Carleton College's student newspaper since 1877

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Antiquated Electoral College gives undue weight to small interests

<u may recall that an election occurred in 2016. Boy, it sure was a doozy! As it happens, the winner of that election didn’t receive a majority of the votes. This was confusing and frustrating to many people, including myself. I was taught that the cornerstone of democracy was that the government obeyed the will of the people.

Well, in 2016, the people spoke, and the government did not listen. You can thank the Electoral College for that one.

It’s yet another system devised by that iconic group of old guys who founded this country. Its survival is a reminder of the fact that, for some reason, Americans think that those dudes were smarter than everyone else and will be forever and that everything they did was perfect.

The Electoral College was designed to make sure smaller states would still have a voice in national elections. Here’s how it works: when you vote, you’re not actually voting for president. Rather, you’re voting to elect people to the electoral college.

Each state gets to send a certain number of people to the college, and these people are appointed by their political party. The party with the most votes in a state gets to send their electors. These electors then almost always vote for whichever candidate won the popular vote there. 

Each state is allotted a minimum of three electoral votes, and this number increases based on the state’s congressional representation. The system ensures that candidates must spend time wooing voters in swing or less populous states in order to win their electoral votes. This has some undesirable consequences.

 Have you ever noticed that candidates spend a ton of time and money in swing states like Iowa and Florida? Since most states always vote for the same party, candidates are incentivized to spend an inordinate amount of time in toss-up states in order to swing the election in their favor.

This results in far too much time spent in these states relative to the rest of the country. Sure, small states deserve to have their voices heard. But they really don’t need to be heard this much. 

Another motive for the creation of the Electoral College was that, at the time, voters didn’t really know anything. This was way back in the 1700’s, and there weren’t a whole lot of people with internet access. Fox News was only on for a few hours every day.

The founding fathers thought that it would be beneficial to send informed electors to represent voters in elections instead of having uninformed people vote blindly.

I’m sure that was helpful for a while until Twitter came out, but now voters are more informed than ever.

The twenty-four-hour news cycle combined with the internet and social media makes it hard not to know what’s going on in the country, especially during an election. I think we’re old enough to choose the president ourselves now.

Remember a couple hundred words ago when I mentioned that electors almost always vote for the top vote-getter in their state? Yes, that’s a genuine ‘almost.’ Electors in many states do have the legal ability to vote for whomever they want, and there have been a few cases in which individuals have voted against the consensus in their state. This is awfully undemocratic and should probably not be allowed to happen.

 There are many reasons to abolish the Electoral College. Yet, we’re quite far from doing so. Prior to 2016, more than half of Americans, regardless of political affiliation, supported eliminating the system. Even the guy now in the White House called the Electoral College “a disaster for democracy” in 2012.

Now, it’s a heavily partisan issue. A 2018 poll found that 75 percent of Democrats support a change, compared to just 32 percent of Republicans. This likely happened because Republicans finally realized that switching to a popular vote system would hurt them.

In fact, Republican presidents lost the popular vote in two out of the last three elections they “won.” States that have their representation augmented by the Electoral College are overwhelmingly small and rural: classic characteristics of a red state. Without the Electoral College, cities would matter a whole lot more, and cities are almost always liberal. 

It’s easy for me to argue that the Electoral College is antiquated and unnecessary because I’m not in a position where it helps me at all. There certainly are people who, without the system, would not have their voices heard.

However, I feel that the College disproportionately emphasizes these voices, of which most are white, over those who may live in non-swing states but are in dire need of some support.

We haven’t needed the Electoral College for decades, and it’s high time we did away with it. Also, I’m tired of losing elections.

Leave a Comment
More to Discover

Comments (0)

All The Carletonian Picks Reader Picks Sort: Newest

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *