesday, June 25.


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Kim Johnson is the producer for Texas Public Radio’s live, call-in show The Source. She is a Trinity University alum with bachelor’s degrees in Communication and Spanish, and a Master of Arts Degree from the School of Journalism at the University of Texas at Austin.
Dallas Williams is a Producer for The Source at Texas Public Radio. With a degree in Mass Communication — Broadcast Media, Dallas brings a unique perspective and a passion to producing a live, call-talk show.