“Get out and vote! Your vote matters!” Many people have heard this their entire lives. However, as children grow to become adults, many soon question whether their vote really matters when it comes to electing the President of the United States of America. In school, typically high school, government classes teach about the electoral college. There is a brief lesson about it, and then students are left with the feeling of obligation to go out and vote because their votes can make such a big difference, only to find that when they do vote, and their candidate receives the majority of the popular votes, the opposing candidate wins the seat. This makes no sense. How is it, in the so-called democracy in which we live, can someone who receives less votes, win a Presidential election? This is all because of the electoral college which was created at the Constitutional Convention of 1817 as a process to elect presidents, a process that has run its course and needs to be eliminated.
It has been argued that the Electoral College is an embarrassment to America’s democracy. In order to understand this statement, it is pertinent to understand the meaning of the word democracy. Merriam Webster defines democracy as “a government in which the supreme power is vested in the people and exercised by them directly or indirectly through a system of representation usually involving periodically held free ¬elections”. If the supreme power is vested in the people, then why is it that if/when people vote for a candidate and that candidate wins the popular vote, that candidate does not win the election? Richard Lempert, a Professor at the University of Michigan, noted that during the past five presidential elections, the office of President has gone to the candidate who received the lesser of the popular votes, most recently with the Trump being awarded the office when there was no question that Hillary Clinton had won many more or the popular votes. When decisions like this occur, it makes America wonder how much their vote really matters.
The Electoral College is comprised of a certain number of electors, which is based on the number of members in the house of representatives, plus the two senators. Because states have different population counts, the number of members in the house of representatives will differ. Many will argue that this is the best way to ensure that all states, both large and small have an equal playing field, if you will, when it comes to casting votes for the President, and the people of the various states have voted for the electors, so the electoral college is actually a representation of the people of the state. This could not be further from the truth. Just because a person voted for a particular candidate to represent them in the House, this does not mean they trust that person to cast a vote for them for the highest office in the United States.
Discussion of reform and/or replacement of the Electoral College is nothing new. Time and time again it has been brought up as a topic of discussion in the governmental houses. In fact, between 1948 and 1979, it was discussed 17 times (Electoral College Reform, 2017). Both the Senate and the House approved the proposals, but Congress saw things differently and did not sign off.
With the way the Electoral College is currently set up, all of the states, with he exception of Main and Nebraska, go with the winner takes all approach. With this approach, whomever gets the majority of the popular votes in state gets all of the electoral votes. This is such a contradiction to the democratic process. In the Congressional Digest article, “The Pros and Cons of the Electoral College System”, the Honorable Barbara Boxer, Democratic Senator from California, stated that “The Presidency is the only office in America where the one with the most votes can still lose an election”. The process of electing a President based on the votes of the Electoral College in ancient and needs to be revamped.
Despite the many arguments regarding the Electoral College and the unfairness of it, there are still some critics that have brought up some pros of the process. One proponent of the Electoral College says it is “an agent of order and stability” (Thompson, 2018). Thompson also brought up the subject of recounts. For example, if there had to be a national recount, like the Florida recount a few ago, it would be crazy. Michael McConnell, Professor at Stanford University Law School, also brings up some pros of having the Electoral College, one being the amount of money candidates would have to come up with for campaigning. Along this line of though, with Presidential Candidates only campaigning majorly in certain states, it would keep down campaign cost, as opposed to the candidates going to each state to win votes. McConnell also noted, like Thompson, that recounting votes would be confined to one or two states instead of the entire Unites States.