Should the Electoral College Be Abolished?

An argument against the electoral college.

The electoral process has always been decided by a few swing states which constantly switch parties. The previous

The electoral process has always been decided by a few swing states which constantly switch parties. The previous "GIF" is a testament to that idea.

Lord Toussaint, Chief Political Correspondent

Twice in the past 20 years American presidents have been elected without winning the most votes. How does this happen? Should it happen? And, might it happen again?

Ah yes, the electoral college. The institution created by the founding fathers to prevent the uneducated populous from electing a strong man populist (Oh wait); and to compromise between the feuding founding fathers who disagreed if the United States was a union of “states or people”. But the Electoral college was a compromise which gave both ideas an “equally pivotal voice” in the presidential electoral process. But, times have changed, and there is one great problem with the electoral college. It does not protect the rights of the minority in the least bit within states. As we all know, in our hyper partisan society, the line between minority and majority is almost next to nothing and in states like Florida or Ohio. In the last election, the “minority” was in fact the majority, by three million people, but the electoral college, which is supposed to elect the president based on popular vote within the states, failed. Now, this is not a piece in which I bash the 2016 vote because I “hate Trump,” (which is irrelevant to the subject at hand and I don’t hate him) it is a case for the defense of the people.

The United States is a nation which prides itself on individualism and the protection of “unalienable rights” whether you be of the political minority or the political majority. In fact, in what was one of the most consequential and well remembered of the Federalist Papers, soon to become President, James Madison pridefully defended his constitution by telling the people of the state of New York in its first line that, “AMONG the numerous advantages promised by a well constructed Union, none deserves to be more accurately developed than its tendency to break and control the violence of faction.” He told how the rights of both the political majority and minority were protected by the constitution’s proposed Republican form of government. This issue was a major one at the time because the states were like sovereign and independent nations that held different factions with different beliefs which was leading to an un-centralized, unorganized,  political mess. The idea was that Republican government was better than traditional democratic government (an argument the founding fathers had been trying to make for their constitution for some time by then) because if a law was passed on a state level by a faction, the rights of the minority could be protected on a national level if that law was not agreed upon by the federal congress. This adoption of Republican government would help quell the “dangerous faction” from those that could be found in traditional democracies. Or as James Madison put it, “Democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention; have ever been found incompatible with personal security or the rights of property, and have in general been as short in their lives, as they have been violent in their deaths.” So,  it all sounds jolly and good ol’ wonderful, doesn’t it?

Of course as all things do, things change. We are in the two hundred forty three year old United States, the nation of the Democrats and Republicans where both sides take their political rights and influences very seriously. And that’s partially because on a national level, the line between the minority and the majority is almost next to nothing, especially in presidential politics. So, if Americans care so much about their political rights, about the minority and the majority, so much about their personal freedoms and individualism; if the protection of the minority and the rule of the majority matters so much to us all, then why do we choose to continue to abide by an almost three hundred year old political institution that can’t even properly protect the rights of the minority or the majority 100% of the time on a “state level?” Why do we choose to abide by a political institution meant to create a compromise on states’ rights and population power? A compromise which made simply to thrust the political disarray of the Articles of Confederation into the dustbin of history and save America as quickly as possible? Times have changed and as time passes, compromises have been done away with when side proves to be morally in the right. We have scrapped parts of the constitution before and changed to adapt to the time period we live in. Why can’t we do it again with an issue that is so important to us all? You can decide if I’m even close to being right or why we haven’t changed after I explain what the electoral college is and outline my arguments against it in clear detail.

 

An Introduction to the Electoral College, Some Historical Context, and the Union of States and People:

Article two section one of the Constitution outlines the electoral college and how the president is elected. So, back then, one of the greatest arguments of the founding fathers was whether representation in the congress should be equal or proportional to population. For this reason, the Connecticut Compromise gave us our two houses of congress, the House of Representatives and the Senate. Partially because this was at the time not only a union of people, but really a union of what were at that point independent countries with different cultures, industries, and beliefs in general. These countries under the Articles of Confederation formed something like the “European Union” or the United Nations. They all held some common beliefs and wanted to keep the European powers from meddling in their affairs and taking away their independence. Naturally, they felt that if they appeared to be united, they would pose as a greater menace to deal with. But this “independence of states” all changed when the Constitution was ratified. It created a strong central republican government which shared power with the states. Now, the states were really just “administrative boundaries” in a larger state. And as time passed and the union expanded westward, not only did more “states” pop up, but unlike the old ones, these new states were never “sovereign republics” they too were just administrative boundaries.  Now, thanks to mass media and centuries of intermarriage amongst citizens, we have been able to develop one unique ethnicity and culture. When we think of ourselves, we think of ourselves as American’s first. Not, “Floridians first” or “New Yorkers first.” It is what we tell people foreign to our nation and that it is something we have come to know. We are Americans first and states are secondary to our national identity.

Of course, as I mentioned before, this was not the case before. When the United Sates was founded, the states were vying for power and influence. To get that power and influence in electing the nation’s chief executive, the founding fathers created the electoral college, which combined the numbers of each state’s senators and representatives in the house and gave them that number of “electors” who would choose the president and vote for the candidate that had the most popular support in the state election. Therefore, there was a compromise, but as we have seen time and time again with our Constitution, not all the compromises that were originally found were kept in the Constitution because the priority of the founding fathers was to fix the mess of the Articles of Confederation and make our nation strong; they knew they had to compromise so they did and we have done away with some of those compromises. An example of such a compromise that was done away with was the three fifths compromise. The southern states wanted to have more power like all the states did and to get that they wanted three fifths of all slaves (which they viewed as property) to count as people so that they could have more votes in the House of Representatives so they could have more power. This was obviously morally wrong so it was done away with by the thirteenth amendment to the US constitution which ended slavery and the fourteenth  amendment to the U.S. constitution, which made it so that, “Representatives shall be apportioned among the several States according to their respective numbers, counting the whole number of persons in each State, excluding Indians not taxed.” At this point, theoretically, African Americans could participate in their democracy so, in theory, it was an appropriate measure which put an end to the South’s era of a use of the African Americans for their own political gains and attempts to culminate power.

At the time of the Civil War their were notable differences between the North and South and there still remain many, but 155  years after the American Civil War only an extremist would say that America should be split. We are a people with a common history and common purpose of defending our democracy. Despite the political polarization of the present time, most of us Americans still share our love for our country and a national identity. Most of us take pride in the nation we have and wish to better it and our selves, be it in what ever form. For that simple reason we are Americans, we have a common people and a national identity, and are a union of people first, not one of states. And therefore, we are ready for an abolishment of the electoral college in that crucial and philosophical regard.

An Infringement Upon the Rights of A State’s Minority (Sometimes A Majority) in A State Driven System: 

The Electoral College gives people in a state’s political minority little incentive to vote. There are many states that can be immediately associated with being Democratic or Republican. For example, New York and California are known to be Democratic states, while Texas and Alabama are known as “Ruby Red Republican” states. Of course, as in any situation, there is a minority, in this case it is a political minority. For example, in the state of Texas in the year 2016, President Trump won by only 52.53% and Secretary Hillary Clinton took 43.48% of the vote. About four million people voted for Secretary Clinton that night, yet Texas gave 36 of its 38 votes to President Trump and the other two went to Ohio governor John Kasich and former Texan Representative to the US House Ron Paul. None of these electoral college votes went to Clinton even though she won about half the vote! Instead two votes go to candidates that didn’t even have the people’s support! Is that democracy?

This gets even worse in swing states, where the election is always competitive, and the vote is split by a minuscule margin. In 2016 the greatest examples of this “will bent by a few” where the states of Pennsylvania and Michigan where President Trump took the combined 36 electoral votes of both states by a margin of 44,292 votes and 10,704 votes respectively. In both cases, the difference was within less than a percent of the vote, but regardless, the will of millions was forgotten and the Tumpians got their way with all of the electoral votes going to president Trump. Is that really fair?

Yes, the argument will be made that in an election the majority must win over the minority, but as many of us know that wasn’t the case in 2016. President Trump won the majority of states, but he did not win the majority of people. Yet, he still won. Why should Americans trust in a system where not only the rights of the minority are not protected, but where the basic rights of the majority are not respected on a national level. Doesn’t this “majority ruled in the states but not nationally” sound like a bit of a double standard? So someone can scrape the majority in a few key states and win if they still lose the popular vote nationally? Is that fair sounding? Is that democratic? Some will surely argue that it is; simply because it’s, “representational democracy.” 

How the Founding Fathers Accidentally Created A Two Party System:

For those that argue, that the electoral college is just part of,“the representational democracy left by our founding fathers.” I argue this, “it may be a form of representational democracy, but it is one that didn’t work the way our founding fathers intended it to.” 

“But how so?” you’ll ask.

The simple answer is the spoiler effect of the first past the post voting system. First past the post voting is the current US voting method; in which the candidate with the most votes wins the election. Simple enough, isn’t it? This is sort of how it works within states with the electoral college, the candidate with the most votes takes the points. But it really isn’t that simple or efficient.

In the world of our founding fathers. In the world in which James Madison wrote Federalist paper number 10, it was believed that multiple factions would emerge leading to “coalition government” therefore protecting the rights of the minority, but Madison and the other founding fathers didn’t anticipate the affects of first past the post.

Unfortunately, the first past the post voting method directly leads to a two party system.

“But how is that?” you may ask.

Well, it’s quite simple really. Let’s suppose that we have four parties that each bring forward a candidate for the presidency. Let’s say one party is a moderate liberal party, another is an extreme liberal party, another is a moderate conservative party, and the last one is an extreme conservative party. Let us suppose that the moderate conservative party won with 30% of the vote but was closely followed by the moderate liberal party at 28% of the vote. The extreme conservative party got 18% of the vote and the extreme liberal party got 24% of the vote.

In the next election, extreme voters decided that they couldn’t back their favorite candidate and decided that they must back the candidate most similar in their views so that their least favorite candidate on the other side of the spectrum didn’t win. this led to the following results:

In first, came the moderate liberal party with 51% of the vote.

In second, came the moderate conservative party with 45% of the vote.

In third, came the extreme conservative party with 3% of the vote.

And finally, in fourth place came the extreme liberal party with 1% of the vote.

Come the next election, the extreme conservative candidate and extreme liberal candidate dropped out and only two parties were left still represented; the moderate conservative party and the moderate liberal party. So, now, there are only two major parties with a serious chance of wining. In the future elections, the segment of “swing voters” found in the electorate will decide the election and allow the office of presidency go between the two major parties.

The first past the post voting system also makes it so that most voters are disengaged from the democratic process because they don’t feel as if though their voice is heard. An idea which is reflected by the United State’s low voter turnout, which was only 56.9% of eligible voters in 2016 according to Vox News.

Although the example of above may not be how we got to our current two party system it certainly is a simple and accurate explanation of the first past to post voting system at its worst. And if you think about it, this exact principle can also be found in presidential primaries, where the people of each party within a state help to choose their parties presidential nominee in the general election. Many fear to vote for their preferred candidate out of fear that he or she will lose against the other parties candidate. So, people must vote for a candidate within their party based on their “electability” not based on their own opinions. This too is another reason for voters’ lack of interest in the democratic process.

First past the post voting and the electoral college failed the founding fathers exponentially and directly led to the two party system that founding fathers like George Washington dreaded. The electoral college and first past the post  have led to voter’s lack of interest. It is this system which has imprisoned voters within their party and has not allowed them to support their portion of the political spectrum as our founding fathers intended. It was this system that failed us so why should it not be repealed? When it was found that the eighteenth amendment to the Constitution of the US failed, it was repealed by the 21st amendment some fifteen years after it was first agreed upon. This was because it served as a way to make things worse. If prohibition could be repealed, why can’t the electoral college?

George Washington once called political parties, “potent engines…to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.” Shall we let these parties define us through the failed primeval institutions of our founding fathers?

An Educated Populous With Uninformed Political Views :

In the beginning, when our nation was first founded, the people were not educated and therefore, the founding fathers obviously did not want an “uneducated populous” electing a strongman dictator or someone who would not be suited for office. The Founding Fathers though, did not envision that one day all children must attend school or have an education. But today, every state has compulsory education laws, which require all children to attend school or to have a home school education. Furthermore, in modern times, it’s easy for voters to gather information on candidates. According to data gathered by Statista, in 2017 87.2% of individuals in the United States accessed the internet. According to another source 96.7% of U.S. households also own a TV set. If a person dose not have access to either of these commodities and they are desperate to be informed, then it is easily in that individuals’ power to walk into any store, buy a newspaper or magazine about the elections or any candidate, and dig up information.

Many will argue that despite the fact Americans have access to these sources of information, they do not use them for political research, nor is it likely that they ever will. Instead, Americans use their internet as a means of social entertainment and their political “knowledge” stems from overly partisan and biased opinion based social media commentary. Despite the fact that politics is among the most spoken of topics in America today, doesn’t mean that Americans are willing to research it on their own accord. Americans are fed what the media and others tell them and do little to actual fact checking to verify that information or develop and informed political opinion. This is despite that fact that we live in a society that values truth in its leaders so much. There is political opinion, but is it an informed one? Is it a factual one? Is it a non-partisan one?

No, generally, political opinion in America is none of these. It is the not informed, it is not factual; it is just partisan and fueled by partisan views on the opposite party. There is reason for this though. Due to first past the post and the electoral college, Americans have little incentive to actually vote, because they feel that there vote is useless and that their political voices are confined within the ideologically broad two party system. This idea can be reflected by American voter turnout, which was only 56% of the eligible voting population. If the electoral college and a wealth of other electoral barriers were to be eliminated and different political minorities were allowed to flourish, then Americans would truly have a reason to develop an informed political opinion and vote.

A Closing Argument:

“Can we forget for whom we are forming a government? Is it for men, or for the imaginary beings called States?” Founding Father James Wilson once said. We give the political community and the states more power than we do our own people. Why? Why ought we to give lines on a map more power than people?

These are fundamental question which we must ask ourselves two hundred and forty three years after we broke paths with the British and one hundred and fifty five years after the end of the civil war. Do we wish to be defined by a compromise which is now dated like so many in the Constitution were found to be? After all, before we did away with the three fifths clause, women not being able to vote, or segregation there were always those who opposed those who we now see as the unequivocally morally right. There were always those who made the sensible appear nonsensical. And there will always be those who breath life into the dated.

Because it was not until all people were counted as people. Because it was not until we the people meant all the people. Because it was not until his dream became reality. And it will not be until we admit that this is union of people more than it is one of states that decades and centuries after the fruits of basic morality have been yielded those youths of posterity can wonder in all their innocence, enlightenment, and purity:

   Wasn’t this way it had always been? 

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