With arguably the most important election of our lives being less than a week away, millions of Americans are on edge waiting for the results. And while one could cite many reasons as to why they have lost faith in this election, one reason especially stands out: the electoral college has still not been abolished.
Created by our Founding Fathers at the 1787 Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the electoral college assigns each individual state electors based on the amount of representatives they have in the House of Representatives, which is determined by a state’s population, resulting in 538 electors total, with a candidate needing 270 to win the election. The manner in which electors are chosen varies from state to state, but most are selected during state party conventions.
On election day, the popular vote in each state is counted, and whichever candidate wins the majority receives all of the electoral votes for that state — with the exception being Maine and Nebraska that utilize a split electoral vote system where votes are split based upon congressional districts.
While some may argue that this system is one that is fair and effective, it is not. Under the electoral college system, electors vow to vote for whichever candidate wins the majority of the vote, although in 17 states they can legally vote against them. In 2016, seven electors voted against their states, otherwise known as “faithless electors,” with all of them writing in candidates that were not on the ballot, essentially wasting votes on candidates they knew could not win.
And while it wasn’t enough to swing the election, this means that thousands of people got up, cast their votes, essentially doing everything right, only to have been disregarded and ignored by their electors. So tell me, how can a system be fair if a citizen’s vote can be thrown out as if it doesn’t matter?
The United States is a country that encompasses people from diverse backgrounds with differing views, all which have the right to be represented — except the electoral college doesn’t do this, because it only amplifies the views of the elite. Jesse Wegman, an editorial board member of the New York Times, eloquently explains that our electoral college “creates a false picture of a country reduced to red and blue states when, in fact, the United States is a purple country — and Americans pay a huge price for upholding a system that doesn’t represent that diversity.”
In addition, the state in which an individual resides can heavily influence whether or not they vote, which in turn influences the election. Certain states lean more towards one party, an example being Alabama, which consistently leans toward the Republican party, while Maryland leans toward the Democratic party.
This leads to individuals with opposing views that live in these states to feel less inclined to vote because they can confidently predict which party will receive their state’s electoral votes. And this is especially true for those who live in states with large populations, as smaller states are more likely to be “swing-states” that do not have a political lean, meaning that candidates will spend more time campaigning there to win votes while neglecting larger states and their voters.
But the most concerning issue with the electoral college, as evidenced by the 2016 election where Hillary Clinton received nearly 3 million more votes than Donald Trump, is that just because a candidate wins the popular vote does not always mean they win the electoral vote. This means that for the vast majority of Americans, the sitting president is not one that they voted for.
With all of the civil liberties at stake with this election, the importance of voting has been heavily emphasized, but how can we expect people to have faith in a system that does not accurately represent the desires of its citizens?
Though some believe that the electoral college does this by stratifying the votes, the only way to guarantee true equality is by implementing a system that maintains that each individual’s vote is of equal weight and importance, which is through the national popular vote.
By implementing this, voter turnout would likely increase because individuals would believe that they are truly represented, regardless of the population or the majority party in their state, and they wouldn’t have to rely on and have faith in electors to represent them because they would be representing themselves, as they should be.