The Electoral College Is a Broken System. Here’s How to Fix It | Teen Ink

The Electoral College Is a Broken System. Here’s How to Fix It

June 11, 2019
By EGB04 SILVER, Northampton, Massachusetts
EGB04 SILVER, Northampton, Massachusetts
5 articles 0 photos 0 comments

Favorite Quote:
"The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice."
–Martin Luther King Jr.


The electoral college is an outdated system that was built on a distrust of the American public by elitist politicians who did not believe in a complete democracy. It is a problem that affects every American, and it’s time to replace it with a system that ensures everyone is represented equally, not just voters who live in battleground states. National popular vote presidential elections will strengthen our political campaigns, our elections, and our democracy.


In 1787, during the constitutional convention, the founding fathers decided on a system for electing the president of the United States. They had just gained their independence from Britain, and wanted a democracy with religious, journalistic, and expressive freedom, where everyone had a say in politics and leaders of the nation. However, they were still not completely comfortable with the populist ideal of the people having full power to elect the president. They decided to put in place something that was a little less extreme, and so the electoral college was born.


The electoral college is a system for electing the president where each state has a certain number of electoral votes, based on their amount of representatives in both chambers of Congress, which is based on population. For example, Texas currently has 38 electoral votes, while New Jersey has 14. The winner of the popular vote within a given state receives all of that state’s electoral votes and adds them to their grand total. Whichever candidate reaches 270 electoral votes, or over half of the total of 538, wins the election.


However, there are more complications below the surface. The people who are actually casting each of the electoral votes are people called electors. Electors are appointed by the government of each state. For each electoral vote, there is one elector. I’ll use the same example again: since Texas has 38 electoral votes, it has 38 electors to cast each vote. The same goes for New Jersey and its 14 votes. But, the electors in a state aren’t actually required to vote for the candidate who wins the popular vote in that state. You see, the electoral college was set up so that if the people elected someone who was so outrageous that the electors felt they should not serve as president, the electors could choose to defy the voters in their state and vote for a different candidate. The electoral college was created out of distrust for the American public. The founding fathers thought that the people might be too naive and uneducated to make a good decision about their president. They wanted a democracy, but one that was regulated by the wealthy and the educated. Now, in the case of a polarizing candidate, most recently Donald Trump in 2016, a lot of people felt that the electors should have cast their vote for someone else who was less controversial. Now, why didn’t the electors intervene here? Well, the Democratic and Republican committees are actually allowed to put their own electors in place, meaning that the people casting the votes are extremely biased in one direction or another, so even if there was an outrageous candidate, chances are the electors would stick to the party line.


The national debate over the electoral college has been renewed recently because of the 2000 and 2016 presidential elections. In 2000, Al Gore, the Democratic candidate, lost the electoral college, and therefore the election, by 5 electoral votes, even though he won the popular vote by over 500,000 votes. In 2016, the Democratic candidate, Hillary Clinton, again lost the electoral college to the Republican candidate, Donald Trump, by 77 electoral votes, even though she won the popular vote by almost 2 million votes. This sparked some questioning and resistance about the electoral college; some felt that it had misrepresented the results of these two elections.


There are a lot of arguments in favor of keeping the electoral college and against a national popular vote. One argument posits if the electoral college were abolished, presidential candidates would only focus on big cities, and ignore smaller states and rural areas. This is untrue for two reasons. First, the value of the vote in big cities is extremely overinflated in discussions about presidential elections. The populations of the top ten biggest cities in the US combined only make up just under 8% of the US population. In a popular vote presidential election, if a candidate used all of their resources to campaign in big cities and ignored rural and suburban areas, their campaign would be ineffective and most-likely ill-fated. Second, with the electoral college in place, candidates still ignore rural, and even some urban areas, in favor of battleground or “swing” states. In the 2016 general election, two thirds of campaign events and spending were focused on just four states, and 94% of campaign events were in just 12 states. These statistics show a broken system that devotes all of its attention to a few select battleground states, and ignores the rest of the country. We must to put an end to the electoral college, for the sake of equality, modernity, and democracy.


However, abolishing and removing the system from the Constitution, in favor of a popular vote system, would be nearly impossible. To amend the constitution, two thirds of the House and Senate have to vote for the amendment, followed by three fourths of all states. This is not feasible, because it would require a large, organized campaign, as well as wide-spread motivation from citizens and politicians across the political spectrum, and these things are not happening right now. Even though polls show the majority of Americans are in favor of a national popular vote system, there is not a sense of urgency that there is with other issues. This is not a testament to the importance of the issue, just to the fact that it is nuanced, and does not involve exciting, social politics. However, there is another solution that does not involve changing the Constitution. It’s called the National Popular Interstate Compact.


The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is a bill, written by an organization called National Popular Vote, that would ensure the president is elected by popular vote in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, without amending the Constitution. It is a bill, passed on a state by state basis, that would cause electors within each of the signatory states to vote for the candidate who wins the national popular vote, not the winner of the popular vote within their state. This allows the electoral college to be rendered irrelevant, if not fully not abolished, while keeping the Constitution intact. The compact will only go into effect when states possessing a total of 270 electoral votes, the amount of electoral votes needed to win, have signed on to the compact. Right now, states possessing a total of 189 electoral votes, or 70% of 270, have signed on, and in Oregon, Nevada, Minnesota, and Maine possessing a total of 27 electoral votes, the bill has recently passed one legislative chamber. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is a fast-growing, sensible, and, most importantly, feasible solution to eliminating the electoral college. I strongly encourage the Executive and Legislative branches of the four states I mentioned previously to pass this bill, as well as any and all other states necessary to get to the total of 270 votes and beyond.


The electoral college is a primitive and exclusionary system that must be fixed in order to ensure the equality and fairness of our elections. We cannot let the majority of Americans go unnoticed by presidential candidates. We have to recognize that the electoral college doesn’t allow our elections to represent the whole country; it actively works to make sure only a few states are represented. We must end this inequality by eliminating the electoral college from our presidential elections, via the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Doing so, we will create politicians that work for all Americans, elections that count every vote equal, and a stronger democracy.


The author's comments:

The electoral college was a flawed and elitist system from the beginning, and now it allows certain states to be given all the attention by presidential candidates, while other states are completely ignored. The electoral college must be eliminated from our elections, and the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is the best way to do it.


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