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Dec 23 2016
by Diana Pope

The Best Arguments Against the Electoral College

By Diana Pope - Dec 23 2016
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The Electoral College is an integral part of the presidential elections; however, many Americans don't agree with the processes behind this complex voting system. This past election season, Hillary Clinton was able to win the popular vote but could not nail a seat in the White House due to Trump's high margin of electoral votes. This was the fifth time in history where a candidate was not able to win the Presidential elections despite his or her victory in popular votes. 

What Exactly is the Electoral College?

The Electoral College is a historic precedent that was established in the Constitution centuries ago as a compromise to guarantee equal weight in voting between Congress and ordinary citizens. The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. Each state is guaranteed a certain amount of electoral votes based on population size (ex. California gets 55 votes; Montana only gets 3 votes); two votes are allotted to the state's senators, while one vote is allotted to each member of the House of Representatives. Washington D.C. is also allotted 3 electoral votes. Two-hundred and seventy votes are required for a presidential candidate to score a seat in the White House. 

Due to the 2016 election, critics argue that the Electoral College played an unfair role with the selection of President-elect Donald Trump. Many Americans are now calling for the disintegration of the Electoral College and are urging Congress to abolish this historic system. Here are some crucial arguments that have arisen against the establishment of the Electoral College:

1. The Electoral College Acts Against Direct Democracy

Our Founding Fathers came into America with the hope of establishing democratic principles and creating a fair and just government. Opponents of the Electoral College argue that the creation of the Electoral College destroyed any chances of allowing a direct election; popular votes can only play a minimal role in the election. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, the Electoral College is a "winner take all" system that does not align with democratic principles because people who disagree with the majority of the populace in their states are simply not represented in the electoral voting process. For instance, Hillary Clinton won Massachusetts by over a million popular votes, but only gained 11 electoral votes due to the "winner-take-all" system. 

2. The Electoral College Sets Up a Disparity in Representation

The Electoral College was set up with the hope that large states will not dominate the election process; however, by doing so, this system establishes an overwhelming disparity in electoral representation. California has one electoral vote per 712,000 people, while Wyoming has one electoral vote per 195,000 people. Over 20 states with a small population size are overrepresented  due to the establishment of the Electoral College. 

3. Electors are Unfairly Chosen by Their States 

Electors are chosen to represent party or bureaucratic interests and do not work as agents of the state legislature. Between 1999 and 2012, 99% of electors kept their pledges to a single presidential candidate and were not swayed by popular interests. Due to the establishment of the "winner-take-all" system, electors rarely act independently of their political parties' interests. 

4. Election Campaigns Ignore a Large Portion of the Country

Presidential candidates only campaign in swing states and major cities because the Electoral College works in favor of candidates who gain the popular votes in each state. Candidates ignore low-population areas because they don't matter in the grand-scheme of the election. Supporters of the Electoral College might argue that a popular election process may not change unfair campaigning; yet, if candidates knew that direct elections were highly imperative to their success, they would be incentivized to campaign in all areas across the country. Without the Electoral College, candidates would campaign to get as many votes as possible in individual states. 

5. Voters Would Believe Their Decision Matters

Most importantly, voters would be more motivated to go out to the polls if they believed their votes could shape the outcome of the election process. Without the Electoral College, every popular vote would make a difference in the results of the presidential elections. Under a system of direct election, every vote would be equally important, and voters would believe they could play a crucial role in American democracy. 

Overall, the 2016 election has raised nationwide concerns about the fairness of the Electoral College, and voters are questioning whether this "democratic" system should be kept in place. Without this winner-take-all system, the campaigning process, election turn-outs and population representation would have been different. Voters and government officials need to decide whether or not this long-established system truly works against democratic interests. 

To read why the Electoral College is important to keep, check out this Fresh U article

Lead Image Credit: Denise Cross Photography via Flickr Creative Commons




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Diana Pope - University of Tennessee Knoxville

Diana is a political science major who also enjoys journalism, history, and philosophy. She loves writing, researching, and debating about politics. In her free time, she enjoys Grey's anatomy marathons and reading detective fiction.

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