Despite its remarkable resistance to change and the ever-growing unpopularity, America’s Electoral College political institution should be abolished. Since its establishment, the Electoral College system has generated discontentment and confusion due to the incidences where the winner of the popular vote could not become president, an eventuality that breaches the conventional expectations of electoral democracy. Established by Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution and refashioned by the 12th and 23rd Amendments, the Electoral College political institution is America’s unique approach for indirectly electing their president (U.S. Const. art. II, § I, cl. 2 & 3). Consequently, 538 Electors drawn from the District of Columbia and other states are elected through a popular vote and are obligated to elect the president. This implies that although the general population participates in the presidential elections, they are, in essence, voting for their state’s representative instead of the president. Although the original purpose of the Electoral College was to keep imprudent people from choosing ill-suited people for the presidency, the system should be abolished since it is undemocratic and creates the impression that some states’ votes are more or less valuable than others.
Every four years, Americans are confronted with the peculiar mechanisms and dynamics of their democracy, particularly regarding the election of the country’s president. Most democratic nations elect their presidents through a direct popular vote. However, the American system is different and utilizes the Electoral College to determine who leads the country for four years. This system is a creation of Article II, Clause 2 and 3 of the United States Constitution, which provides that states appoint electors equivalent to their cumulative number of senators and representatives (U.S. Const. art. II, § I, cl. 2 & 3). Further provisions indicated that the appointed individuals would cast two ballots, with the winner of the process becoming the president and the second finisher the deputy. This unique feature led to various potentially dangerous glitches, such as the immediate tie-up between the presidential contender and his running, Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr, in the election of 1800. Although various amendments, including the 12th and 23rd Amendments, have been formulated to address such eventualities and the challenges of inconclusive contests, the probability of their occurrence is still high. This implies that the Electoral College is highly susceptible to indecisive outcomes and should, therefore, be abandoned.
Additionally, the Electoral College is a political institution that extends the Articles of Confederation’s negative perspective about the general public. Webster (2016) argues that although the framers of the Constitution intended to form a truly representative democracy, they were highly skeptical about the citizens’ capacity to interrogate and analyze the presidential contenders’ attributes. For instance, Alexander Hamilton in the Federalist No. 68 asserted that the duty of electing the leader of the country should be bestowed on a select body of judicious, wise, and highly analytical citizens (Webster, 2016; “Federalist Papers,” n.d.). This assertion reflects the constitutional framers’ contemptuous attitude towards America’s citizens, which is still propagated by the Electoral College system. Indeed, the approach is a nuanced version of voter suppression, which subtly diminishes the value of the majority’s vote based on their perceived inability to make prudent choices (“Federalist Papers,” n.d.). Thus, the Electoral College system should be abolished since it deems the electorate incapable of choosing the right candidates.
Further, the Electoral College disregards the voters’ plurality by allocating all the votes cast in a given state through a winner-take-all approach. As a result, many people feel that their votes do not matter under the current system. For instance, the votes cast in the favor of a candidate who loses in a given state are disregarded since all the Electoral College votes are assigned to the winning contender. Moreover, the population size of each of the states is inconsequential due to their equal representation in the Senate. From this perspective, this political institution is equally undemocratic to an approach that would allow Congress to elect the president and create a possibility of a presidential election winner without the popular vote. Additionally, this system promotes a disproportionately high focus on swing states by presidential candidates to win the presidency. The net effect of this scenario is that it creates a profound perception that votes from some states are less or more valuable than others. Due to the potential of creating a varying weight of the vote, the Electoral College system ought to be abolished.
Another major challenge of the Electoral College political institution is that it significantly erodes the legitimacy of the president and creates possibilities of problematic outcomes. This becomes even worse when the loser of the popular vote ascends to the presidency. Indeed, questions regarding the legitimacy of a country’s leader and the effect on the eventual winner’s ability to govern. Legitimacy is a critical component of post-election governing since it enhances a country’s ability to rise above the divisions and conflicts created by-elections in a democracy. Price (2019) corroborates this view and emphasizes the inherent governing challenges experienced by the popular-vote loser and numerous questions regarding their legitimacy. Notably, under this system, the possibilities of a tie between two contending candidates are real, which would lead to an engagement of the House of Representatives. Due to the suppression of the fundamental democratic norm that whoever gets the most votes becomes the winner, contenders who assume office after losing the popular vote enjoy less trust and confidence of the citizens. The Electoral College is a system that subverts the will of the majority and leads to the skewed perception of representative democracy.
Moreover, the political institution of the Electoral College elevates the power and the role of states in presidential elections above the individual voting weight. The system through which the United States arrives at its president is susceptible to being seized by electors who may opt to disregard their states’ presidential popular vote. Although some jurisdictions have passed laws that bind their electors to vote according to the popularity of the presidential candidates, incidences of faithless, rogue, or incompetent electors may subvert the will of their electorates. While such incidences have not demonstrated a significant impact on the presidential race, they reflect the overwhelming powers and influence assigned to a few individuals who ultimately determine the fate of an entire state. For instance, in 2000, a Washington DC elector withheld an electoral vote from Al Gore to protest the state’s lack of representation in Congress (Prokop, 2016). Although the electors could justify such decisions, it reflects the danger of the Electoral College’s provision of conferring such immense powers to one individual.
The absence of a constitutional framework guiding how states would choose their electors created a loophole for elites and influential individuals to occupy the Electoral College. Additionally, there is no explicit metric which the various jurisdictions could apply to determine the analytical capabilities or the mental independence of the electors when picking the president. For instance, the domination of American politics by two political parties penetrated the Electoral College system and eventually began nominating people guaranteed of their vote. Moreover, some states went ahead and enacted legislation that required the electors to cast their vote in favor of the party’s presidential nominee. Ultimately, the original intention of allowing highly analytical, upstanding, and independent-minded people to pick the president has been overtaken by political dynamics and no longer serves the function for which it was designed. Therefore, the Electoral College is a vestigial structure of previous years that no longer works as designed.
Conclusively, America’s Electoral College was established by Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the United States Constitution and refashioned by the 12th and 23rd Amendments. It is the country’s approach of indirectly electing the president where 538 electors drawn from all states pick the person who would lead the country on behalf of the general populace. This vestigial structure was created because the framers of the Constitution were skeptical about the public’s ability to choose the best candidate prudently. However, the Electoral College as a political institution suffers various shortcomings, including the possibility of generating inconclusive outcomes, advancing a winner-takes-all ideology, and suppressing the democratic expression of the majority. Additionally, the system amplifies the power of the votes from small states and simultaneously downgrades populous jurisdictions’ voting weight. Although numerous attempts have been unsuccessful in rectifying the shortfalls of the Electoral College, Americans should aggressively pursue its abolishment and ensure the installation of truly representative democracy.
Federalist papers: Primary documents in American history. (n.d.). Library of Congress. Web.
Price, T. (2019). The Electoral College. CQ Researcher, 29(30), 1−57.
Prokop, A. (2016). Why the Electoral College is the absolute worst, explained. Vox. Web.
U.S. Const. art. II, § I, cl. 2 & 3.
Webster, G. R. (2016). The purpose, structure, and limitations of the Electoral College. The Geography Teacher, 13(3), 101–105. Web.