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.
10. Popular 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.
9. Swing States
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.
8. Safe States
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.
7. Distribution 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.
6. Distorts 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.