The person with the most votes wins. Right?
In America, the popular vote—the total number of votes for one presidential candidate—does not determine the election. Rather, the Electoral College does.
Each political party has an established base in certain states that always vote consistently. For example, California, New York, and Massachusetts are solid blue (Democrat), whereas Alabama, Tennessee, and Oklahoma are deep red (Republican). In truth, there are only a number of swing states that decide the election. So, even though California has about 40 million people, we depend upon states such as Arizona (7 million) and Wisconsin (6 million) to determine the outcome of the election.
When voters cast ballots, they choose how their electors vote. Voters do not directly elect the president. This is ironic: in a nation that preaches democracy and freedom, voters’ voices are not always heard.
The Electoral College was created by America’s founding fathers because they did not trust the citizens of the country to choose the president. In the late 18th century, most of the citizens eligible to vote were not educated about the issues of the time. The founders were worried that a mob-like group would try to control the government, resulting in tyranny. Thus, the Electoral College was born.
The founders established a system in which qualified intermediaries are appointed by states to elect the president. Those intermediaries are the true electors of the nation’s president. After the votes are counted in a state, the electors later cast their ballots for president as the state voted. (There are rare cases in which electors cast their votes differently from their states’ choice, called “faithless electors,” but this has only happened a few times in history compared to the tens of thousands of electors who have voted as they pledged to in accordance with their states’ selection.)
In 2016, Donald Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes. Even though he lost the popular vote by “a greater margin than anyone ever elected president,” did he lose? No—because he won the Electoral College.
Those in favor of the current system claim that the Electoral College evens the playing field between small and large states. Proponents of the system do not want states like California and New York, two of the three most populous states in the country, having a greater influence over elections than smaller states.
But, land does not vote. PEOPLE vote. And, the Electoral College has the effect of giving an advantage to smaller states. If there are substantially more people in California and New York who vote a particular way than those in Maine (1 million) do, how is that unfair?
The Electoral College is a broken process that no longer serves the purpose originally intended. In fact, it has a chilling effect on democracy. Three million voters in 2016 were not heard. The Electoral College’s time has passed; it should be abolished and elections should be based on the popular vote, the people’s vote. Only then can we begin to fix our democracy.
Photo Credit: New York Times