Photo by Tyler Meuter

In roughly one year I will send in my absentee ballot to vote in the 2016 presidential election. This will be the first presidential election I will have ever had the pleasure of voting in, since in 2012 I was frustratingly four months too young. I am excited to participate in this nation’s wonderful democratic system and make my mark on the political landscape. Except for that I won’t be, and maybe this nation’s democratic system isn’t quite so wonderful.

Unfortunately, here in the States we the Electoral College. It’s a winner-take-all system where our congressional representatives vote the president for us, rather our votes directly counting (with the exception of Maine and Nebraska who have a proportional representation system). This means that if the majority of Georgians want a Republican candidate to be president, all of Georgia’s 16 electoral votes are given to the Republican candidate.

In fact, Georgian Democrats can be fairly confident that when they go to the polls on Election Day 2016, their vote will be meaningless since Georgia has been a majority republican state for 20 years. Because of this, citizens in some states may go their entire lives without having any influence on the presidential election. What kind of democracy is that?

Since many states reliably swing Republican or Democrat,   almost exclusively, swing states determine the outcome of the presidential race. As a result, these states have an unfair amount of control over the election, and candidates will distort their campaign to unproportionally cater to the needs of these states to garner votes.

This winner-take-all system can have disastrous consequences, such as the election of a president who was not elected by the popular majority. This happened in the 2000 election, when George Bush won against Al Gore. Bush received a majority of electoral votes and became the leader of our country, despite not being representative of the majority population’s views.

Finally, the electoral college makes it impossible for third parties to win elections. Candidates like Ralph Nadar and Gary Johnson had the potential to have a meaningful impact on past elections, but ended up receiving no electoral votes in the final election, despite coming in third place in the popular election. This percentage popular vote was probably disproportionately low as well, considering that voters know their votes will not count unless their candidates achieve a majority, disincentivizing third party votes. Though a popular election would not solve the two-party issue, the Electoral College makes third parties
completely irrelevant.

The idea of the Electoral College may have made sense in the 1800s, when country-wide transportation and communication was primitive, and it was hard to accurately count citizens votes. This more “representative” take on our representative democracy would have allowed the more informed electors to make important decisions regarding the livelihood of their state.  In 2015, however, we have reliable methods of informing citizens about candidates and tallying their votes, eliminating the need for the electoral system. There should be no reason we rely on such antiquated methods of deciding our President, and denying millions of people in the US their influence in the presidential election.

  • toto

    A survey of Georgia voters showed 74% overall support for the idea that the President of the United States should be the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states.

    Presidential elections don’t have to continue to be dominated by and determined by a handful of swing states besieged with attention, while most of the country is politically irrelevant.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country.

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 80%+ of the states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The National Popular Vote bill would take effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    The bill has passed 33 state legislative chambers in 22 rural, small, medium, large, red, blue, and purple states with 250 electoral votes. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

  • David Foote

    Whoa!! Congressional representatives have NO say regarding what happens in the Electoral College. The only connection with Congress is that the total number of electors in the college equals the total number of congress people (representatives plus senators, slightly modified for the District of Columbia).

    The Electoral College was created with enactment of the Constitution in 1789, and was conceived of primarily as a means to balance the power of large and small states. It was one of several incentives intended to entice smaller states into the Union. Small states (like Delaware and New Hampshire) greatly feared the power (money and population) of the big states (like New York and Pennsylvania). The Electoral College was one enticement; the design of the U.S. Senate (where every state, big or small, gets two Senators) was another.

    Although many people do not understand or appreciate it, the United States, was set up BY DESIGN as a constitutional republic of 50 states (currently), and not a perfect democracy of 318 million individuals. As a result, through our Electoral College, presidential elections are decided on a state by state basis through the votes of 538 specially chosen electors.

    Electors are chosen in accordance with laws set up independently by each state. The federal government has no say in how each state chooses its electors. Most, as you point out, currently use a winner take all system, although any state can change its law at any time, and two of them, Nebraska and Maine, use popular vote results by congressional district to determine how their electors vote.

    There have been serious proposals in several states in recent years that would change the method of picking electors from winner take all to an alternative method such as used in Maine and Nebraska. None of these have been enacted at present; most have bogged down in intra partisan squabbling about attempts to “rig the system”.

    I would be remiss if I did not mention the so-called National Popular Vote (NPV) movement that cropped up a few years ago and which is still being actively pursued. NPV would, if enacted in states amounting to a majority of Electoral College membership (270 electors), link award of a state’s electoral votes to the NATIONAL popular vote winner. At present, NPV has been enacted in eleven states possessing 165 votes, but its momentum seems to have slowed. NPV is furthermore an interstate compact, and would need the consent of Congress under Article I, Section 10 of the Constitution before it could become effective.

    The Electoral College has been controversial from the start, and there have been many proposals and lots of discussion over the years to modify or eliminate it. Doing so however, would require a constitutional amendment, and that is a high bar, needing two-thirds approval in both houses of Congress for starters, followed by ratification by three quarters of the states. The general feeling is that the smaller states think the Electoral College gives them more clout in presidential elections than any attainable alternative, and that as a result, they would not support its abolishment.