Doing away with the electoral college

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.