Time’s Up for the Electoral College

Every four years during the presidential election, all eyes are on the Electoral College. The winner of the election is not necessarily the candidate that wins the popular vote (the total votes), but the candidate that wins the Electoral College. The Electoral College has generated significant controversy because voters don’t directly elect the president. Rather, they elect a slate of electors who then vote for the most popular candidate in their state. Every state has at least two electors, with more added based on population. The Electoral College is an inherently flawed, outdated form of selecting our next president that is dangerous to our democracy.

Cartoon by Ariana Tackett.

First and foremost, if you are a political minority in your state, you know your vote will not matter. For example, even though California has over 4 million registered Republicans, which could easily sway the popular vote, those votes are essentially invalidated by the over 8 million Democrats who make California a solidly Democrat state. The same goes for Democrats in Texas, who have significant support in major cities, but are outnumbered by the rest of the Republican-leaning state. If our system was fully based on the popular vote, California Republicans and Texas Democrats would actually have a say in their presidency, not be knocked down by the rest of their state’s votes.

Proponents of the Electoral College insist that “We were founded as a union of states. This is what the Founding Fathers intended.” True. Before the Revolution, the states were completely separate colonies with different cultures and values. The 13 colonies only united because they could not stand alone. However, we no longer think of ourselves as Virginians or Marylanders, but as Americans. Most states have both Democrat-leaning and Republican-leaning counties, but the Electoral College expects states to have homogenous politics, which is simply not true anymore. The Founding Fathers intended for the Constitution to adapt to a changing world. All it takes for this overdue change is a Constitutional amendment.

“The Electoral College exists so the 51 percent doesn’t rule over the other 49 percent.” There’s always been a valid fear of having a slight majority in control. That’s why the three branches of government and checks and balances were created. However, the Electoral College does not solve this problem; it exacerbates it. Nobody wants 49 percent of Americans to be unhappy, but it makes even less sense for the majority to be unhappy. Or worse, a candidate with 22 percent of the popular vote can win the Electoral College, which would leave 78 percent of U.S. voters unhappy.

“But voter fraud occurs so much more easily with the popular vote.” Voter fraud is already very rare, and if anything, it is much easier for voter fraud to sway an election with the Electoral College because of swing (i.e. politically competitive) states. In the 2000 election, George W. Bush won by only about 500 votes in Florida, which was enough to swing the election in his favor. As unlikely as it is, someone who seeks to falsify votes can easily target as few as one or two swing states to sway the election.

“The Democrats are just upset because Donald Trump won the Electoral College in 2016!” There has been a bipartisan movement to abolish the Electoral College since 1969, so this didn’t just start when Clinton lost despite winning the popular vote. Again, the Electoral College disadvantages all Americans when the most popular president doesn’t get elected.

The Electoral College’s time is up. It is an inefficient, inaccurate way of collecting votes for our presidential election and hurts every voter, no matter their party affiliation. It is time to fully abolish the Electoral College.