This relic from 1804 is causing lopsided representation and is counter to a democracy.
BY IZZIE LUND
Over the past four years, the unimaginable has become the ordinary – and it is all thanks to the Electoral College, an outdated threat to American democracy that has normalized tyranny of the minority.
The Electoral College is an outdated relic from 1804 that gives rural states a disproportionate amount of power, cancels out certain citizens’ votes depending on where they live, and discourages presidential candidates from seeking the viewpoints of the true majority.
When the 12th Amendment was ratified, the U.S. was only 20 years old and had just 17 states. According to the 1800 Census, the population across the entire country was about 5 million. Today, 10 million live in Los Angeles County, California, alone. One county in one state contains twice the people today than the entire nation did when the Electoral College was ratified.
It is unrealistic to cling to the Electoral College because the Founding Fathers thought it was best at the time. If they saw our demographics today, it would blow their minds.
Some will say the popular vote and the Electoral College have matched up most of the time, with a few odd elections that are outliers instead of the norm – so is it really worth the energy to try and get rid of the Electoral College altogether? Yes, it is.
The U.S. has elected two candidates in the past 20 years – in 2000 and 2016 – who lost the popular vote, with the Electoral College giving them the victory. Even when the same candidate wins both the popular vote and the Electoral College, it is still inherently undemocratic.
Donald Trump won North Carolina by roughly 73,000 votes. Every single one of the state’s 15 electoral votes are going to Trump, even though roughly 2.5 million people in that state voted for Biden. Since the Electoral College decides the presidency, those Biden votes do not influence the presidency. The reverse is also true – what about the 2 million people in Georgia who voted for Trump? Do they not deserve to be heard? No one’s votes should be cancelled out in a so-called democracy.
Rural states are also disproportionately represented and given undue power. Wyoming has about 265,000 registered voters, with three electoral votes. This means that every elector represents roughly 88,000 voters. California, on the other hand, has about 21 million registered voters and 55 electoral votes, meaning that every elector represents about 386,000 voters.
One electoral vote in California represents more voters than the entire state of Wyoming, yet Wyoming gets three electoral votes. This means that less people get more of a say in the Electoral College simply because of where they live.
Why should 265,000 voters in Wyoming receive the exact same weight and representation as 386,000 voters in California?
Proponents of the Electoral College say that it prevents tyranny of the majority. They say that it would give a few states – California, New York and Texas – the ability to decide the entire country’s fate. They say that the Electoral College grants equality to smaller states that would get drowned out by population.
While they are not exactly wrong, this viewpoint is unhealthy for democracy. Right now, every single state in our nation has two senators, and are therefore represented equally in the highest chamber of Congress. Delaware has the same number of senators as California. While rural states would have less of a say in who gets to be president, they also have more than enough representation for checks and balances against the president if needed.
Also, the Electoral College still makes it so that a handful of states decide the presidency – these states are just different than the crucial states in a popular vote count: primarily Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Michigan, Florida and a few others. However, this has an undemocratic effect on campaigning. Presidential candidates know that they must win the Electoral College and not the popular vote, so they spend most of their time in these swing states and not the most populous ones.
Trump won roughly one million more California votes in 2020 than in 2016. Even though he still lost California, what would happen if he had dedicated his energy to actually campaigning there?
Candidates often must devote themselves to swing states and even alter their policies to cater to swing state voters. However, just because voters in Pennsylvania want certain changes to a candidate’s policy does not mean the rest of the nation wants it. Yet, this is often necessary to win Pennsylvania, a crucial state in the Electoral College.
Swing states should not have the power to influence policy. If Pennsylvania voters disagree with a candidate, that should not be considered political suicide – instead, candidates should have the freedom to try and sway all voters, regardless of where they live.
Finally, roughly 61% of Americans support abolishing the Electoral College. If that does not show the importance of the majority, what does?
Unfortunately, we cannot abolish the Electoral College without a constitutional amendment – which would require a two-thirds vote in both houses of Congress as well as ratification by three-fourths of the states. This is highly unlikely, as Republican states would not vote to abolish the system that has elected presidents from their party even when they lose the popular vote.
However, there is a flash of hope, and it is called The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. The Interstate Compact is an agreement where every state that joins it will cast all its electoral votes to the winner of the popular vote, regardless of the votes in their state. Once enough states – states that add up to 270 electoral votes – join the compact, they will essentially render the Electoral College obsolete and guarantee that the winner of the popular vote would be elected the president.
Right now, 24 states have joined the compact, which adds up to 196 electoral votes. We just need 74 more before we can guarantee true popular sovereignty in the land of the free. Is your state on that list? If not, call your state legislature and urge them to pass legislation that adds them to this compact. Real, democratic decision-making lies in the people and not the land. Let’s get to work.