By Braden Nielsen ’17
In defense of the electoral college
People claim that the electoral college is unfair and gives too much power to voters in certain states. The system does indeed seem unfair if one fails to grasp the full idea of why it was implemented. The electoral college blossomed from a distrust of the electorate. That distrust was not misplaced. Studies done by researchers at the University of Cincinnati showed that individuals had opinions on fictitious bills up to 54.7%1 of the time. These people had opinions on something that did not even exist. Why should they be seen as trustworthy?
The people should have some say in governance and probably more than the framers of the Constitution gave them initially, but they had good reason for being skeptical of the will of the people. The electoral college also protects the interest of those in states that would be otherwise ignored because they are so limited in population. Those in Wyoming are not entirely governed by those in New York and California. The problem with straight popular vote goes further than having a few states govern smaller states. The crux of the issues is that our country today is highly urbanized meaning that about half of the country’s population lives within a few large cities which total up to 1462 counties.
The electoral system might not be perfect in making a few states more important and limiting campaigning to those places, but a straight popular vote would limit campaigning to just a few cities who would then choose the president for the whole of the country.
In prosecution of the electoral college
The electoral college is a system based on an archaic view of governance in which the elite rule and the popular opinion does not matter. The framers of the constitution were elites themselves and did not trust individuals to make informed decisions. They created a way of electing a president that failed to allow all people to participate fully in the democratic process. Over time, more people have gained suffrage. From the fifteenth amendment to the twenty-sixth, the voting class has grown. All that remains of this backward system is the fact that some voters have more power when they vote than another person.
Two hundred Californians have less power in voting than a single resident of Arizona in determining the outcome of the presidential election. This disadvantage for those living in large states flies in the face of democracy and should be eliminated. The electoral college also creates swings states. These states are the ones that might vote on either side of the political aisle. These states are the only ones that presidential candidates truly campaign in because the votes in these states matter more than those in others. The electoral system has now failed to properly award the winner of the presidential election five separate times.
In reality, this issue is a bipartisan one. People change their opinions on the electoral college based on who won or lost the election. Both sides, at some point have declared the electoral college to be rigged and unfair to some group or another. All people should be able to come together and agree that the system needs reform. Once this reform takes place, we will once again be able to have free and fair elections for both sides.
Something we can agree on
If everyone in the country participated more in local and state elections, the presidential election would not be nearly so important. Even if the president is elected improperly, he still has to act through others and in opposition to others. If the majority of the country really believes in one party strongly and the opposite side gets the presidency, that president would have no real power and the election would fail to change the entirety of the political landscape. If people focus more on local elections, people will be able to make their voice heard even if they live in California or Washington DC as will those in Wyoming and Rhode Island.