Rob Richie and John Samples about why the electoral college was created and how it influences the nature and strategy of elections. Mr. Richie’s organization is working to elect the president by popular vote. Mr. Samples supports retaining the Electoral College.
Once students understand the Electoral College, how it operates, and how it has evolved over the years, they will explore the pros and cons of the system, and analyze proposed alternatives. Then, they will decide which system would be best in electing the president.
Students will understand and explore the pros and cons of the Electoral College system
Students will analyze alternatives that have been proposed to the Electoral College System
If necessary, review with the students the basic overview and history of the Electoral College that you learned in the previous lesson. Once students have a general understanding of the Electoral College, have them divide into two groups (polling, split the room in half, etc.) based on whether they initially think positively or negatively of the system. Have each group discuss their reasons, and then share out with entire class what their groups discussed.
Students should fill out the notes chart handout as they watch the following videos, read the articles, and any applicable sections in their book in order to discover pros, cons, and alternatives to the Electoral College system. The information will serve as research for the debate and eventual letter to the editor. This can be done as a whole class, in small groups in a computer lab, or as homework.
VIDEO CLIP: Electoral College Analysis (7:29) This 7 minute clip discusses the pros and cons of the Electoral College system, as well as focusing on alternatives, such as the national popular vote, district, and proportional plans.
VIDEO CLIP: Electoral College Analysis #2 (8:39) In this 8 minute clip, U.S. Senate Associate Historian Don Ritchie discusses faithless electors, the district plan, and the pros and cons of the Electoral College with historical examples to help illustrate his points.
VIDEO CLIP: Electoral College Analysis #3 (6:06) In this 3 minute clip, Birch Bayh discusses the negative aspects of the Electoral College and his alternative, the National Popular Vote Plan.
Additional Articles/Resources (use as needed)
Article #1 - The Mysterious Workings of the Electoral College (TIME Magazine) An overview of the Electoral College, its history, and its pros and cons
Article #2 - Tom Golisano On Revolutionizing The Electoral College (Forbes Magazine) Advocates for the National Popular Vote Plan
FAQ’s on the Electoral College (National Archives) Answers to frequently asked questions about the Electoral College.
Students should decide if they think that the Electoral College or one of its alternatives is the best method to elect the President. Once they decide, students should write down at least three (3) points that explain their position. They will use these points as a starting point in the debate.
Students will debate their positions in small groups (groups of four, one student each for the Electoral College and its alternatives). An example for a simple debate outline:
A) Each person gets 3 minutes to give an overview of their view (all members need to have their turn before ANY questions can be asked)
B) Then, each person gets 2 minutes to speak after hearing the other views, with other group members each getting to ask one question (repeat for all members)
C) Students get 2 minutes for a closing argument/point
Students are encouraged to take notes on others points and presentations to assist them in the debate, questions, and letter
Once students are completed, have them answer the following questions individually.
1) What was your original viewpoint about the effectiveness of the Electoral College?
2) Do you think one of the alternatives is more effective? Explain.
3) Explain at least three points/arguments from the debate that you had not thought of before and “made you think” (You do not have to necessarily agree with the points/arguments)
4) Did the debate change your mind or strengthen your previous position? Explain.
Then, students should discuss them in small groups (their debate groups), and then as an entire class.
Now that students have information on the Electoral College and its alternatives, they should write a “letter to the editor” in which they explain and try to persuade readers to their position. The letter should include:
A) Clear position statement
B) Three clearly defined and explained reasons for your position
C) Refuted counterargument
Students can research a previous presidential election and analyze the Electoral College results and the current issues and reasons that explain those results. Final result can be a paper, video, website, presentation, etc.