Should the electoral college still exist?


Jacob Ritholz and Andy Ollendorff, Staff Writers

The electoral college has existed since the birth  of the American republic. .  However, over the last few decades, and especially during this year’s election season, it has been called into question.   Former Democratic presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg going as far as stating that if he were elected, he would completely abolish the electoral college system.  The electoral college serves its designated purpose of giving a bigger voice to the smaller states, but whether or not this system is fair to all Americans is the issue that many are now attempting to address.  

There are two main problems people have with the electoral college.  The first is the winner-take-all system under which 48 of the 50 states currently operate.  Essentially, a candidate only needs to win a plurality (the most votes, not necessarily a majority)  in a state to claim all of the electoral votes for that specific state.  In the most extreme circumstances, entire elections have been decided by a few hundred people in a state.  This most famously occurred in the notorious 2000 presidential election.  For example, New York has  29 electoral votes, so when Joe Biden won 60% of New York’s votes, he received all 29 electoral votes, rather than the 60% of those votes (about 17-18 votes).  This rendered the remaining 40% of votes useless.  The system gives candidates no reason to campaign in strong blue or red states that they know they will definitely win or lose.  In addition, it discourages voter turnout in those same states, as voters may feel no need to vote in an election where the outcome seems fairly certain.  

“I think the electoral college should be abolished because it doesn’t necessarily stay in line with the popular vote,” said junior Jacob La.

To address the problems of the electoral college, some states have already moved to the congressional district method, where electoral votes are distributed based on the proportion of votes cast regionally according to districts for each candidate.  Nebraska and Maine  adopted the congressional district method and have utilized it for years, but they are the only states that have done so. 

It is important that everyone has a fair and equal vote in our democracy; this is guaranteed by federal law.  Just because someone happens to not share the majority opinion in their state does not mean that they should be discouraged from voting altogether.  There are far more Republicans in California than there are in West Virginia, yet those millions of Republican votes are not as meaningful.  The same is true for Democrats in West Virginia or any state that does not swing between parties.  The current system discourages voting and promotes an election that revolves around a few key states.  The congressional district method would fix this.

The second issue people have with the electoral college is that it gives more representation to less populous states, rendering some votes more important than others.  This was intended, as the Founding Fathers reached a compromise with the smaller states, so that they would not be ignored politically.  The number of electoral votes for a state is determined by taking the sum of all of the state’s legislators in Congress (two senators plus the number of representatives that state has).  The bias towards smaller states comes from the fact that each state has two senators as a baseline.  To illustrate how significant a gap there is, the two senators from California represent as many people in the Senate as the 40 senators from the 20 least populous states.  Furthermore, a person in Wyoming has 3.6 times more voting power than someone in California.  

“The electoral college should not be abolished because then people would just campaign heavily in places like New York City,” said junior Maxwell Meehan.

An alternative to the electoral college is to base the election completely on a popular vote.  Critics would argue that this makes the election revolve around a few populous states, similar to the way the swing states have greater influence under the electoral college system.  Under this analysis, the popular vote is no better than the electoral college.

Although, yes, under a system based on the popular vote the election would be centered around the larger, more populous states, it would also focus more people, and everyone’s vote would be equal, as it should be.  

Cities hold the majority of the population in the United States and are also the most diverse areas in the United States.  To use the popular vote instead of the electoral college would give minorities and immigrants more power in politics.  In a way, the electoral college is shaped towards the mostly white populations of smaller states, so the system is inherently racist and biased.  To fix this, the popular vote should be utilized because it is more equitable.

The current system divides representation in the general election solely on where one lives.  The needs and beliefs of citizens of a certain state are not more important than those who reside in other states, so the fair way of determining the opinion of the majority of the country is through the use of the popular vote.  The electoral college certainly fulfills its purpose to give a stronger voice to the smaller states, but that does not mean it’s a good thing for  the country.

The electoral college ultimately creates more problems than it solves.  It creates swing states, discourages a significant portion of the country from voting, and puts in place a system that gives greater representation to some people more than others for the arbitrary reason of where they live.  The electoral college is a flawed system that strains the very tenets of our democracy by giving certain people more political influence than others and oftentimes does not give voice to the true opinions of the majority of the country.