Segments in this Video

Debate "Housekeeping" (06:00)


Moderator John Donvan explains the format for the virtual debate about the electoral college, introduces panelists, and instructs viewers to vote.

Opening Statements For: Jamelle Bouie (04:33)

"New York Times" Columnist and CBS News Political Analyst Bouie explains the creation and implementation of the Electoral College. Today's Electoral College is different than the one ratified in 1788.

Opening Statements Against: Tara Ross (03:50)

Author, Former Lawyer, and "Texas Review of Law and Politics" Editor Ross discusses the support of the Electoral College by civil rights activists and cites several benefits. Third parties cannot gain a significant foothold.

Opening Statements For: Kate Shaw (04:18)

Law Professor Shaw and Floersheimer Center for Constitutional Democracy Co-director Shaw states that the Electoral College was a last-minute imperfect solution on how to pick the president. She discusses examples in which the Electoral College overruled the popular vote, the potential for increasing divergence, and current practice.

Opening Statements Against: Bradley Smith (04:23)

Law Professor and Former Federal Election Commission Chairman Smith states that majority rule is not the only political value in the United States. The Electoral College recognizes the importance of how electoral majorities are created and has several practical advantages.

Popular Vote (07:16)

Donvan summarizes opening statements. Bouie states that coalition governments are different than the United States where it is problematic if the winner does not receive the majority vote. Ross counters with the need for a variety of voices.

Electoral College (08:06)

Smith considers whether he would create an Electoral College today and counters arguments about coalitions. Shaw discusses system malfunctions; Ross argues that they are not problems.

Geographic Representation (04:16)

Bouie counters claims that the Electoral College ensures optimal representation. Smith discusses gerrymandering.

Q/A: Abolishing the Electoral College (05:12)

Candidates would have to work hard to amass votes. Bouie argues that borders are relevant; lines of connection are not state by state. Ross cautions against assuming the two-party system would remain stable.

Q/A: Future Elections (09:00)

Panelists discuss whether the present Electoral College system favors one party over the other and self-serving interest. Bouie reflects on polarization. Ross agrees that both parties are broken and discusses swing and safe states.

Q/A: Public Choices (12:36)

Panelists discuss the idea that the Electoral College was meant to protect the country from irrational choices, faithless electors, the 1976 election, and disenfranchisement. Bouie believes the Founding Fathers were not worried about mob rule.

Q/A: Nationwide Popular Vote (06:35)

Panelists reflect on establishing uniformity for a national vote and disagree on whether practical obstacles should prevent the U.S. from trying.

Closing Statements For: Bouie (02:16)

Founding Fathers were dissatisfied with how the Electoral College functioned. Polarization in current U.S. culture subjects the country to increasing ills.

Closing Statements Against: Ross (01:48)

The Founding Fathers lived during a unique period where there were no partisan interests and they understood that power corrupts. The Electoral College provides a voice for diversity.

Closing Statements For: Shaw (02:16)

The U.S. has steadily moved closer to the ideals of general representative democracy and political equality. The presidency should not be unchecked.

Closing Statements Against: Smith (02:19)

The goal of the U.S. Constitution is good governance; the Electoral College's purpose is to elect a good president. We should not fear change, but we should be careful before eliminating the Electoral College.

Voting and Reflection (07:17)

Donvan instructs the virtual audience to vote, Panelists consider the 2020 election and the impact of COVID-19 on elections and the mechanism of voting.

Newt and Jo Minnow Debate Series (02:45)

Intelligence Squared is in its third partnership with the series. Donvan thanks supporters and viewers, and highlights upcoming debates.

Credits: The Electoral College Has Outlived Its Usefulness: A Debate (00:14)

Credits: The Electoral College Has Outlived Its Usefulness: A Debate

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The Electoral College Has Outlived Its Usefulness: A Debate

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3-Year Streaming Price: $169.95



Five U.S. presidents—including two in the last 20 years—have assumed office without winning the popular vote. The most recent example, President Trump's victory in 2016, renewed debate about the Electoral College's role in American politics. Supporters argue that the drafters of the U.S. Constitution wisely established the Electoral College to safeguard the nation from mob rule and ensure that voters in less populous states had a voice in presidential elections. But opponents argue that the drafters created the Electoral College to protect the institution of slavery and that, in the modern era, it subverts the will of people and unfairly gives voters in rural and swing states outsize influence. Has the Electoral College outlived its usefulness?

Length: 96 minutes

Item#: BVL237638

ISBN: 978-1-63722-240-9

Copyright date: ©2020

Closed Captioned

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