No, and it's better that way.
In the US we had a very hard time of this during the 2016 presidential elections, on account of much advance polling that didn't predict the true outcome of the election. In addition, exit polls showed an advantage for Clinton over Trump. How can the election result differ so much from these reliable polling methods?
To understand the difference, the first thing is to understand the Electoral College, our name for the system by which the majority in each US state may decide how the entire state's presidential votes will be cast. The number called "the popular vote" was rejected during the framing of our Constitution for the purpose of deciding the winner of the general election, and this is not a dumb choice: regional difference across the 3,500 miles (not counting Alaska and Hawaii) of the USA affect both voter interests and voter turnout...you wouldn't want a hurricane to wipe out roadways and roadway maintenance policy (because those affected couldn't drive to the polls) at the same time, as a gross example.
The Electoral College allows those who can make it to the polls to represent the entire state: in this way, regional variation in turnout doesn't unfairly become regional variation in voter enfranchisement.
Another nice thing about the Electoral College is that in case of a close call on the general election, the only re-counting necessary is in the one area where the votes are close. This way, if (say) the state of Rebelamacticut was known for always disenfranchising its meteorologists, but it didn't have a close call, no re-counting would be necessary in that hostile state. But under a "popular vote", the recount would need to go to Rebelamacticut and to Oilrigai'i, Jefferson, Guam, every US military base, and everywhere else that US citizens vote. The impracticality of this is manifest.
Also, the only count of each and every vote is the election itself, not phone-call polls, Internet polls, and exit polls.
People in the US care very deeply about our elections, so there is a multitude of volunteers from the ordinary citizen population who become poll workers. Many of these people care about one or another political party, but since the votes are secret it's generally not possible for the workers to attempt any kind of bias. In addition, a crooked poll worker would need to execute his scam over the course of a long day at close quarters with other poll workers, who are all responsible to follow the procedures specified by the precinct which were designed to prevent meddling.
Most US election precincts leave a paper trail, so that the final count can always be re-performed using the actual paper artifacts. This gives me much more confidence than some kind of computerized system, in which the only artifact of my vote is a magnetic or flash-memory bit (or series of bits) stored somewhere.
A commenter has criticized the Electoral College as being an unnecessary way to arrive at precinct-summability of votes. Is it necessary for states to vote as a bloc (as with the Electoral College) in order for summaries of vote counts to pass from precinct to center?
No, the Electoral College is by no means the only way to arrive at precinct summability for elections. But precinct-summability does not address the problem that the Electoral College does address: how can bias resulting from the events of election day (such as weather, traffic, civil disruption, etc) be removed from vote counting? The solution is to guarantee that the citizens, as a group, of each state will always have the number of electoral votes that they are entitled to following the latest census.
Another criticism against the Electoral College, repeated from Time Magazine, is that the Electoral College was invented to facilitate the 3/5 compromise, a policy that everybody can see was objectively wretched. Basically, the South wanted more influence on national elections than they would have if slaves were completely disenfranchised (since they were not to be allowed to vote) but the North found it annoying that the South should gain in electoral influence merely on account of slaveholding. Both sides wrongly disenfranchised individual human beings (the slaves), both sides disgustingly dealt in influence like a commodity, and the result mars our memory of the whole system.
But the Electoral College is not a mere prop for the 3/5 compromise or the disenfranchisement suffered by former slaves and their descendants. The Time Magazine article of November 2016 suffered a strong rebuttal by Dave Benner of Minnesota that same month. Benner argues that the Southern support for the Electoral College was mixed, that slavery-abolishing Northerners weighed-in strongly against popular voting, and that other reasons provided by the Time Magazine article do not stand up to scrutiny.
Cherry Picking James Madison
by Dave Benner
November 15, 2016
Legal “scholar” Akil Reed Amar made waves recently by arguing that a
single comment from James Madison proves that the Electoral College
had an intrinsic pro-slavery bent and was designed to perpetuate the
institution. According to Amar, Madison suggested that Virginia’s
stature would be hindered by a national popular vote for president, an
idea proposed in the Philadelphia Convention by nationalist delegate
James Wilson of Pennsylvania. Madison’s position on this matter is not
disputed by anyone; a national popular vote surely would have weakened
Virginia’s influence in the federal system.
Amar’s argument, however, is a classic case of cherry picking. If Amar
is correct, then he has to reconcile the fact that some of the most
vocal opposition to a national popular vote came from delegates from
states that had already abolished slavery. These men made it clear
that Wilson’s proposal was unpopular not because of slavery but
because it would have allowed small geographical regions and
metropolitan areas to control presidential elections for a Union of
states with differing regions, penchants, and dispositions.
For instance, Gouverneur Morris of Pennsylvania, whose state
eliminated slavery in 1780, opined that “the great evil of cabal and
corruption” could not be avoided under a direct popular vote. Elbridge
Gerry of Massachusetts, a State which fully disposed of the
institution even earlier, called a national referendum “radically
vicious” for these same reasons. Roger Sherman and Oliver Ellsworth of
Connecticut, a state that passed its gradual emancipation act of 1784,
also raised explicit objections against a presidential election
through the people at large. Would Amar thus suppose that these
genuine apprehensions toward a national referendum were based on
In an apparent attempt to disparage the South, Amar also conveniently
omits a multitude of actual reasons that delegates from slave states
opposed Wilson’s proposal for a national popular vote. Fellow
Virginian George Mason quipped that a national popular vote was akin
to letting “a blind man choose colors” because voters would not be
well acquainted with the positions/doings of candidates from other
states. Though not a concern today, this was a real issue in 1787,
where most people did not know what the candidates even looked like.
Amar even cites the prevalence of this view in his article, correctly
noting that several Founders believed Americans “would lack sufficient
information to choose directly and intelligently among leading
presidential candidates.” This, of course, had nothing to do with
slavery, and effectively undermines Amar’s position.
Charles Pinckney of South Carolina noted that his misgivings against
such a popular vote system were “obvious & striking,” declaring that
one several of the most populous states would be led by a “few active
& Designing men,” combining in favor of the same individual despite
the chagrin of the rest of the country. John Rutledge of South
Carolina opposed a national vote because he favored selection of the
executive by Congress, never mentioning Amar’s supposed slavery
rationale. This alternative matched James Madison’s original proposal
for presidential appointment under a set of resolutions known as the
Additionally, Amar selectively omits other reasons Madison argued
against such a system, such as when on July 25 he expressed that it
would diminish the possibility of corruption and foreign influence, or
the overarching fact that Madison did not believe the states should
not be equal in the federal system – which influenced his views on a
variety of subjects beyond the presidential election mechanism. For
instance, Madison wished to preserve Virginia’s relative power in the
union through a failed proposal for to apportion both houses of
Congress by state population.
Amar also comically suggests that the early presidential elections
were demonstrative proof of the Electoral College’s supposed
pro-slavery bias, citing the sectional division between northern and
southern states in the 1796 election. But the opposite case seems to
have been made by the 1800 presidential election. Though it is true
that Jefferson would not have won the election had there been no
apportionment at all for slaves that year (as the northern delegates
in Philadelphia wished), under a national popular vote system
Jefferson’s Republican faction would have defeated Adams and the
Federalists by an even wider margin. This was because Jefferson and
his party coadjutor Aaron Burr reaped 61.4% of the popular vote while
Adams and Charles Cotesworth Pinckney gained only 38.6%. In contrast,
the Republican candidates obtained 146 electoral votes to while the
Federalists received 130, demonstrating that the Electoral College
actually made the contest much closer than it otherwise would have
been. Besides that, in 1800 Jefferson and Burr won several northern
states that had already passed emancipation acts, such as New York and
Pennsylvania. Again, would Amar admit that these factors are evidence
that a national popular vote would have helped the Jeffersonian
Republicans achieve an even greater victory in 1800?
Also appearing to weaken Amar’s argument is his incorrect assumption
that the Electoral College inherently benefitted other candidates from
slaveholding states. This was certainly not true for candidate Charles
Cotesworth Pinckney of South Carolina, a slaveholder who along with
Adams failed to win the 1800 election for the Federalists. The
supposed pro-slavery orientation of the Electoral College certainly
did nothing to assist slaveholder Andrew Jackson, who in 1824 won a
plurality of the popular vote but lost the election on account of the
House of Representatives choosing an alternative under a deadlocked
Electoral College. Instead, non-slaveholder John Quincy Adams was
selected. Would Amar therefore admit that this election inversely
proved the Electoral College was actually anti-slavery? Using his
train of logic, one could persuasively make such an argument.
James Wilson’s proposal in Philadelphia was plainly perceived as
radical and objectionable because of the potential to perpetuate mob
rule and executive oppression over a large, federally-oriented
country. Despite Amar’s sweeping conclusion, it remains clear instead
that all varieties of delegates, whether they came from slave states
or states that had already abolished slavery, saw Wilson’s initial
plan as undesirable for other obvious reasons, which convinced him to
abandon it. Sitting on a committee of eleven delegates that developed
the Electoral College system, Wilson agreed to scrap his own popular
vote proposal in favor of the more popular alternative.
Sadly, Amar is not the first to reach such a drastic, fallacious
conclusion on constitutional features based on faulty premises and
selective reasoning. This has been a common tactic among many
reactionaries to link any aspect of the Constitution they don’t like
to deplorable causes. Cherry picking one Madison quote in an attempt
to prove his position is a tragic mistake that undermines honest
scholarship and thorough constitutional study. To come to Amar’s
deductions on the Electoral College, one must actively ignore the
entire breadth of the Philadelphia Convention debates, everything that
was said about such a system in the state ratification campaigns, and
a battery of contradictory evidence suggesting that slavery had
nothing to do with the reasons such a mechanism came to be favored for