To Fix Our Flaws, We Must Reform the Electoral College

Despite winning by millions in the popular vote, Hillary Clinton is likely to be defeated by Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. This is because the election is actually decided by the Electoral College, a system that gives each state a certain number of representatives called electors that will cast votes on December 19 based on the will of the people in their state. In two of the last five election cycles, the winner of the popular vote has faced a hurdle with the electoral college — Al Gore was one of these candidates in 2000 while Hillary Clinton was the other. The Electoral College is an archaic, outdated relic harkening to the  times of house carriages. With modern technology, there is no longer any need for the Electoral College, as Americans can vote for themselves easily.

The Electoral College is no longer functioning in the way the framers of the constitution hoped — to accurately represent our nation — and has become an unfair institution that undermines the effectiveness of our democracy. It should be abolished, and instead a simple popular vote should be used to decide which candidate becomes the American president.

The original purpose of the Electoral College was to ensure that the choice of the people could be overridden if American citizens elected a person unsuited for the presidency. This idea was based on the elitism of early American politics when leading figures believed that only a select few should have a role in shaping the nation.  The existence of an Electoral College goes against the foundation of our conception of democracy: the idea that all members of the populace should have a role in electing their leaders. Although it was an institution that violated the beliefs the nation was founded upon, it still became an integral part of the presidential election process.

Not only does the Electoral College go against the true basis of democracy, but it also does not work for its intended purpose. During his campaign, Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and lack of policy proved that he is incapable of uniting the country and representing the interests of American citizens from diverse backgrounds. If the electors decide to stick with Donald Trump, then it proves that the modern-day Electoral College will never go against the presumed outcome. The electors should not be blamed for voting for Trump: it would be immensely difficult to make the decision to go against what the majority of people in a state wanted. Instead, the Electoral College deserves criticism as the system that may allow Trump into the White House.

There are several other reasons why the Electoral College should not determine who will take the highest office of power in America. First, in the vast majority of states, the winner of that state takes all the electoral votes. This is unfair because in larger states, the losing candidate may only have been behind by a few percentage points, yet they lose the thousands or even millions of votes that they deserve. For example, Clinton received no benefit from the almost 4.5 million people who voted for her in Florida, while Trump received none of the 2.7 million votes he collected in New York.

A further reason why the Electoral College is ineffective at determining the president is that it gives more power to voters in smaller states. Each state is guaranteed three electors, no matter its population. For smaller states, this equates to a greater number of electors per person than in larger states. Wyoming has fewer than 600,000 people and three electors: one for about every 200,000 people. Meanwhile, Texas has about one elector for every 700,000 people. Additionally, more power is given to voters in swing states, where each vote has the chance of tilting the results of the state to give all electors to one candidate; in comparison, the results are already almost guaranteed in strong Democrat or Republican states, so the importance of each individual voter is reduced.

It is time to abolish the Electoral College as an institution and rely on the popular vote to determine the American president. If America actually wants to represent the values of democracy, then the popular vote is the clearest indicator of who the citizens want to lead the country.

This change is unlikely to occur in the near future because it would require approval from 2/3 of the states to make a constitutional amendment, and smaller states would likely be unwilling to give up the advantages that the system provides them. Still, only when the institution is abolished and the popular vote determines the President can the American people be sure that they have a fair role in democratically choosing the principal leader of the country.   

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