Anyone who has taken American history and has an understanding of basic civics is likely aware of the Electoral College. Like many of the systems that make up our government and democratic process, the Electoral College has drawn a great deal of criticism and discontent over the years. Devised as a system to improve the voting power of some states, current views on the system are greatly divided. While some call for the removal of the system, pointing to numerous ambiguous election results, others think that it is an assurance that voters from smaller states got to voice their opinions. Though the effects of the electoral college have caused questionable victories by both parties, the Democratic views on the Electoral College have come to be decidedly negative.
The Last Straw and the Elephant in the Room
Though Donald Trump’s non-majority vote win was not the first, Democrats are largely afraid to see such an event unfold again. Though both parties have lost elections while getting the majority vote, the last two instances on the presidential level saw the Republican candidate as the final victor. While some would argue that the Democratic position on this issue is somewhat politically biased, past examples in history led to problems for the republican party as well. In addition to the upset presidential elections 0f 2000 and 2016, our nation was also in a deeply factious state following the election of 1912. Though most are familiar with the presidency of Theodore Roosevelt, not as many realize the role he played in changing the course of an election. Having left office, bequeathing the position to William Taft, Roosevelt came to find that Taft was not doing the job he had hoped for from him. Consequently, Roosevelt saw fit to throw his hat back in the ring for the 1912 presidential election. Running under the Progressive Party ticket (affectionately referred to as the Bull Moose Party), Roosevelt and Taft split the vote amongst the Republican voters, allowing an easy victory for Democrat Woodrow Wilson, and slowly ushering in the modern understanding of the two parties.
It Ignores Diversity of Thought
Because the Electoral College awards all the votes in a state to the winner of said state, the impact of votes is really only felt on a state level. In effect, those within a state that goes for the Republican who voted for Democrats find that their vote is essentially nullified. This is why the idea of a swing state exists. Because we are forced to tally the results on a state by state basis, many non conforming voters in those states feel unrepresented. This is understandable when realizing that their votes, though still a piece of the popular vote, have no impact on the election results. That is why we have the concept of the “swing state” in places where there is considerable diversity of thought. In a system where the results are effectively determined at the state level, many citizens have less power for change in their votes. To truly understand this effect, it is helpful to compare the electoral structure to the voting for regional officials like senators and representatives. Though not purely like either, the electoral system has elements of both. With the house, predetermined sub-regions of a state vote on someone to represent their political interests. Compare this to the Senate, where two individuals from a state are meant to speak for all. Though this is a very reductive sampling of our country, it is far superior to the former American system, by which Senators were appointed rather than elected. Between the two legislative bodies, it is clear that the more representative is the House, though such representation is also subject to corruption of various forms.
When voters find that their votes are cancelled out by the Electoral College and none of their candidates are being elected, they are often deeply discouraged. When the results are overwhelming for one side with every passing election, opposition voters stay home from the polls. Because they understand the nature of the Electoral College, more and more opposition voters decide against voting. Oddly enough, the opposite effect is also possible under these conditions. As we saw with the 2016 presidential election, those who doubt the opposing candidate may assume that they don’t need to vote for their side to win, instead of uniting to light up the polls. This again spurs from the assumption that one’s single vote is not enough to turn around a whole state, and therefore insignificant. The structure of the Electoral College has greatly encouraged this toxic outlook by making the voting process seem moot to some. For this reason, many Democrats feel that the time has come to bring an end to the Electoral College and reform our voting system.
Perhaps the largest argument agains the Electoral College is that to distill all the views of a states worth of people into these electoral votes is a massive oversimplification of public opinion. If a family of 5 votes on dinner and three of the five choose pasta while the other two choose meatloaf, you are not satisfying everyone. While the ones who chose meatloaf may choose to accept the vote, it cannot be said that they are happy with the result. To take the views of the most vocal in society as the views of all is akin to assuming that all Canadians are polite. The gap in communication between the average person and the government that this creates causes the government to entirely lose sight of the public will. Though all concerned have the right to vote and take part in civic elections, the winner take all structure of the electoral college essentially throws away all opposing votes, or at least their impact, on a state by state basis. Though this does not change the popular vote tallies, it does ensure that only certain votes count toward the result. At its core, the Electoral College is antagonistic to the ideals of a free and representative democracy. Because it takes no value from the votes of countless citizens, the Electoral College is greatly at odds with the morals and opinions of the Democratic party.
- The Electoral College, Congress and representation – Pew Research Center
- The election of 2000 – Khan Academy
- 1912 Presidential Election – 270 to Win
- This is the best explanation of gerrymandering you will ever see – The Washington Post
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