Did the Electoral College fail during the 2016 presidential election?
If America is supposed to represent the cornerstone of democracy, it seems to be doing a miserable job. Hillary Clinton has just surpassed a two million popular vote margin over Donald Trump, leaving many wondering if the electoral college is truly representing the will of the people or if it’s an antiquated system in need of retirement.
Based on the Electoral College’s inability to represent the individual voter and the system’s history of allowing losers to win elections, I will argue why we need to abolish the system entirely.
Many Americans are unaware that they do not directly vote for the president on the second Tuesday of November. Instead, the Electoral College creates a system by which voters tell electors how they should vote for president.
These electors are not democratically elected and are free to vote as they wish. While it has never swung the results of an election, there have been 157 instances of faithless electors in our nation’s history. Over half the states have passed laws to punish faithless electors but no state has ever enforced these laws.
Each state is assigned a number of electors equal to the combined total of their Senate delegates and House representatives. This means that each state is given anywhere from three to 55 delegates depending on its population.
The problem with this method of allocation is that it gives small states too much representation and large states too little. Vermont is given three electoral votes when, based on its population, it should only get one. California is given 55 votes when, based on its population, it should get 65. This means that an American living in a high-population state has their vote count for less than an American living in a low-population state.
Furthermore, only two states assign delegates proportionally. This means that in every other state a candidate can win by only a tiny margin of the popular vote and still secure all of the state’s delegates.
Consequently, candidates tend to focus the vast majority of their time and resources on swing states. They realize that a Republican’s vote in New York and a Democrat’s vote in Texas are essentially worthless under a system where votes for the minority party will be sequestered.
Proponents of the Electoral College argue that the system forces candidates to pay attention to the interests of small states. But historical data shows that this has overwhelmingly not been the case. In 2008, for example, Obama and McCain visited only 18 states during their general election campaigns with just two of these states having relatively small populations. The states that received by far the most attention were swing states.
The Electoral College is a bizarre, smoke-and-mirrors system by which 538 virtually unknown individuals decide our next president while failing to represent all states’ interests. Proponents often appeal to tradition, failing to understand that much like other aspects of our Constitution, the Electoral College was built on disenfranchisement. It does not protect small states and it further insulates the political sphere from citizen influence.