Top 10 Reasons It’s Time to Abolish the Electoral College
This November was no doubt an exciting one. For what seemed like an eternity, multiple candidates battled for the title of American President, each spending millions of dollars on campaign advertisements, media engagements, and travel tickets to proclaim their ideas and aspirations to the American people. As citizens of the United States, we watched with fervor. Over the course of several months, we watched as each of the candidates took the stand to proclaim their views and describe how they would fix our financial crisis, aid foreign policy, and enhance healthcare and education for millions around the nation. Over time, we began to form opinions about certain candidates based on our own personal experiences and beliefs. Then, on November 8th, we were prompted to go to our local office and cast our vote for the one person we thought would be best suited for American President. Many of us did this with pride and great dedication to the red, white, and blue. For those of us who can vote, we have been told time and time again that our vote matters. We beg to ask, does it? Few people have a true understanding of the Electoral College and what happens to our vote after it is cast in our local office. The Electoral College is simply a process, not a place or a person. It was established as a compromise between Congress and the citizens of the United States. Considering it was put into place hundreds of years ago, is it still an effective system? Here are ten reasons why it is time to abolish the Electoral College.
10Popular Vote versus Electoral Vote – Winner Takes All
One of the biggest issues with the Electoral College is the fact that winner takes all. A candidate, for instance, could win the majority of the popular vote, but lose according to the Electoral College. This has happened quite a few times in the past. In fact, sources cite that it has happened a total of four times in the past 56 Presidential elections. Statistically, it happens more than seven percent of the time. Take a look at our latest presidential election, for instance. This is precisely what happened between Republican candidate, Donald Trump, and Democratic nominee, Hilary Clinton. Despite other candidates in the running, the vote largely came down to these two individuals. For months preceding Election Day, Hilary Clinton led the polls and was the nation’s favored candidate for President. On Election Day, however, the results showed something quite different. Although the Electoral College doesn’t recite its final tally until December 19, 2016, the standing vote shows a Trump Victory. Trump secured a total of 279 Electoral votes compared to Clinton’s 228. According to the Electoral College, it is safe to say that Donald Trump won the Presidential Election. If you were to look at popular votes, however, Clinton would have won with 59.6 million votes, as compared to Trump’s 59.4 million. So, how does a President deal with the fact that he or she is assuming a role that was largely favored for someone else? Is it fair that the people could favor one person and then the Electoral College could vote for someone entirely different? Regardless of how many people vote or who they vote for, each state (with the exception of Maine and Nebraska) gets a set number of Electoral Votes that will ultimately determine who is selected for Presidency.
When it comes to analyzing the Electoral College, another cause for concern are swing states. Swing states are just as they are described. They are states that do not traditionally vote one way or another; hence, they “swing” from party to party depending on the election. Past Presidential elections have been decided in these states by a relatively slim margin. Florida, New Mexico, and Ohio are all great examples of this. So, why are swing states an issue? The fact that there are swing states means that presidential candidates typically spend more time convincing citizens in these states to vote for them and less time convincing those in other states. While this is certainly not true in every situation, it is an accurate statement when looking at the big picture. Traditionally, presidential candidates will spend more time, energy, and money working with swing states as compared to others. This begs the question – is this a fair process? Why should some states be granted more time and energy as compared to other states? Why should political candidates dedicate more of their time campaigning to citizens in some locations versus other areas? We should promote a system that allows every state and every person in those states to matter.
We cannot talk about swing states without also mentioning safe states. For many of the same reasons, safe states present an issue when it comes to analyzing the Electoral College. In the United States, there are a handful of states that largely favor one party. States like Alaska and Utah have largely voted Republican for the last ten Presidential Elections. Looking ahead, it is probably safe to assume that these states will most likely vote Republican, again, come the next Presidential election. So, why is this an issue? There are two reasons why safe states present a problem. If you are an individual living in a Republican safe state and you wish to vote Democrat, your vote, in the grand scheme of things, won’t account for much in your state. This is where people begin to question whether or not their vote actually counts. Why should people spend so much time showing support for a candidate if their vote isn’t going to make a difference in the overall election? While all votes count in local and state elections, such votes would not really count on a national level. In addition, candidates typically spend a lot more time in swing states and often pass through safe states. If a Presidential candidate knows that a state traditionally votes in one direction, why are they going to waste their time? Rather, they can be spending their time and money campaigning in a state where they can secure a questionable vote. While this might make sense, campaigning hard in swing states and blowing through safe states diminishes important political conversations in some areas. If people are not encouraged to engage in meaningful, political conversation and vote with the same fervor as those in swing states, it could very well weaken American Democracy and create an unfair balance in an already skewed system.
7Distribution of Electoral Votes
Opponents of the Electoral College also feel that the distribution of Electoral Votes is uneven and unfair between states. When the Electoral College was first put into place, it was intended as a compromise between Congressional votes and the votes of United States citizens. In part, it was established to make every citizen and every state feel accounted for and important in a federalist government. When the Electoral College was first created, they knew that they could not base the number of votes each state received on its population alone. Smaller, rural states, in this case, would be completely irrelevant in an election. As a result, they gave each state a minimum of three electoral votes. While this certainly helped to ensure that smaller, more rural states had a say in a presidential election, it also created some disparities. If you were to compare the population and number of electoral votes of Texas versus the population and number of electoral votes of Wyoming, you can clearly see where the discrepancy lies. Wyoming has three electoral votes for a little over 500,000 people, while Texas has 32 electoral votes for roughly 25 million people. If you were to break down the number of people per electoral vote, there are way more people per elector, if you will, in Texas than in Wyoming. So, why does this matter? Smaller states, as a result, have greater Electoral power per person. This means that the value of one’s vote changes depending on what state they live and vote in. When it comes to adequately running a Democratic nation, this is an unfair and unjust way to divide the votes and calculate the results.
6Distorts Presidential Politics
There is no doubting the fact that the Electoral College is archaic in both design and function. During the Constitutional Convention of 1787, members mulled over a wide range of electoral systems, including selection by Congress, selection by Governors of the state, selection by state legislatures, selection by a special sub-group of congressional members, and selection by direct, popular election. After debating and exhausting all possibilities, the Electoral College, in its most basic form, was established. This was well over 200 years ago where there were far less people, much less people who were educated and as engaged in political conversation as there are now. While amendments have been passed and revisions have certainly been made, it is time to create a system that can adequately cater to twenty-first century demands. One of the biggest issues is that the old, outdated system distorts presidential politics. The constitution contains minimal provisions when it comes to deciding who each state’s electors are going to be. The political parties in each state pull together of group of possible electors. Then, on November 11th, voters elect their electors when they cast their ballots for U.S. president. While we are given the ability to elect our electors, we are trusting that the electors will make a fair political decision and justly represent the state and its people. There are, in some case, electors who do not vote for the person their state instructed them to. These individuals are often referred to as ‘faithless electors’. Giving another politician the ability to elect our future President, and possibly reversing our vote, is just another unnecessary and possibly dangerous step in the political process. Rather than it coming directly from the people, we have politicians supporting politicians which is not always the safest or trustworthy method of democratic decision.
5Possibility of a Tie Vote
While it is certainly unlikely, there is always the possibility of a tie vote when it comes to the Electoral College. While many of us doubt this possibility, there have been several elections where we have come very close. In fact, there have been two elections in the history of the United States where a tie has actually happened. The first was during the Presidential election of 1800 when there was a stalemate between Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr. While the Electoral College certainly looked a bit different during that time period, the House put forth four candidates and then chose their top two for President. The top two choices happened to be Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, both of whom received a total of 73 electoral votes. While the House ultimately chose Jefferson, it put them in an interesting and difficult position. The House quickly moved to hold a separate vote for Vice President to clear the air around Jefferson. This was a vote that ultimately become the Senate’s final decision. The second time a tie happened was during the Presidential election of 1824. While this wasn’t necessarily a tie, it was a four-way split that failed to secure majority vote. The election was ultimately passed to the House, who chose John Quincy Adams, even though Andrew Jackson had won the popular vote. Although there have been only two times in history where a tie vote has actually occurred, it is always a possibility. In this case of a tie, the election is passed along to the House of Representatives. The interesting thing, however, is that the House is currently controlled by Republicans. In the case of Trump and Clinton, some states hold swing seats. If there was a tie, House members would have to decide whether or not to vote the way their state voted or to vote according to their party. Although this is not likely to happen, it is a situation that can be quite tricky for House members.
4Makes Third-Party Wins Difficult
Those who had a difficult time voting for Donald Trump or Hilary Clinton had a few other candidates to vote for in the 2016 Presidential Election. Jill Stein, of the Green Party, and Gary Johnson, of the Libertarian Party, for instance, were two additional candidates that were hoping to secure enough votes to lock in the presidency. The problem, however, is that the current system is built for two parties – not several of them. While other individuals outside of the Republic and Democratic parties can certainly vie for the presidential title, they often go unnoticed. Their campaigns often go undetected by the general public. In the United States, we have what is known as a single-member district, where each district gets one legislative seat. When the proposed winner takes the seat, there tends to be two dominant parties. Other counties tend to have many political parties, where each district is assigned many seats, not just one. Each party is more fairly supported and doesn’t have to worry about building a massive coalition to secure votes prior to securing the Presidency. They just need to worry about having enough voters to keep them in the running. Often times, they will focus on coalition building after they have stepped into office. In the United States, the Electoral College is a winner-take-all system that adequately supports two parties, making it difficult for third party candidates to secure a win.
3No State Uses Electoral Votes to Select a Governor
If none of the 50 states use the Electoral College to select state Governors, why must states rely on the Electoral College to pick a President? If the Electoral College was such an efficient system, wouldn’t it be modeled on all levels, state and federal? There is not a single state that relies on the Electoral College to select a Governor, and for good reason. Currently, all 50 states rely on statewide popular votes to select a Governor, as well as all members of Congress and state legislators. If we were to model the same process for the selection of a Governor that we do with a President, we would have to delegate a set number of electoral votes based on the population of any given county within a state. The candidate with the majority of the electoral votes in each county would be elected Governor. If this were to happen in this manner, competition would be minimal. Most likely, counties would clearly vote one way or the other. There would be very few areas where voters ‘swing’ from one party to the next, which means that candidates would spend most of their time in these areas trying to sway voters. Most of the campaign dollars and attention would go to such areas, while other areas would simply be ignored. This process on the state level would diminish meaningful competition, stack the odds in one party’s favor, and create many of the same problems we see on the national level with our current system. Perhaps, we should take a step back and remind ourselves why we don’t use the Electoral College on a state level and assess why we are still using it on a national one.
2It Prevents Political Reform
As a nation, we are so used to the Electoral College that it is often hard to wrap our brains around something different. We have been using this system, in one way, shape, or form, for the past 200 years. Although the system has been modified as the years have passed, it is a process that we are comfortable with and, at this point, quite accustomed to. Change is always a good thing, especially as our needs, as a country, change. We need a system that can cater to the ebb and flow of a constantly evolving nation. The Electoral College, although it has been used for quite some time now, may not necessarily be that system. Many other countries use different systems that have been proven to work in one way or another. This is not to say that every other system is foolproof, as they all have their fair share of advantages and disadvantages, but replicating another model could potentially benefit the United States. The problem is that we may never know how another system would work in the United States because we are not willing to try it. The Electoral College is familiar. Despite its faults, it is a process that we are comfortable with. The fact that we, as a nation, are overwhelmingly comfortable with this current process, stumps any kind of political reform moving forward.
1Our Needs Have Changed
Last, but certainly not least, the Electoral College needs to be abolished simply because our needs have changed. The world and our nation was quite different back in the late 1700’s when this process came to play. There were less people and the people who were voting were much less ingrained in the process, in the people, and in the world around them. Perhaps, the Electoral College was an efficient system for the nation’s needs at that time. Our needs, however, have changed and we need a system that is better equipped to handling those changes. While those who created the system never favored popular vote, they certainly didn’t expect anyone to win the majority of the electoral vote, either. Nor did they assume that there would be such a dramatic shift in our nation with the creation of two very distinct political parties, men and women holding seats in Congress and in the Supreme Court, or that an African-American would be serving two terms as president. The system was never intended to be a forward thinking system. It was, in fact, a framework that may have worked in the past, but is clearly a system that needs some serious restructuring to be effective now and in the future.
While there are many fans of the Electoral College, there are many that oppose the current process, and for a good reason. The Electoral College is not a place, nor is it a person. It is a process that was initially created to establish a fair and just system of voting between the U.S. citizens and members of Congress. While the initial framework may have proven useful in the late 1700’s, it is a system that has failed to change with the times adequately. When creating Democratic processes in other countries, the US itself doesn’t recommend that any country uses this system. Why? Because it is an archaic system that has created numerous issues for our democratic nation. As we move forward, we must consider abolishing the current framework to make way for a process that is truly just, fair, and relevant to our 21st century needs.