Two of the last three presidents failed to win more votes than their opponent but still won the presidential election thanks to the Electoral College.
This is a problem.
This is a problem because one person’s vote should not be more valuable than another’s. As a nation, if we want to live up to the idea that “all men are created equal” then we need to, at the very least, ensure that everyone’s votes are counted equally. This is not a call for some radical new form of government, or to erase the foundation of our government. It is simply a call for the United States to become a fair and equal democracy.
The Electoral College is the system by which the United States chooses its president. States are each allotted two electoral votes as a baseline and are then distributed more electoral votes based on their population. Each state government is allowed to cast their electoral votes however they would like, but every state holds a vote for state citizens and generally casts their electoral votes based on the results.
This system is archaic and has flaws built into it.
For example, in many states the presidential candidate who wins the majority of the votes from state citizens gets 100% of the state’s electoral votes, even if they only win 51% of the votes, completely negating 49% of the citizen’s votes.
There is also the simple fact that, while historically rare, it is technically and legally possible for a state’s government to cast its electoral votes against the wishes of its population and against the results of the state’s popular vote, completely sidestepping the entire democratic process.
Perhaps the biggest and most controversial flaw within the Electoral College is how the electoral votes are distributed between states. Because each state gets two bonus electoral votes regardless of population, a person’s vote in a less populous state, like Rhode Island, is worth more than a person’s vote in a more populous state, like Texas. The president affects the individual lives of the people in both those states equally, but, because of the Electoral College, they do not have an equal say in who the president is. This is wrong, one man’s vote is not worth more than another’s in a successful democracy.
This is why the Electoral College needs to be reformed or removed entirely.
Some would argue that to replace or undermine something so ingrained within the constitution is harmful to the authority of the Founding Fathers, but is that a bad thing? Was the women’s suffrage movement not also harmful to the authority of the Founding Fathers, who would have never agreed with the 19th amendment?
The Founding Fathers were nothing more than men, influential men, but men nonetheless. They are not gods that modern America is bound to obey or seek approval from, and they knew this. Just like they knew that the constitution was merely a piece of paper that would slowly become outdated, hence the inclusion of amendments.
The reality is, the people should not be bound to defend the rights of the constitution, the constitution should be bound to defend the rights of the people, even if that means it has to be changed. And make no mistake, the right of the people, their right to choose their own leader, is being attacked because of the Electoral College.
Some would argue that the Electoral College is an important tool against majority oppression of the minority, and while this is a nice idea in theory, it fails to live up to reality. The reality is that the Electoral College actually strips the power to vote away from minority communities within states, thanks to the way most states cast their electoral votes (most states cast all of their electoral votes for whoever wins a simple majority within the state).
For example, in California, the votes of rural, conservative farmers are completely negated by the large liberal metropolitan areas that dominate its electorate. The Electoral College makes it so that they, and others like them in similar states, have no say in who their president is.
Additionally, the majority of ethnic minority voters in the U.S. voted for the Democratic Party in the 2016 presidential election, but, thanks to the Electoral College, those votes were undermined and the Republican Party won the election despite the Democratic Party winning the most votes.
The reality is that the Electoral College does not protect American citizen’s votes, it only serves to disenfranchise them and take away the power of their vote.
Some would argue that getting rid of the Electoral College will hurt state’s rights, however, it is more than possible to institute a national popular vote while also maintaining the power of the states to hold their own election and report their own results. In such a scenario the amount of rights held by the states would not increase or decrease. The amount of power the president has as the head of the executive branch and the power the federal government has as a whole compared to the power of the states are both topics worthy of concern and certainly worthy of debate, however, getting rid of the Electoral College and relying on a popular vote does not actually increase the amount of power the president or the federal government holds. Getting rid of the Electoral College doesn’t give more power to the federal government at the expense of the state, it gives power to the people at the expense of an archaic system constructed by an aristocratic elite.
So how do we combat the Electoral College?
The best thing would be for an Amendment to the Constitution to change the system, officially abolish the Electoral College, and institute a national popular vote. However, this would be incredibly difficult and is all but impossible without major legislative reform since it would require many of the politicians and many of the states that the Electoral College unequally favors to essentially vote against their own self-interests.
A more feasible plan is raising support for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). Here is an educational video that explains exactly how NPVIC works within the Electoral College to subvert it. It is, essentially, a legal agreement between states who have passed the bill to cast all of their electoral votes in favor of the presidential candidate who wins the national popular vote, with the caveat that it does not go into effect until the states who have signed on, as a group, control a majority of the electoral votes. This would result in the same thing as a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College and institute a popular national vote while being much easier to achieve. This is already gaining momentum as 16 states have already enacted it into law and it has also passed both houses of the legislature in several states including Michigan.
Reforming the Electoral College and fixing many of the problems inherent within the system by which U.S. presidents are elected is long overdue.