A related, but potentially more serious, objection to the Electoral College -- indeed, the objection that, I'm sure, motivates most people who object to it -- is that it can result in a minority of popular voters getting the candidate of their choice over the candidate receiving the greatest number of popular votes. ... This objection, too, is weakened when one considers that such outcomes can occur in legislatures based upon geographical representation where there is uneven distribution of the voting population across the electoral districts.Or in other words, people who have a problem with the Electoral College should have a problem with the Senate as well. In fact, they should have a bigger problem with the Senate, since it diverges much further from proportional representation than does the Electoral College. (Each state has electoral votes equal to its total number of senators and representatives.)
The 25 most-populated U.S. states have a total population of about 235 million people. The population of the 25 least-populated states totals just about 70 million people.
With each state sending two Senators to Capitol Hill, it's clearly possible that a majority of U.S. Senators will vote for a bill even though, if citizens themselves directly voted on the bill, the vote would go in the other direction.
But Boudreaux’s argument can be made even stronger, because it does not actually depend on uneven distribution of population across electoral districts. You can get the very same effect -- i.e., policies being adopted with only minority support -- when electoral districts represent equal-sized groups of constituents, as long as the groups have sufficiently different divisions of opinion.
Here’s a very simple example. Say you have a legislature composed of five representatives, each representing 100 constituents. Each representative votes in line with his constituents’ majority opinion. Legislators Jameson, Johnson, and Jones vote for policy A over policy B, because 70% of their constituents prefer A. Legislators Smith and Stone vote for policy B, because 100% of their constituents prefer B. As a result, policy A gets passed into law, even though the overall population favors policy B by a 290 to 210 margin.
And if you think about it, that’s pretty much what happens when there’s an electoral-popular split in a presidential election. Yes, the states do have different numbers of electoral votes, so that produces part of the effect. But for the most part, the split seems to be driven by the existence of some large states with close divisions of opinion (like Florida in 2000) and other large states with lopsided divisions of opinion (like California).
So Boudreax’s point can be broadened to this: people who have a problem with the Electoral College should also have a problem with representative, as opposed to direct, democracy. Any representative democracy creates the real possibility of policies being adopted that are opposed by a majority of the public.