Pro/Con Electoral College

Is this system really a reflection of the people?

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Pro/Con Electoral College

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*Con* We don’t need the Electoral College, we need change – Emily Francis

Many times I have sat in Mr. Peters’ classroom for World History and discussed the concept of democracy. As taught in our current curriculum, the definition of a democracy is rule by the people and for the people. All power should lie with the people.

So, why is it that five total elections in America’s history have ‘elected’ a president that wasn’t the candidate with the majority support of the people?

We have an electorate system ruled by the Electoral College, which gives each state a certain number of electoral votes. The general population votes, and the electors, using the popular vote as a guide, determine the winner for their state. The number of electors per state is equal to the number of representatives and senators that a state holds in Congress.

The original purpose of the Electoral College was to compromise between small states and large states in an volatile era of our nation’s founding. However, this system was created by our founding fathers, hundreds of years ago. Now, more than ever, modern Americans and young people especially are actively staying informed on politics. We are seeing more input from new voters trying to make their voices heard, so why do we still need the Electoral College?

A popular vote would reflect the views of the American people better than the Electoral College.

In a poll by CBS news, 54 percent of Americans wished to get rid of the Electoral College and change to elections purely by popular vote. Ultimately it is doing more ‘harm’ than good. And by “harm” I mean “not representing the peoples voices” as a democracy should do.

In addition, the electoral college was created during the time of slavery.

Back then, our government counted African Americans as ⅗ of a person so slave states got more electoral votes. I don’t believe we should keep a system that benefited people in states who didn’t count Africans Americans as complete, able-bodied people.

According to an article written by the editorial board of the New York Times, the electoral college “tips the scale in favor of the smaller states.” Under this system, a vote from a citizen in Wyoming counts 3.6 times as much as a Californian’s.

Why should the vote of someone from Wyoming be more important than the vote of someone from California? This system gives a disproportionate advantage to smaller states because the weight of their votes is magnified in comparison to individual votes from larger states.

In the 2016 presidential election, Donald Trump won because of the electoral college, even though Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of 2,865,075 votes. Now, it doesn’t matter who you support or which party you’re a part of, this election clearly didn’t represent the opinions of the majority of American people. How can it have, when the majority of the people voted for one candidate, but due to the Electoral College’s system, the other was elected? This wasn’t just a one-time fluke; it has happened, like I said, four times before.

However, in the grand scheme of the United States’ 58 presidential elections, time doesn’t hold much weight. Most of the time, the Electoral College does represent the popular opinion — some feel that if we were to get rid of the Electoral College, their vote wouldn’t matter because they would be almost insignificant compared to the views of the whole country — and the decision could be made by large states like California or New York.

This system must have been created for a reason: to make sure the small states have their opinions heard, to make sure a president doesn’t win just because they get the votes of the majority of a densely populated state.

However I think the opposing arguments are outweighed by the outdated nature of this system.

There is no reason that a Californian’s vote should count less than that of a citizen of any other state. Getting rid of the electoral college would insure the equal representation of people’s voices. We need to take a hard look at our system and see if it is really representing the views of the people and whether it represents our democracy.

*Pro* In defense of the Electoral College – Angus Hsieh

The first time I learned about the Electoral College was in 7th grade. My teacher explained that the way in which we elect the president, our commander-in-chief, was not done by the people directly, but rather by the candidate winning “points” from states. I distinctly remember thinking at the time how foolish, impractical and undemocratic this system was (democracy had been a concept we spent a lot of studying in class). The  Electoral College seemed to contradict everything I knew about what it means to live in a democratic society.

Ever since the 2016 election between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, the use of the Electoral College has been a widely debated topic throughout the United States, including here at school. The main argument most people bring up is that the Electoral College is outdated, and that it doesn’t represent the views of the people. For the longest while, I completely agreed.

Before continuing further, I’d like to first clarify that I am not by any means a passionate advocator of the Electoral College. I’m not jumping out of my chair and screaming to keep it, but at the same time I don’t want to see the system abolished either. Certainly, I have my opinions on flaws in our election system. It is not perfect, but it is a carefully crafted product of compromise through considerable debate and deliberation that has endured through centuries.

The crux of the argument put forth by opponents of the Electoral College is that it is undemocratic and unfair because it has at times misrepresents the popular vote.

Yes, that is absolutely true, but purposefully done by design. The United States has never been a direct democracy. Sure, we have democratic practices such as rule of law, individual rights, open elections etc., that are essential to a democratic nation. But ever since the ratification of the Constitution in 1787, our system of government has always operated as a constitutional republic, based on constitutional law and representative rule.

This common misconception between a democracy and a republic in our system of government is crucial to understanding the Electoral College debate and why the Electoral College is needed.

In the 2016 election, Donald Trump received 304 electoral votes while Hillary Clinton received 227 electoral votes. Clinton, however, received around 2.8 million more popular votes than Trump.

Why then, did the framers of the Constitution refuse to simply allow the candidate with the most votes to claim victory? Election through popular vote, or essentially a system of pure majority-rule democracy, was never the intent of the Framers.

Alexander Hamilton spoke vehemently against a pure democracy, saying in his first speech at the New York Ratifying Convention, “The ancient democracies, in which the people themselves deliberated, never possessed one feature of good government. Their very character was tyranny; their figure deformity: When they assembled, the field of debate presented an ungovernable mob, not only incapable of deliberation, but prepared for every enormity.”

I don’t think we give enough credit to our Founding Fathers for their invention of the Electoral College. It’s as if we think they didn’t deliberate vigorously, didn’t study history of other democracies and didn’t compromise with each other to establish a system that allows for the co-existence of numerous different states to legitimately elect a president. They understood that pure democracy can lead to mob rule, tyranny of the majority and the silencing of the minority voice.

Currently, the Electoral College system works by giving each state electoral votes equal to the number of members it has in Congress. For example, California’s 55 electoral votes come from our 53 members in the House of Representatives and two members in the Senate. In order to win the presidency, the candidate must get 270 of the 538 electoral votes available.

What makes this system superior to direct voting is that it gives a voice to all of the Americans living in small states to express their choice for the president-elect. Why even care about Wyoming, Vermont, Delaware, Rhode Island, and Montana –– only adding up to just over 4 million people –– when you can just appeal to the masses of 40 million in California, or the 30 million people living in Texas alone? If the U.S. adopted a popular vote system for electing the president, the running candidate wouldn’t even need to bat an eye at the regions with comparatively small populations, and would instead purely focus on heavily populated metropolitan areas.

The Electoral College works to protect our country from this misrepresentation of nationwide values by allowing the presidential election to be divided into 50 separate elections –– 50 states plus the District of Columbia. What’s important to remember about the United States–– what makes it unique –– is that the U.S. isn’t supposed to be one country divided into smaller sections or provinces. Rather, it is a union of numerous, distinct, and diverse states coming together to form a nation. The office of the president was never intended to be chosen by the people, it was meant to be elected by the states.

Personal political views aside, one glance at the 2016 election map vote reveals that an overwhelming majority of our country’s counties wanted Donald Trump for president. Where are all the votes for Hillary Clinton coming from? Mainly California and New York, both densely populated and deep blue states. TIME news reported that in the 2016 presidential election, approximately 2600 counties voted for Trump, while only 500 counties voted for Clinton.

That is what fair elections look like. Highly populated pockets of mass political-ideological homogeneity shouldn’t determine the results for a entire society across a continent spanning two oceans with highly diversified groups of people, cultures and regional differences.
The Electoral College keeps the voices of all Americans in all states alive. It’s been a highly misunderstood system that has all the while maintained stability in our nation for more than 240 years. For a country as vast and diverse as ours, I think the Electoral College has done us well.