The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy, tweeted none other than Donald J. Trump on November 6th, 2012. Six years later, this disaster of a system helped him win the presidency.
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The following months saw recounts, protests, and anger, as many Americans, especially Democrats, were upset and incredulous that Trump became president, despite Clinton winning almost three million more votes. This is not the first time a president has lost the popular vote but still won the electoral votes; Benjamin Harrison, Rutherford B. Hayes, and George W. Bush were all elected under the same circumstances. Nonetheless, this seemingly unprecedented event provoked Hillary Clinton to call for the Electoral College to be eliminated. Both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton were wrong; the Electoral College is an important system to our great republic that should not be abolished in favor of a popular vote system.
It is important to understand the constitutional and philosophical basis for the Electoral College in order to realize its true purpose. As shown in the Federalist Papers, the Founding Fathers were afraid of pure democracy, which in past cases, devolved into tyranny of the majority, in which as small as 51% of the population could democratically oppress the minority (Madison 10). The Electoral College, as well as various other aspects of our government, was created to prevent that from happening. A candidate has to represent the interests of many different kinds of people
The Electoral College is necessary because of differences in voter turnout state by state due to various factors that make it easier or harder to vote. According to a political science study done by Northern Illinois University, Jacksonville University, and Wuhan University, there is a vast difference in voter turnout due to different voter laws in different states. The study shows Oregon, Colorado, and California as the easiest states to vote, and Mississippi, Virginia, and Texas as the most difficult to vote based on restrictive voter laws. Other factors that could determine voting opportunity include distance to nearest polling place, cost per voter, or weather on election day. A snowfall in Maine would decrease the overall vote for that state compared to Florida. Voters in rural Montana may have to travel hours to the nearest polling station compared to New Yorkers who can walk two blocks to vote. A convicted felon may be eligible to vote in one state but not another. In a popular vote system, states with factors that make it easier to vote will dominate the popular vote, but states that have factors that decrease voter turnout will suffer. A candidate may win an entire election based on which states are easier to vote in rather than the overall will of the people. The Electoral College deals with this issue by granting electoral votes based on overall state population, not voter turnout.
Many opponents of the Electoral College are troubled that an elector can legally change his vote and go against which candidate was most popular in the electorr’s state. I completely agree, which is why I am glad that electors are appointed by the party that won the state and almost never go against their pledge to support the candidate of their party. However, one assertion these protesters make that I disagree with is the claim that candidates only have to represent swing states in order to win. This conveniently ignores the fact that the way states vote changes greatly over time. California, which is now a deep blue state, voted Republican for six elections straight until it flipped blue in 1992. Virginia also voted Republican for ten straight elections until it flipped and became a purple state in 2008, and is turning bluer and bluer due to the greater appeal of Democrats than Republicans. A political party cannot just ignore their safe states in favor of swing states, or they will lose it sometime in the near future. This is why Hillary Clinton lost Wisconsin, a consistently blue state, after neglecting to campaign there in the fall of 2016, and instead visited swing states.
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