As the 2020 Presidential Election seems to be coming to a close, the question of the Electoral College and its effectiveness is a common discussion amongst those in the political community, as it is every four years. The system was a compromise between delegates who wanted Congress to select the president who were met with fear of corruption and delegates who wanted the people to decide who were met with fear of mob rule. The rest is history, and the system has been used in every election in America’s short history.
How does the Electoral College Work
Basically, each state is assigned a number of electors based on the number of representatives from each state plus two electors for the two senators from each state. So, the population of each state ultimately decides the number of electors. Each state’s party leaders select their group of electors before election day. Then, whatever party wins the popular vote on election day in each state sends their group of electors to a designated location to submit their vote. In some states electors are bound to whichever candidate wins the popular vote however in others electors can vote for whomever despite the popular vote. These votes are tallied and the president and vice president are decided.
Why this System is Flawed
This system has many inherent flaws that need some kind of reform to fix. These flaws include:
- Most States Receive No Attention from Candidates
Because the Electoral College is a winner take all system, candidates focus their attention on exclusively swing states as so called safe states have no chance of providing electors for them. Is this really democracy? This leads into the next point.
- Voters Associating with the Opposite Party in Safe States Have No Incentive to Vote
Our government officials are supposed to be representative of the peoples’ will; however, voters’ presidential vote in safe states’ simply don’t matter and their voice isn’t heard. A Republican living in California or a Democrat living in Oklahoma will have no effect on the election as their state is already decided before the first vote is even cast.
- Citizens Living in States With Populations Votes Count More than Those in Large
This point has to do with the way the number of electors is decided. It is based on population as that is how the number of representatives is decided, however it differs in every state. FairVote.org explains how a vote in Wyoming counts 3.18 times more than the average American as, on average a state is given an elector for every 565,166 people, while Wyoming has 3 electors and a population of 532,668! So your vote technically matters less than that of Wyomingites.
- It Doesn’t Really Protect from Mob Rule
A common argument for the upholding of the Electoral College is that the people could be swayed by a demagogue and elect a leader that is bad for the country, mob rule. The irony is that this is almost as likely to happen in our current system. With the current 270 to win system, NPR found that a candidate could hypothetically win the election with just 23.1% of the popular vote by getting one more vote than the other candidate in the 40 states with the fewest electors. The situation is almost impossible but the fact that this could even happen is remarkable.
- The System is Immoral
Our country is prided on being a democracy, but the Electoral College itself restricts true democracy. Votes don’t hold the same weight, some voters’ presidential vote will never matter just because of geography, and a candidate that doesn’t even win the popular vote can sit in the Oval Office. Does this sound like a just system.
Since the Electoral College is protected by the Constitution, making reform is very difficult. A change would require an amendment that would need to be ratified by at least 38 states. This is highly unlikely as the Republican Party is a fervent supporter of the system, most likely because they haven’t won a popular vote since 2004 and because there are more registered Democrats than Republicans. This makes change difficult so like the founders, we must compromise.
I think that the best system would be a proportional electoral college. For example if the popular vote in Ohio was 50-50 then each candidate would get 9 electoral votes. This would allow for the voice of every voter to be heard no matter the state and candidates would expand their campaign destinations. Although it doesn’t fix every problem, it is a compromise that Republicans may be willing to make and it would be a step forward.
2020 Democratic candidate Andrew Yang campaigned this system during the primaries. His website says “If we’re going to attempt to reform the electoral college, it would be better to focus on making electors determined on a proportional basis.” Yang believes that individual states using this system is a good start to making a change, but it would not be mandatory since states have control of their own election. An amendment would make it forced under the Constitution that every state must use a proportional electoral college, which would be ideal but unlikely as stated above.
Electors from each of the 50 states and D.C. casted their votes on December 14, and it appears President-Elect Joe Biden will take office in January. Biden won the popular vote, thus the people’s voice was heard despite the Electoral College. In fact, in all but 5 elections, the popular vote coincided with the winner.
Although the Electoral College is flawed, it is likely that it will be a part of the election process indefinitely. Every vote is still important as it is one of a few ways you can make a change in society and the Electoral College gets it right most of the time, so in four years, everyone who has the opportunity to vote, should do so. It is a freedom Americans are lucky to have.