The electoral debate
By Devyn Shea (TheLorian)
Have you ever wondered why America doesn’t only use the popular vote in Presidential elections? Or why we have the Electoral College? Or even, what is the Electoral College? A study done by the Intercollegiate Studies Institute found that 43% of Americans don’t know or understand what the Electoral College really is. Does this number explain why, according to Pew Research, a majority of Americans think that the President should be chosen by who gets the most votes? In this article I will explain what the electoral college is and the sides of the debate to see if we should keep it.
The electoral college is a group that is called to meet after every election to vote on the President of the United States. The reason this is a system to decide our President is because our founding fathers needed to compromise. Some didn’t like the idea of Congress electing the President, while others thought a direct election was dangerous, because of the mob rule idea. Thus, came the electoral college. Presently, you must earn 270 electoral votes out of 538 to win the Presidency. In recent years, however, many people have stated that we need to change our system. Let’s dive into the perspectives surrounding the electoral debate.
The first side in the electoral debate is the electoral college itself. Many insist that the electoral college is the only bridge of representation between cities and rural communities. It also gives representation to smaller states, that wouldn’t have as much representation in a popularly elected Presidency. For instance, Wyoming has 1 electoral vote for their congressperson and 2 for their Senators. This helps level the playing field more. In contrast, a popular vote election would give Wyoming far less representation, because less people live there than, say, California. The arguments against this system are being increasingly exemplified in today’s political climate. One argument is that it is outdated and that the founding fathers wouldn’t have wanted this at our level of prosperity and technological advancement. Another argument against it is that it can go against what most Americans want. For instance, 5 Presidents have been elected without winning the popular vote. Recently, opponents have argued that this system only makes swing states become ones where candidates travel to.
The second is a popular vote election system. Simply, whoever wins the most votes is elected President. Proponents argue that Americans have been cheated when it comes to candidates winning the popular vote, but losing the election. Politicians such as Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren have called for the abolition of the electoral college voting system. Opponents argue that this will only make candidates go to the largest cities in America and that there would be no need for them to go to rural communities. Other opponents argue that this is not what the founding fathers would have wanted or intended.
Finally, the third system is one that has come up in the debate recently. It is a proportional electoral college. The electoral college now awards the winner of the state’s popular vote all of the electoral votes. With the proportional electoral vote system, the candidates are awarded electoral votes based on percentage of the vote in the state. For example, if you win 50% of the vote in Georgia, you win 50% of its electoral votes. Proponents have argued that this is a compromise between the electoral college and popular election voting systems. It gives third party candidates a chance to win, while also still representing the minority interests such as smaller states. A politician that supports this initiative is Andrew Yang. Opponents argue that this could perhaps incite political gridlock and instability. They point to countries like Italy who have a proportional parliamentary system and that the coalitions must compromise in order to form government.
With all of this said, what do you think? Does an explanation of the Electoral College change your judgment? Should we follow in our founding father’s footsteps? Should we have the person with the most votes win? Or should we reform the electoral college for more representation? I will let you, the reader, decide.