By Nia Anthony
Elm Staff Writer
During the 2020 presidential election, much of the public’s focus has been on the electoral college. The process of electing the next president of the United States is in itself convoluted, and a lot of this confusion lends itself to the electoral college. This leads to a trending question: should we abolish the electoral college?
According to the National Archives, “The Electoral College process consists of the selection of the electors, the meeting of the electors where they vote for President and Vice President, and the counting of the electoral votes by Congress.”
The Electoral College was formed by the framers of the U.S. Constitution, with the intended purpose to give each state an equal chance to be represented in presidential elections. It intended to put “the election in the hands of individuals who had sufficient information to see public affairs through a national and not merely a provincial lens,” according to Governing.org.
A presidential candidate wins the Electoral College vote by getting at least 270 out of 538 total electoral votes. These votes are based off of each state’s number of senators and representatives. While the District of Columbia is not recognized as a state, it is still allocated three electoral votes.
In the 2000 presidential election, former President George W. Bush won the electoral vote but lost the popular vote to former Vice President Al Gore. President Barack Obama won the popular vote and the electoral vote when he ran in 2008 and 2012. When President Donald Trump ran in 2016, he won the electoral vote, with the popular vote going to Hillary Clinton.
In fact, CNN states that “more Americans voted for … Clinton [in 2016] than any other losing presidential candidate in US history.” This was a devastating loss for Democrats across America.
This election, the Associated Press called the race at 290 electoral votes for former Vice President Joe Biden and 232 electoral votes for Trump, making Biden the president-elect.
But even though Biden won the electoral vote, many Democrats are still pushing to abolish the electoral college for a multitude of reasons.
In 2019, Senate Democrats introduced a Constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College “in order ensure that every person’s vote is valued equally, something that’s not entirely guaranteed with the Electoral College system, under which votes in certain swing states can play a larger role in deciding the outcome than others,” reported Vox.
“The status quo is quite undemocratic and radical,” Senator Brian Schatz, one of the Democrats who introduced the amendment, told Vox. “This change, in my view, is an unassailably logical evolution of our Constitution.”
According to Vox, Senate Democrats proposed the change under the claim that the electoral college’s math is wrong, since certain states are allotted more votes for less people. They believe that the popular vote should be enough to go on.
Political scientist Darrell M. West of the Brookings Institute is critical of the Electoral College because of geographic income disparity.
“At a time of high-income inequality and substantial geographical disparities across states, there is a risk that the Electoral College will systematically overrepresent the views of relatively small numbers of people due to the structure of the Electoral College,” West said.
West’s opinion is echoed by many Democrats who argue that the Electoral College only benefits middle America and southern states. The Electoral College is designed so that larger states will be represented by taking into account counties and regions over population, according to the United States Census Bureau. For example, the population of Wyoming sits at 578,759 and the population of District of Columbia sits at 705,749, however, both states have the same number of electoral college votes.
There’s no longer a real need for the Electoral College by the standard of the framers either. American citizens are more politically literate, or are voting for things they genuinely believe in. There are also more U.S citizens with the ability to vote now than there were when the Electoral College was established.
The popular vote is also widely accepted, by both parties.
According to the White House Archives, most Republican presidents have been elected by winning both the popular vote and the electoral vote.
In the five cases where presidents have won the electoral vote but not the popular vote, the popular vote for the losing candidate was substantially greater than the popular vote for the president-elect. From the election of Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel Tilden, where the difference was over 200,000 votes, to Trump over Clinton, where the difference was 2.8 million. These two margins are huge.
The Electoral College is at best outdated and at worst disparaging. It’s time that we re-examined our election system before the next election season.
Featured Photo caption: Each state in America has a set number of electoral votes equal to the combined total of state delegates—numbers that many argue are not proportionate to state demographics. Photo Courtesy of Flickr.