Judge Posner gives "five reasons for retaining the Electoral College despite its lack of democratic pedigree." He says they're all "practical reasons, not liberal or conservative reasons." I disagree with all of them, but especially this one:
3) Swing StatesSure, they pay the most attention now — because the current system makes their vote matter a lot more than those of voters in most states. Maybe the voters in those other states would start paying more attention if they knew their vote was as important as everyone else's!
The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes induces the candidates—as we saw in last week’s election—to focus their campaign efforts on the toss-up states; that follows directly from the candidates’ lack of inducement to campaign in states they are sure to win. Voters in toss-up states are more likely to pay close attention to the campaign—to really listen to the competing candidates—knowing that they are going to decide the election. They are likely to be the most thoughtful voters, on average (and for the further reason that they will have received the most information and attention from the candidates), and the most thoughtful voters should be the ones to decide the election.
And how does Posner get to decide which voters are more "thoughtful" than others? There are a couple huge problems with this. The most fundamental problem is that this isn't Posner's decision to make. In fact, it isn't anyone's decision to make: no one should have the authority to decide which states' voters get to be counted as more thoughtful than other states'. Everyone who's eligible to vote should have the chance to make a thoughtful decision and to have their vote count equally.
It's also naive to think that what distinguishes swing-state voters is that they're just really smart at deciding on a candidate. In fact, there is no category of voters that can be counted on to make objective, well-informed decisions. Everyone is influenced by their self-interest. People in some states care about ethanol in ways that people in non-decisive states don't, and this has a huge effect on federal policy.
Posner's "reason" for the electoral college actually restates the main problem with the electoral college: it privileges some voters' opinions far above other voters'. The fact that the electoral college is empowering to voters in some states is not a good thing; it's a bad thing, because the more you empower the voters in those states, the more you disempower voters in other states. There should only be such an imbalance in the democratic process if there's an extraordinarily strong justification. Considering how arbitrary state boundaries are, the possibility of vague differences among voters in different states isn't enough.