When US citizens vote, they do not elect their next president. Instead, they vote for state representatives who are responsible for selecting the next president through the Electoral College. The Electoral College has been a part of the American democracy for centuries. However, scholars argue that the decision was a misstep enacted by the nation’s forefathers for good reasons. One of these reasons was to ensure that states get an equal chance of choosing a preferred leader regardless of their size or population. Even so, this technique has become redundant since the democratic needs of the 18th century do not reflect the current social and political landscapes. In other words, the body does not achieve its ultimate aim of ensuring equality and democracy in the modern era. Thus, this essay discusses some reasons why abolishing the Electoral College can help ensure equality and enhance democracy.
History and Development of the Electoral College
The best solution to selecting the US president was one of the most debated topics in the 1787 Convention. Some delegates proposed that the legislature should be responsible for the decision, while others supported a direct vote by the people. However, both recommendations were opposed due to their notable weaknesses. A president who is chosen by the legislature is at risk of occasionally pleasing its members to gain their favor. On the other hand, a direct vote would not be in the best interest of all states as some states were more populous than others and most individuals were not educated (Loomis 1192). Hence, most individuals did not have the knowledge to make the right decision and would easily be misled into choosing their wishes.
Consequently, the Electoral College was a compromise that delegates made at the September 4th convention in 1787 to establish a system that would take into account the needs of all individuals and facilitate a more informed selection process. Regrettably, the Electoral College system has been the subject of heated criticism since its inception due to flaws that distort democracy in the US and interfere with the election process (Zhang 8). All individuals in the US are familiar with the statute that the president can only be selected by the body and not by popular vote as in other nations (Rathbone 17). Therefore, only 538 people vote directly for the next president based on a majority vote. If the Electoral College does not make a choice, the decision falls on the House of Representatives. As a result, US citizens are never directly included in the final decision, meaning that the results might fail to realize the needs and preferences of the general public.
The Debate on Abolishing the Electoral College
Most individuals argue that the Electoral College allows a handful of states to preside over the elections because it gives too much power to swing states. That is to say that, the two main political parties in the US can always count on winning electoral candidate votes in some states without acknowledging the impact of popular votes as in the case of Indiana for the Republicans and California for the Democrats. In turn, presidential candidates only pay attention to a limited number of states where the vote can swing toward either side (Webster 113). In 2016, news reports suggest that Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump campaigned in about 11 states that they considered their battlegrounds. Therefore, the technique allows some states to have more power than others, putting them in a position to decide the fate of the presidential elections regardless of their size. Thus, the Electoral College system does not stand for democracy as it undermines American voices.
In addition, scholars argue that the Electoral College is entrenched in racism and slavery. Rathbone argues that the nation’s founding fathers had minority interests geared toward protecting states with legal slavery and slave owners (p 18). During the 18th century, the population of individuals living in the North and South was equal. However, about a third of people living in the south were slaves, meaning that citizens in the south would be disadvantaged during the presidential election. Therefore, the practical solution was to adopt an alternative to select the president. Subsequently, when it was time to agree on a president selection system, delegates easily resolved to the three-fifth compromise as the main foundation, thus giving rise to the establishment of the Electoral College (Zhang 9). Nevertheless, the system has proved peculiar in several ways since it suppresses the votes of marginalized individuals and those of color in favor of homogenously white communities.
Moreover, individuals supporting the abolition of the Electoral College suggest that it does not reflect the will and preferences of all American citizens because only 538 representatives get the chance to elect a president. Out of an estimated 332 million individuals in the US, this constitutes 0.000156% of the population (Loomis 1193). Thus, popular votes are always discarded and electoral votes upheld, which goes against the tenets of democracy (Webster 114). For example, in the 2016 presidential elections, Hillary Clinton won against Donald Trump in the popular vote by more than half a million. However, she lost the electoral vote, hence denying her the chance of becoming president. Similarly, there have been several other cases where electoral votes were against the popular vote, suggesting that these results do not always represent what people prefer. Thus, most people protest that it is unreasonable for a president’s opponent to be supported by more people than the President as it does not abide by democracy or the standards of political equality.
On the other hand, the supporters of the Electoral College contend that it ensures that all regions around the country have fair representation and are involved in selecting the US president. Without the Electoral College system, most presidential candidates will heavily campaign in the populated regions and base most of their developments in these regions, thus undermining smaller states (Rathbone 19). In addition, supporters argue that the Electoral College serves to protect the will of minority communities against the power of the majority. As a result, putting the final decision on the will of educated electors with knowledge and experience of government limits the influence of uneducated voters and powerful influencers. Finally, these individuals assert that the Electoral College has played a major role in making presidential elections less complicated since it limits a recount in case of run-off elections and gives more certainty to the elections (Loomis 1194). However, these opinions are largely driven by the benefits accorded to the major parties, thus garnering support from the Democrats and opposition by the Republicans
Final Thoughts and Recommendation
Americans have had a problem embracing the Electoral College because it does not characterize equal political and voting rights. Therefore, the ultimate solution to these issues is reforming the Electoral College to answer to the immediate needs of individuals and ensure that they are satisfied with presidential results. Currently, the system gives voters power over elections based on where they reside (Rathbone 17). However, a reform to abolish the Electoral College will ensure that the president carries the popular vote. Moreover, it will provide an incentive for candidates to campaign in all states which will benefit both republicans and democrats living outside swing states as they will receive more attention from their presidential candidates. Finally, the results obtained from various states will reflect the will of individuals instead of being classified as blocks of red and blue (Webster 115). Therefore, an improved system or abolishing the reform will spearhead equality and democracy in presidential elections.
Given the partisan divide over the decision to abolish the Electoral College, the move will not be easy because the constitution requires more than two-thirds support from both houses of Congress and its acknowledgment by three-quarters out of 50 states. However, Americans have experienced significant disparities with the current system since it denies candidates with popular votes an opportunity to lead their people. In addition, it assigns power to swing states and limits other states from receiving political attention. Therefore, it contributes to marginalization and hinders the equal right to vote and select a preferred leader. As a result, many individuals purport that the system does not resemble the standards of a democratic political landscape that assigns individuals equal voting rights. Thus, amending the statute to abolish the Electoral College can help prevent several election mishaps and allow individuals to be governed by the person they choose.
Loomis, Burdett A. “Representation and the Electoral College. By Robert M. Alexander. New York: Oxford University Press, 2019. 232p. 24.95 paper.” Perspectives on Politics 17.4 (2019): 1192-1194. Web.
Rathbone, Mark. “Reform of the electoral college.” Political Insight 9.4 (2018): 16-19. Web.
Webster, Gerald. “Review of Red Fighting Blue: How Geography and Electoral Rules Polarize American Politics.” American Review of Politics 37.1 (2020): 112-115. Web.
Zhang, Chong. “Democracy at Risk: How the Electoral College Undermines Political Equality and Effective Governance.” Asian Journal of Social Science Studies 7.2 (2022): 8-12. Web.