The debate over the Electoral College is nothing new, with arguments spiking in 2016, after Nominee Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote and the presidency. This result led to many people, especially Democrats, calling to abolish the electoral college. But how does the Electoral College even work? According to the website for the House of Representatives, “Each state has as many ‘electors’ in the Electoral College as it has Representatives and Senators in the United States Congress, and the District of Columbia has three electors.” This group of 538 are actually the ones to vote for president, with most pledging to vote for whoever won the popular vote in their state. Whichever candidate gets a majority of these votes wins the election (history.house.gov). This Electoral College system, however, has a swarm of issues, and is not a good way to select the President.
The first issue with the Electoral College stems from its creation; the problems that the system was made to solve are no longer relevant today. According to a website that lists pros and cons of various topics, “Using electors instead of the popular vote was intended to safeguard against uninformed or uneducated voters by putting the final decision in the hands of electors most likely to possess the information necessary to make the best decision.” At the time, especially in rural areas, lack of proper information on presidential candidates was an issue. However, that is not the case now. “Modern technology and political parties allows voters to get necessary information to make informed decisions in a way that could not have been foreseen by the Founding Fathers” (procon.org). Issues come and go with advancements in technology, and because of this, it is no longer necessary, nor in our best interest to keep using an antiquated, imperfect system built to function in the eighteenth century, when things were much different.
One issue is, of course, the obvious: a candidate can win the popular vote but lose the electoral vote, and therefore the presidency. According to the History Channel, five presidents have won the electoral vote while losing the popular vote. This is possible because “…if one candidate wins by large percentages in a handful of very populous states, for example, they’ll probably win the popular vote. But if their opponent wins a bunch of smaller states by tight margins, he or she could still win the Electoral College. That’s basically what happened in 2016” (history.com). There should not be any type of opportunity for a candidate who the country does not favor to win the election; it’s undemocratic.
Another issue of the Electoral College lies in proportional representation, or lack thereof. “Small states are vastly overrepresented in the Electoral College. For example, Wyoming is given three electoral votes, and California is given 55, which means [California has] 18 times as much power in the Electoral College as Wyoming. The problem is, [California has] 70 times their population. So even though [California has] a much bigger say in the electoral college, [it doesn’t] have as much say as [it] should,” said AP Government Teacher Michele Fournier. The Electoral College votes that determine the presidency are not correctly proportional to the amount of people in bigger states compared to smaller states. This poses a striking and unnecessary advantage towards smaller states. The amount of state electors that pick the president should at least be correctly proportional to the populations of each state.
The “winner-take-all” nature demonstrated in the Electoral College leaves party minorities in states at a disadvantage. According to the website for the House of Representatives, “Most states require that all electoral votes go to the candidate who receives the plurality in that state” (history.house.gov). In most cases, all of the state’s electoral votes go to the candidate that won the majority in the state. This leaves the minority party in a state where there is a clear majority party, for example, Republicans in a Democratic majority California, with little chance of making a dent in the election. This can be incredibly disheartening for voters in the minority, and may discourage them from voting at all. Everyone’s voice should be heard, and everyone’s vote should always count in the election for the President of their country.
An argument for the Electoral College, and one of the reasons the Founding Fathers made it, is that it will prevent the masses from voting for a vastly unqualified president. However, clearly, this is not the case. Reporter Jesse Wegman, an editorial board member at the New York Times, stated, “If ever there was a candidate who should have been stopped by what we think the Electoral College was designed to do, it was Donald Trump in 2016. But the reverse happened. So the reality is that the Electoral College has never really worked as a firewall against unfit candidates because it’s a fundamentally partisan institution” (vox.com). Trump, with his lack of political experience, falls under the category of “vastly unqualified” and yet, the Electoral College won him the Presidency. Therefore, the system no longer works as intended.
The Electoral College is a deeply flawed system, but unfortunately, it is likely here to stay. To amend the Constitution, according to the Washington Post, a two thirds vote is needed in both houses of Congress, as well as the approval of three-fourths of the state legislatures (washingtonpost.com). However, it is important to not be discouraged. Despite the Electoral College and its many issues, people should still go out and vote for their candidate; it keeps the democracy that America does have alive.