In Defense of the Electoral College
OPINION - In the aftermath of the 2016 election, one topic was on everyone's mind: the Electoral College. Now, with the 2020 election on the horizon, there are calls to get rid of the Electoral College entirely. Let's take a look at what this thing is, and why I believe it ought to be modified, but stay in place.
According to archives.gov: "The Electoral College consists of 538 electors. A majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. Your state’s entitled allotment of electors equals the number of members in its Congressional delegation: one for each member in the House of Representatives plus two for your Senators."
So, each state gets at least 3 electoral votes (2 votes for senators and at least one vote for House of Representatives). The rest is dependent upon population. A state with a large population, like California, gets 55 votes and a state with a very small population, like Alaska, gets only 3 votes. If you win 270 votes, you mathematically win the presidency.
The issue has arisen in recent years that both Al Gore and Hillary Clinton won the popular vote (meaning the actual people voting for president), but lost due to the Electoral College. This has prompted many to argue that this entire system is flawed and undemocratic, which on the surface it very much seems. Whoever gets the most votes should win, right? Why do we even have this weird system?
I've heard this argument many times recently, and while I don't think the Electoral College is perfect, I believe it's important and ought to be fixed rather than eliminated.
Let's take Wyoming vs Massachusetts as an example. Wyoming has a population of around 600,000 and we have a population of around 7 million. Let's say you're a presidential candidate and the Electoral College doesn't exist. Why would you even go to Wyoming? Heck, the population of just Boston is greater than that of Wyoming! So, even if you traveled all over Wyoming, going to every single town, and your opponent just hangs out in Boston for a few days, if you both convinced every voter you spoke to, your opponent would win. Okay, wait, but Boston isn't even that big. Why don't you just spend all your time in New York City and LA, who each have populations of 8.5 million and 4 million, and just forget about everyone else?
This is my issue with a straightforward direct democracy: as populations in cities continue to increase in America, you could imagine a Electoral College-less future in which every candidate hits 5-10 major cities and ignores the rest. How do we avoid this issue? The Electoral College.
Let's revisit above: Wyoming has 3 votes and MA has 11. So Wyoming counts as about 1/4 as important as MA. BUT, only taking into account population Wyoming would count as roughly 1/11 of MA. This is the beauty of our weird, annoying, complicated system. Wyoming doesn't matter more than MA. But the Electoral College means it matters a little more than it would without it.
So, if you're a candidate, you can't ignore Wyoming entirely. After all, 3 votes are 3 votes closer to 270. But, MA is still way more important because it gives you 11 votes.
At the end of the day, this isn't perfect. If people vote for a president, that president should get elected. However, without the Electoral College, our smaller, rural states would not get any attention and thus those voters don't get a chance to change history, just because they don't live in a hugely condensed city.
Whew. That was a lot. Hopefully you understand a little more about the EC and why it exists! And even if you don't agree with me, at least you might know a little more about why.