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The Electoral College

Teddy Carnes '17

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As we elect Donald Trump, the 45th President of the United States, there is much speculation about the effectiveness and fairness of the system which elected him in the first place – the Electoral College. Despite Trump’s convincing electoral victory in the 2016 Presidential election, by a margin 0f 306 to 232 electoral votes, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a total just shy of three million votes. This is the fourth time in history where the President-elect did not win the popular vote (George Bush in 2000, Benjamin Harrison in 1888, and Rutherford B. Hayes in 1876). This result has prompted outrage, especially by Democrats, who have lost the White House twice since the turn of the twenty-first century due to the Electoral College. Although the cable and network news channels have been flooded recently with liberal media calling for the abolition of the Electoral College, there are still many reasons to keep it. Regardless of political affiliation or beliefs, it is crucial that American citizens are informed with respect to both sides of the argument and resist the urge to allow emotions to influence their evaluation.

The problem most people have with the Electoral College is that it isn’t really democratic. However, there are some very practical reasons for its existence. First, the Electoral College system prevents a presidential candidate popular in only one region of the United States from winning the presidency because no one region has enough electoral votes. This is a good thing because a presidential candidate popular in only one region might not care about the rest of the U.S. citizens. This prevents certain heavily populated areas from having a monopoly on choosing the President which could disenfranchise the rest of the country. Second, the Electoral College avoids an outcome where no one candidate wins a majority of the vote, which can happen when more than two parties have presidential candidates running. Third, having state electors gives smaller states more power in the system of government. Individual votes carry more weight in one’s home state which creates a more nationalistic feeling because each state is essentially working to elect a candidate, rather than people individually. Finally, recounts are much easier when the election is conducted at the state and district levels, and it would be extremely problematic if the United States had to endure a full nationwide recount.

There are good arguments against the Electoral College as well. Some say that it discourages voting in states that lean heavily in favor of a particular political affiliation – for example, how would a vote for a Democratic candidate in Texas or a Republican candidate in California have any impact? There is no incentive to vote for many Americans. Another argument against the Electoral College is that it is antiquated and not designed for a society where information is shared in the blink of an eye. Alexander Hamilton, in Federalist No. 68, wrote “the “immediate election [of the President] should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station.” He did not trust the people to be knowledgeable enough to vote. But today, information is widely available and most voters are at least capable of being well-informed even if they are not. Finally, the Electoral College encourages presidential candidates to campaign more heavily in swing states, while ignoring some areas that are more densely populated.

Clearly, the answer to our national voting system is not as black and white as some media outlets make it out to be. Recently, concerning the media Denzel Washington told a reporter, “If you follow the news you’re misinformed. If you don’t, you’re uninformed.” If we want to do our civic duty, we must stretch to inform ourselves on both sides the issue and then make a decision.

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The Electoral College