by SOPHIE GORECKI - February 26, 2021 - An overview of the electoral college and why it should be abolished.
Every election year, the subject of the electoral college comes up time and time again, with every news outlet constantly making predictions of the final electoral map and calculating dozens of ways each candidate could possibly win the coveted 270 electoral votes needed to become President of the United States. While it has been in place for 234 years with relatively no changes since it was first adopted, the method of electing the United States’ most powerful official is not without its criticisms.
One of the main criticisms of the electoral college is that the people don’t directly elect the President, a group of political leaders from each state does (Delaney). These electors are chosen based on their standing in the political landscape of the state, most of which align with the political party associated with each state. While 48 out of 50 use a “winner take all” method of deciding the votes, meaning the candidate that wins the popular vote in the state gets all of the electoral votes, the fate of the election still ultimately lies in the hands of the electors, not the people.
For many the question comes to mind: is this system fair? To be frank, not at all. One popular argument for the electoral college is that it ensures that more populous states like California and New York don’t control the entire election, although the reality is that voters in larger states’ votes usually hold less power than those in smaller states. As a result of states like Wyoming getting 3 electors, one for each Senator and another for its seat in the House of Representatives, each Wyoming resident’s vote is worth 3.6 Californian votes (Collin). As a result, the electoral college can misrepresent the true candidate that voters chose, which was also shown by the 2016 election. Despite getting over 2.5 million votes more than Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton still wasn’t elected president because she lost the electoral college, even though the majority of voters chose her to be president (“2016 Presidential Election Results”). Even though the American people selected Clinton, the presidency still went to Trump because of the misrepresentation caused by the electoral college system.
In addition to reducing the power of voters from certain states, the roots of the system itself originate from a dark portion of American history, with many historians attributing the south’s opposition to a popular vote during the Constitutional Convention to slavery. The electoral college was originally proposed by James Madison, who during his proposal stated that having an electoral college could prevent slaves from influencing the results of the election as well as give white southerners more influence. In fact, James Madison was the same person who proposed the three-fifths compromise, which made black Americans count as only three-fifths of a person in the eyes of the law (Kelkar). The racist origins of the electoral college certainly bring to attention that the current system still reinforces prejudice and racism even nearly 300 years later, and that change needs to come soon.
So how should Americans move forward? The answer is to reform the system. Our founding fathers knew that the political landscape would change over time, which is why they gave us the power to amend the Constitution. Putting in place a national popular vote would ensure that each person’s vote has equal weight and that every single voter can feel that their opinion matters. Ultimately, abolishing the electoral college will make our government what it was meant to be: a true democracy in the hands of the people, not electors.