The Electoral College in Three Statements

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

Following our late 2020 presidential election, I began noticing an increasing skepticism in our current Electoral College’s functionality from an overwhelming majority of Americans.

Based on a recent 2020 Gallup study, three out of five Americans favor our popular vote replacing the Electoral College through a constitutional amendment. Like many uninformed Americans, I was surprised following the 2016 election results that appointed Republican nominee Donald Trump to the presidency despite coming off second to best in the popular vote against Democrat Hillary Clinton.

Chart by Megan Brenan on Gallup

Due to this concern, the Electoral College’s legitimacy and efficiency in having the final decision have sparked many Democrats and independents’ skepticism. Notably, these Americans embody the better part of 61% of Americans agreeing to the US Constitution’s amending.

Be that as it may, most Republicans in favor of the Electoral College see no problem whatsoever and advocate for the necessity of preserving this democratic convention. A large sum of these conservatives embodying a 38% majority in keeping our current system (Brenan, 2020).

As a result, there appears to be a political dichotomy between the American people in deciding whether our representative democracy can benefit and satisfy Americans' popular vote or the Electoral College’s final decision.

Altogether, to get each position’s drift, I will put forth three statements concerning the Electoral College and respond to each of these observations from both accounts’ contrasting viewpoints.

Statement #1: The Electoral College is an inefficient political convention.

Opponents of the Electoral College

  • The inefficiency of the Electoral College’s functionality has occurred a total of five times throughout American history, with two of the five occurring within the 21st century.
  • Such irregularities lead to instances where the American people’s popular vote was antithetic to that of the electoral votes of the Electoral College. This discrepancy between the nation’s popular votes and electoral votes leaves these Americans skeptical of our elections’ legitimacy.

Proponents of the Electoral College

  • The Electoral College’s cumbersome process is not an issue toward this mechanism’s actual purpose, which is interested only in liberty, not efficiency.
  • As Allen Guelzo writes in his In Defense of the Electoral College, “The Electoral College…is an engine of legitimacy.” (Guezlo, 2018), which the founders established as a constitutional reminder to ease off the gas in putting forth significant decisions. More importantly, the Electoral College is a constitutional compromise to eagerly distances our government from the hyperactive impulses of direct democratic governments.

Statement #2: The Electoral College is a swing-state privileged voting system.

Photo from RedwoodBark.org

Opponents of the Electoral College

  • In smaller states, like Wyoming and Vermont, an individual’s vote carries more political weight than other voters in much larger states like California or Texas. As a result, this forces presidential drives to focus primarily on campaigning in these 10–12 swing states to win the presidency. Therefore, creating a presidential nomination to rely specifically on certain rural battleground regions of America causing these campaign trails to overlook or avoid other highly-populated areas.
  • For example, 94% of the 2016 campaigning was in 12 states, to which former presidential candidate Scott Walker of Wisconsin stated, “The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president. Twelve states are” (Walker, 2015).
  • E. J. Dionne describes the Electoral College as a lottery machine. Merely implying that if you narrowly hit the right numbers in critical states (referring to battleground states like Florida), you can luckily override the more significant majorities your opponent has in other states (Dionne, 2016).

Proponents of the Electoral College

  • This safeguard in the Electoral College forces presidential candidates to market their campaign nationally to obtain approval from smaller, rural states like Maine.
  • They were discouraging larger metropolitan populations from dominating the nation’s election. Without this safeguard, these presidential nominees’ agendas would entirely revolve around streamlining their campaigns in highly populated regions.
  • In a word, the Electoral College drives presidential candidates to appeal to a broader range of voters instead of solely appealing to highly populated municipal regions in an incentivized direct national popular vote (Guezlo, 2018).

Statement #3: The Electoral College is unconstitutional.

Opponents of the Electoral College

Photo by Artem Podrez from Pexels
  • Kay Maxwell, former president of the League of Women Voters, addresses this concern of failing Americans’ popular vote by claiming that the Electoral College infringes upon the rule of one-person, one-vote (Nussbaum, 2004).
  • As former Democratic presidential nominee, Al Gore writes, “You win some; you lose some, And then there’s that little-known third category” (Gore, 2004 National Convention). After losing the 2000 presidential election, Gore illustrates the Electoral College’s unconstitutionality when its decision is antithetic to the American people’s popular vote.
  • Therefore, causing skepticism as to whether our voice has any political vigor whatsoever in electing our next president. In addition to asking if it genuinely is one-person, one-vote?

Proponents of the Electoral College

  • The Electoral College’s purpose in the US Constitution is to prevent the worst of human impulses from damaging our democratic framework. In other words, our Founding Fathers entrenched this distinguished institution to avoid any tyranny of the majority from occurring.
  • Additionally, the notion of one-person, one-vote is nowhere to be seen throughout the entire US Constitution, which solely states clearly that each state, independent of population size, appoints only two US Senators.
Photo by Arnaud Jaegers on Unsplash

In either case, must our substituting of the Electoral College with the nation’s popular vote be the only solution for ensuring a thriving democracy? One alternative solution suggests the passing of the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. This interstate agreement requires states to pass legislation allowing all districts' electoral votes to reflect the state’s popular vote. Currently, only 15 states, including the District of Columbia, have agreed upon this interstate solution to the Electoral College’s shortcomings, which results in a total of 194–196 electoral votes. However, for the plan to go into full effect, there requires a minimum amount of 270 electoral votes to bring about a substantial change to the Electoral College.

In a word, out of all American elections, a total of five incidents occurred where the Electoral College’s decision was contrary to that of the American people. Still, with 61% of Americans in favor of doing away with the Electoral College, there remains a hint of skepticism. Is becoming a direct democracy the quintessential solution for replacing our Electoral College to ensure these incidents will not occur again? Or is our representative democracy doing as it was called upon by our founding fathers to ensure the nation’s security?

(Contributed by Christopher Gonzales, Content Writer for VotingSmarter)

Sources

94% of 2016 presidential campaign was in just 12 closely divided states. (2020, October 29). Retrieved February 24, 2021, from https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/campaign-events-2016

“FairVote.org: Electoral College Quotes.” FairVote, archive3.fairvote.org/reforms/national-popular-vote/the-electoral-college/solutions-and-the-case-for-reform/electoral-college-quotes/.

Brenan, Megan. “61% Of Americans Support Abolishing Electoral College.” Gallup.com, Gallup, 14 Jan. 2021, news.gallup.com/poll/320744/americans-support-abolishing-electoral-college.aspx.

Guelzo, Allen, et al. “In Defense of the Electoral College.” National Affairs, www.nationalaffairs.com/publications/detail/in-defense-of-the-electoral-college.

Jr., E.J. Dionne. “The Electoral College Is the Worst of Both Worlds. It’s Time for It to Go.” The Washington Post, WP Company, 25 Dec. 2016, www.washingtonpost.com/opinions/the-electoral-college-is-the-worst-of-both-worlds-its-time-for-it-to-go/2016/12/25/e6ffd052-c958-11e6-bf4b-2c064d32a4bf_story.html.

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