The Constitution of the United States specifies that the President be selected by electors, not by popular vote.
Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress… (Article II, Section 1).
So there is no national uniformity in voter qualification, or in voting methods. Oregon has gone to 100% vote-by-mail. In North Dakota, there is no system of voter registration; voters go to the polls on Election Day, present ID, and vote.
The House of Representatives shall be composed of Members chosen every second Year by the People of the several States, and the Electors in each State shall have the Qualifications requisite for Electors of the most numerous Branch of the State Legislature. (Article I, Section 2).
This section specifies eligibility to vote in Congressional elections. Again, determination of eligibility is the responsibility of the states, not the Federal government.
Just for grins, let’s say we adopt a pure popular-vote system for electing the President.
Two things happen immediately:
- The power to name the President devolves to the states with the highest urban concentrations of voters. Smaller and less-densely populated states lose their voice.
- States could gain power by subverting Federal immigration law and lowering voter qualification standards. (Not that that would ever happen! </sarc>)
In such a system, a vote becomes a commodity, a currency of power, not a transaction between candidate and voter.
Only the biggest mass communication centers get any attention from candidates.
Power is determined by how efficiently and effectively voters can be motivated to vote and corralled to the polls.
How much attention will the 270,000 registered voters in Wyoming receive? Their vote becomes insignificant.
One flaw in our current system is the attention paid to small-state interests when during presidential primary season. The Renewable Fuels Standard, which mandates the use of corn ethanol, is one manifestations this. I hate the RFS, but use it as an example to demonstrate that under an national popular election, only urban and big-state interests (read: CA, TX, NY, IL, FL) will be served.
The Constitution is a contract, voluntarily entered into by states of varying sizes with varying interests. One of the key compromises was the formation of the Senate, in which each state has an equal voice. Absent that compromise, small states had no incentive to ratify. Thirty-seven states have joined and the population has shifted, but the need for balance and equity among the states is the same as it was in 1789.