In Electoral College Reform: Contemporary Issues for Congress, Thomas H. Neale states that the United States takes an unusual approach to Presidential and Vice Presidential elections on Page 1 of the Introduction:

The United States is unusual among contemporary presidential republics by providing for the indirect election of its President and Vice President

Furthermore, in his footnote, he states that other Presidential Republics have universally adopted a direct election of the President, stating:

Direct election of the President is currently universal in presidential republics that provide for a strong chief executive, combining the roles of head of state and head of government, e.g., Mexico and Brazil.

That fact that this was an anomaly among similar kinds of republics prompted me to ask this question..


Why have other Presidential Republics universally instituted a direct election of its chief executive?

1 Answer 1


Because most other Presidential Republics are not a Union of States that are sovereign in and of themselves

The thing about the United States is that they are... erm... states, as opposed to arbitrary blobs on a map that have been used to divide up territory. Those states joined the Union under a very deliberate arrangement where it is understood that the purpose of the Federal government is to serve the interests of all of the states in that union, which may occasionally be at odds with all of the people who happen to reside in it. That's why even though the Federal government had majoritarian institutions intended to represent the people, like the House of Representatives, it also has anti-majoritarian institutions that are supposed to represent the interests of states, like the Senate and the Electoral College.

The other countries on your list from Wikipedia, generally are not arranged in this way. The only one that is, is Mexico. Mexico had a lot of arguments about whether or not the Mexican states were sovereign in and of themselves or if only Mexico itself was sovereign almost immediately after gaining independence from Spain. I actually know very little about why they directly elect Presidents, and trying to read about their various constitutions (they've had at least 3) makes you wonder why they do.

  • 2
    This is well put. Furthermore, the people of each state do have different cultures, needs and environments. Geography by itself means that what is important to people from Maine is not the same as people from Pennsylvania, and yet different again from those in California. The electoral college prevents the will of the most populous states be imposed on the rest of the country. In other words, the presidential election would not matter to citizens of Ohio or Nebraska if it was a direct democracy. Aug 30, 2019 at 15:52
  • @FrankCedeno The electoral college doesn't entirely eliminate the effect the most populous states have on the results, but it does mitigate it (which is better than outright eliminating it, because if all states had exactly the same weight, you'd have the reverse problem). The large states do have more electoral votes, and there's a big difference between 55 votes (CA) and 6 votes (NE), but it's not as big as the difference between 40 million and 2 million.
    – Bobson
    Aug 30, 2019 at 16:20
  • @Bobson For some things like regulating interstate commerce, the reverse is never necessarily a problem. Depending on interpretation of course. Further if most governing power is kept at the state level (as it was literally insisted upon in the constitution), the reverse problem is minimized anyway. Aug 30, 2019 at 16:56
  • These are great arguments....but could you post links that explicitly state that these were also the arguments that were cited as part of the creation of each republican system (Mexico's and the U.S.'s for example)?
    – isakbob
    Aug 30, 2019 at 17:00
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    @ASimpleAlgorithm - Both extremes are problems in the same sense: There's some group of voters that has their opinions' effect minimized. With all states equal, then a voter in a populous state has a tiny fraction of the influence that a voter in a sparsely populated one. With direct democracy, the voters in a small state have less influence as a group than those in larger ones, even if their individual votes count the same. Whether either of those is a "problem" for any given function of government (such as commerce) is more debatable. Agreed on governing at the state level, though.
    – Bobson
    Aug 30, 2019 at 17:17

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