Heads: The Benefits of the Electoral College
Throughout the history of the United States, democracy has been one of the main issues that have been fought to keep. Democracy, as we know it, was created in 7th century Greece, in order to allow the citizens of Greece to have a say in the way that they were governed. There, they created what was known as a direct democracy, which is a slightly different form of democracy that we are familiar with. The problem with a direct democracy is that every citizen votes directly, as the name implies. To most, this may not sound like too much of a problem; After all, shouldn’t everyone in a democracy have a “say” when it comes to the selection of the President of the United States? Although this question sounds very sweet and pleasant, there is one major flaw with it. We are all familiar with the corruption that occurs in the media and society in our form of indirect democracy; just imagine if there was constant political hate ads over every form of communication during election season. If we gave the power to directly choose the next president of the United States the population, this could lead to an uneducated and uninformed population deciding important issues that could alter the lives of hundreds of millions of people across the United States.
Some critics of the electoral college claim that there are many incidences where a political candidate has won the popular vote, but has lost the electoral vote. However, out of the fifty-eight total presidential elections that have been held in the US, the electoral college has only pledged its vote for the candidate that did not win the popular vote, a mere five times: accounting for an accuracy of just over 91%. Now, for a country that has held itself to a standard of “democratic representation”, any percentage over 50% of the time would suffice. 91% accuracy for something people are wanted to have changed, is ridiculous. This would be like if a car company wanted to change everything that is wrong with a car they produced, starting with the tail lights. I do see the point that those on the opposing side make when it comes to popular vote, and how the electoral college should be abolished; However, it seems like we should keep it in place because those are the rules that every side of the political spectrum have agreed to when they began to run for office. To give you an analogy, it would be like if a basketball team made more free-throws then the other team, but ended up losing because the other team made three-pointers throughout the course of the game. Just because you win a majority of the vote, doesn’t mean you should be president. My claim may seem to be outrageous to some people, but allow me to explain. In a simplified version of what I am about to say, it matters where your votes come from. If we did not have an electoral college, then one candidate would just have to focus on visiting and appealing to citizens of populous cities of populated states, in order to win the election. The idea to abolish the electoral college and switch to a direct democracy has been raised after the result of the 2016 presidential election surfaced. To answer the concerns of those who weren’t happy with the results of this election, get over it! Your candidate had a good run. Better luck next time.
Here is one final analogy that will hopefully put all of your concerns over the validity of the Electoral College to rest. Let’s say that you are a student (chance are that you are one) and you are closing in on a final exam which has two parts that the teacher had announce to the class weeks before the day of the test: a forty question multiple choice portion and a free response portion. In other words, everyone in the class had already agreed to the “terms and conditions” of the test that they were about to take. With this in mind, the student is now responsible for studying the correct material and in the correct proportions in order to try to score a high grade on the big test. The multiple choice portion is worth less, since there are more questions and they are generally easier to get correct; while the free response portion is worth more and there are less questions. If you were to take that test and ended up with a failing grade, you may be tempted to argue with the teacher over the result of your test; But, keep in mind that you knew what the conditions on the test were well before you took it. You decide to argue your grade anyways, claiming that you got a majority of the total questions right, but did poorly when it came to the free-response portion of the test. You claim to the teacher is that you should have received a passing grade, since you got a majority of the questions on the test correct. The fault with your assumption is that the questions that you didn’t get correct came from the free response portion of the test: which counts more for your test grade than the multiple choice problems do. You are now mad at the teacher about the result of your test, but the teacher didn’t do anything wrong. You should be mad at yourself, since you knew the topics and the format of the test and should have spent your time studying for each portion of the test appropriately. Luckily, there will be more tests in your future, so better luck next time!
Tails: The Detriments of the Electoral College
The famed and long debated electoral college is the defining factor in presidential elections, yet even so, a lot of people still don’t know what it is. That means they also don’t know the negative impact it has on the value of their vote.
When citizens vote on the first Tuesday after the first Monday of November, instead of voting directly for the president, they’re actually voting for the candidate they want their state’s electoral votes to go towards. Each state has a certain amount of votes determined by population. This system is as old as the nation itself, an epitome of tradition, which, frankly is one of the many reasons it needs to be improved upon.
The fundamental unintended side effect of the electoral college is that it decreases the people’s confidence in the power of their vote, and it does so in several different ways. The most impactful one is party affiliation among the states. Everyone always assumes the California will always be a blue state, while Texas will always be red. This assumption discourages citizens from thinking their vote will ever make a difference, and therefore low voter turnout becomes an unfortunate and distinguished characteristic of the United States. According to Pew Research, out of the most developed countries in the world, the US in 31 out of 35 in voter turnout. This assumed party affiliation also gives immense power to the swing states, states in which the electoral vote could go either way because they are the defining factor of the election. As a result, the candidates spend most of their energy and resources appealing to citizens in these states. For example, both presidential candidates, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, were from New York. However, neither spent much time trying to influence their own home state because New York is always assumed to vote Democrat. Instead, the two focused their energies on undecided states such as Florida and Ohio.
But the real root problem of the electoral college is the winner-takes-all system in the states. In this system, citizens cast their votes for who they want their state’s electoral votes to go to, and the majority wins, no matter what. If 51% of the state wanted Donald Trump to have their electoral votes, then the other 49% of the population was forced to comply. It’s just as the name says; the winner takes all, and often a vast amount of people are left unhappy. This is the system in place for every state except Maine and Nebraska.
None of this is to say the Electoral College doesn’t have any value. It does indeed allow states with a lower population to have an influence in the election. Otherwise, candidates would simply campaign only where there is a large population in order to win the popular vote. However, the winner-takes all system doesn’t allot the votes as fairly as it could. Instead, a proportional vote, where electors are allocated proportionally according to what the population wants, could represent the individual vote much more accurately.
This system is a crucial aspect of presidential electors, so it’s important to know what it is, how it affects you, and the changes you would want to make. There could definitely be improvements. The individual vote is no joking matter. People have died fighting for that right, and the electoral college causes too many to throw that precious privilege away.
Photo Credits: Carlson Toons