Is the Electoral College fair?
- The Electoral College was established in the Constitution under Article II, Section 1, and was further clarified to be what we know it as today in the 12th Amendment.
- There are 538 electors, and a majority of 270 electoral votes are needed for a candidate to win. The states with the most electoral votes are California (55), Texas (38), Florida (29), and New York (29).
- The Electoral College was initially established to protect against an uninformed populace and to provide representation for all states.
- All states except Maine and Nebraska have passed laws requiring that their electoral votes go to the winner of the popular vote.
- The minimum number of states required for a candidate to win an election is 11.
- The electoral and popular votes have only been at odds five times in the nation's history.
With recent elections causing controversy, like those of 2000, 2016 and 2020, people have since questioned whether or not the Electoral College is an archaic remnant of our forefather’s time. There is, perhaps, an argument one could make as to why this may be the case. However, with a bit of research and a deeper understanding of our political system, it is clear that the Electoral College was, and is, a needed mechanism in the operation of our republic. One of the most cited reasons why the Electoral College is essential is because if it were abolished candidates would pander to the most populous states and leave to the wolves smaller ones, such as South Carolina and New Hampshire. There would be no need to rally and campaign in states who hold barely any sway, instead, those running would focus their energies on states like New York and California, gratifying only a certain type of voter. Another reason why the Electoral College is necessary and fair is that it holds together our party structure. Not all are fond of the two-party system in which we operate, but to abolish the Electoral College would be to invite any number of splinter parties to be able to win the presidency with a small percentage of the electorate. In a situation where there is a plurality of candidates, one could win with only five or ten percent of the national vote. The Electoral College has often been complained about in contemporary politics, but it is a necessary and fundamental part of our democracy.
Article II of the Constitution and the Twelfth Amendment established the electoral procedure for voting when the timely dissemination of accurate information to voters over all of the US was virtually impossible. The clause was then designed in part to protect against an uneducated electorate and to provide proportional representation to all states thus preventing candidates from pandering to only the most populous states. However, we now live in a time when information about candidates is widely and immediately available. Furthermore, PBS NewsHour reported that both candidates in the 2016 election made more than 90% of their campaign stops in just 11 so-called battleground states. Of those visits, nearly two-thirds took place in the four battlegrounds with the most electoral votes, which seems to suggest the electoral system has done nothing to stop pandering to a few states.
The main problem with the Electoral College system is that it ignores the voice of the common people. The writers of the Constitution assumed a privileged status (based on outdated notions of class) for the Electoral College. Considering current problems with the disenfranchisement of voters based on class, race, gender, and sexuality, a system that further distances them from the process seems antiquated and contravenes another important caveat of our nation’s history, that “all men are created equal” (and women). In a time when we have access to the information we need and where the most populous states already hold the power of electoral votes, let all people speak by allowing the popular majority to be our measure for the election system.
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