Opinion Columnists Riley Mulcahy and Lenin O’Mahony debate whether or not the Electoral College should be removed. Mulcahy argues for the Electoral College’s removal, O’Mahony argues for the Electoral College to stay.
Pro: The Electoral College Must Be Dismantled
Electors Need to Be Replaced by The Most Vulnerable: The Voters
By Riley Mulcahy
The election of a new president every four years is a showcase of America’s values and how voters want America to be seen to the rest of the world. Voting is a fundamental freedom in the United States, however, it is continually undermined by the continuation of the Electoral College. The system represents a pattern in American politics that discredits the values of American voters and rewards mediocrity and complacency. Originally created to be a compromise in how to determine elections, the Electoral College won against the popular vote, and Congress deciding the new president.
In the 2000 election, George W. Bush beat Al Gore because of the Electoral College, even though Gore won the popular vote by approximately 500,000 votes. The election ended in a recount that was stopped by the Supreme Court, with Bush winning 271 of the required 270 electoral votes for his narrow victory.
Given the legacy of George W. Bush and the trauma associated with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq that were positioned by Bush because of “weapons of mass destruction” (which was later proven to be a lie), one has to question the legitimacy of the Electoral College. With over 300 million people in the United States alone, why do we rely on an archaic system that has roughly 500 people determining the fate of America?
The connection between gerrymandering and the Electoral College must be ridiculed. Both political parties are guilty of gerrymandering in the past and right now the worst offender right now are the Republicans. Furthermore, given the power of gerrymandering in this country by both political parties, how can we trust the electors to make a fair decision?
To put it into perspective, 500 people are chosen to vote for the president of the United States, and there is a history of corruption from both parties. The problem we are facing as a society is we are asking what has become the institution of voting to change, when we still have its supporters running the United States government.
In the 2016 election, former President Trump beat Hillary Clinton by way of the Electoral College, even though Clinton won the popular vote by millions. The Electoral College pushes unqualified candidates to the presidency, and the results can be deadly. Rather than voting with the majority of the voters, America has insisted on relying on a system that does not work.
Every vote must count in order for society to have a fair understanding of the American people. Although some may argue that the Electoral College balances the representation of voters and creates a fair way to service the wider community, this is simply not true. The 270 needed for a win does not represent the millions of people who live in this great country. For example, California has 55 electoral votes for nearly 40 million people, while the state of New York has 28.
The growing political divide in America is reason enough to get rid of the Electoral College. The 14th amendment states that electors must be disqualified if they are a part of an insurrection, Republicans have shown little remorse about the January 6th riots. Therefore, if Congress refuses to do the right thing and rid of the Electoral College, there must be an audit done on past electors and their potential involvement or support of the insurrection and whether they even think the popular vote should count.
The ambiguity that is created based on the Electoral College simply is unacceptable. When a person votes, there should not a discussion on whether or not it counts, which is one of the main arguments people make while trying to excuse not voting. The population of a state should not determine an election, the voters should. If we switch the popular vote, it will give individuals the chance to have true power in our democracy, not special interest groups that are determined to flip a state blue or red depending of the candidate, that is what local and state elections are for.
Even if a state leans Democratic or Republican, a person should be able to vote for their candidate knowing that their vote matters just as much as any other voter in any other state does. We should be creating a more transparent system, not an unethical one. The Electoral College is a terrible politician saving grace because instead of following the will of the voters, a small group chooses what is best for America.
Con: The Electoral College is Essential to Revealing the Voices of All States
While not a perfect system, the Electoral College is a compromised form of voting that ensures that each state, regardless of size, is properly represented when the ballots come to town.
By Lenin O’Mahony
The Electoral College is not perfect, and it was never claimed to be. But it is most definitely the best option we have for electing a president to guide the states and territories that make up the United States of America. We may critique the faults of this system, and we may seek ways to improve the system, but if we rush to abandon the electoral college we will fail to see the faults in the alternative of a purely popular vote. We need to look at the function of the electoral college, and how our country has worked in order to see why it is important we keep this system.
First, there is the history of the Electoral College. This system was born from compromise. Smaller states were concerned about being overshadowed by New York, Virginia, and Pennsylvania. Early on there were suggestions of state legislatures electing the president, and each state having a singular vote, or even possibly having Congress elect the president. The Electoral College was the decided compromise, where each state would have the people vote in a popular election, and the winner of that state would win the electoral votes, the number of which would be determined by the representatives in Congress. This way smaller states would have higher standing in terms of the election of the president, and the people would still be valued in that process.
We are made up of separate states with separate governments and state laws. It is important we do not overlook the importance of these states, and the states we live in. We focus so much on the federal government, on federal elections, we forget how much our lives are actually affected and governed by our states. States are responsible for the planning and paying of roads, public education, provide water, run emergency services, license professions, and arrange elections. That means that the water we drink everyday, the water our children drink, is under the control of our state officials. The safety and cleanliness of our roads is again, decided by the state we live in. Everything from the trustworthiness of our professionals to the quality of our fire departments, police, and medical services, is under the state. Each state operates separately, with different governments, laws, and systems.
Many have argued that the vote of a citizen in a larger state is devalued, which is true. The vote of someone in a larger state will have less technical significance than the vote of someone in a smaller state on the election. But, as frustrating as this may be, it is not nearly as frustrating or as dangerous as a purely popular vote would be. General elections involve presidential candidates traveling the country, going to states whose electoral votes will be essential to their election in order to win those citizens' support. This takes them all over the country, in fact the difficulty of traveling all across the nation is infamous. They travel from California to Wisconsin, from Ohio to Lousina, from Arkansas to Maine. They need those states, those people to support them in order to win.
Now, let's imagine how this would work in a popular vote election. Would our future presidents need to travel to smaller states, to Maine or Arkansas, to Utah or New Mexico? No they would not, and if they do not need those states, they won’t go. They’ll campaign in California, in New York, in Florida and in every other high population state.
Not only will they campaign there, they’ll base campaign promises and goals on those states' needs. On those states goals and desires, and all of a sudden the economies and people of the midwest and the small states will be forgotten. A president could do nothing for the people of these states and never suffer the consequences, because they no longer need anywhere near as many smaller states support in order to win. At a minimum, they will need just 9 out of 50 states to support them, but of course they wouldn’t get 100% support from those 9 states, so realistically I believe they need maybe 20 states support to win the general election and enter the White House.
Now instead of someone in California having a lower value vote, someone in Tennessee has a vote that means absolutely nothing. Now the state government of Tennessee has no influence on the Presidential office, and will struggle more to keep the attention of the federal government. Now, the system that provides Tennessee with water, clean roads, and trusted professionals is considered irrelevant to the election of the President. Because the President will need to keep the citizens and governments of those larger states happy, that will become their priority. The Electoral College forces the President to pay attention to the needs of all the country, to ensure all states and their state governments have an equal voice in the concerns of this country.
If your concern is that votes aren’t equal in the Electoral College, well the popular election won’t fix that. The electoral college is a part of a precarious system which, excluding one civil war, has kept 50 seperate states and governments cooperating and growing. Many of the issues with this system do not require its removal, but simply require states to address those issues from within. For example, there is no federal law requiring those electors to vote according to the popular vote of their states, which causes discomfort and frustration. However, it is within states capabilities to make that a state law instead.
The issue of gerrymandering is also something that can be solved through state legislation and investigation. Issues of racism are problems that can be resolved, and need to be resolved regardless. For example, many complained about the lack of polling stations in communities of color. Even in a popular vote election, that will continue to cause havoc in our democracy, how will removing the Electoral College resolve that? Are such issues that could be solved through the voice of the people within their own state really worth removing entire states from the electoral process? No electoral system will be perfect, someone will always be trying to find loopholes and cheat the game, but trading away the electoral college is simply not the answer in how we move forward as a united and diverse country.
For more information regarding the research conducted for this article please visit the links below:
Defense of the Electoral College: https://edsitement.neh.gov/closer-readings/defense-electoral-college
Information on American Government: https://www.theusaonline.com/government/state-local-government.htm
Melanie Moyer '22,