OPINION: 2020 fully demonstrates the need to abandon the Electoral College

A map of the nation highlights the projected winner of the 2020 Presidential election. Note that this image was captured before certain states flipped in their political ideology. Photo courtesy of Unsplash & Wikimedia Commons.

Over the course of the 2020 election, former President Trump tried to create doubts surrounding the integrity of the election. He spewed false information about the legitimacy of the votes, stating that voter fraud had occurred. Even after the Electoral College cast their votes confirming Biden’s presidency on December 14th, 2020, Trump had plans to change the outcome. Trump’s senior adviser Stephen Miller stated that Trump’s team planned to support an alternate set of electors in the key swing states Biden won. And his electors did meet in states including Georgia, Michigan, and Pennsylvania among others to cast their votes for him. 

While this didn’t end up working, it could have. If Trump’s efforts to overturn the results in the courts weren’t rejected, the courts would’ve been able to send these votes to Congress. If he’d succeeded in getting GOP-controlled state legislatures to reject the electors they’ve approved and replace them with the president’s electors, those votes would’ve been counted. And lastly, if they sent the votes directly to Congress, then members could challenge results in certain states due to the Electoral Count Act. Under this, if at least one member of the House and Senate objected to the results in a state, each chamber would have to hold a vote on the matter, and both the House and the Senate must vote in favor of it to succeed. 

Although none of these methods would’ve worked, the fact that it’s even a possibility is concerning. If a President can influence the outcome of the Electoral College vote by rigging it to work for them, then the system can’t be trusted. With someone like Trump in power, who’s willing to abuse their power and has a loyal base that would support those actions, this loophole is very dangerous. It directly threatens and undermines our democracy. 

This isn’t the first time the Electoral College has proven to be a system that works against democracy though. 

There have been five times in the United States’ history where a candidate who lost the popular vote won the Electoral College vote and became President.

The last time was in 2016, the election between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. In that election, only 61.4% of the citizen voting-age population reported voting, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. 

While the 2020 election had the highest turnout as measured by the percentage of voting-age Americans according to FairVote, it was still only at 66.7%. 

With a system like the Electoral College in place, it’s easy to see why almost 35% of citizens who were able to vote didn’t. The Electoral College gives disproportionate voting power to swing states and small states. Those in safe states, like California or Indiana, don’t even bother voting because all their votes are guaranteed to go to a certain party due to the demography of the state. 

In fact, in the 2020 election, there were 212 campaign events held during the election cycle. According to FairVote, those events only occurred in 17 states, and 142 of the events occurred in five swing states. 

How can we call ourselves a democracy if half our population doesn’t show up to the polls because they don’t feel like their vote, their voice matters? How can we call ourselves a democracy if our candidates don’t take the time to hear the remaining 33 states?

The Electoral College is an antiquated, racially discriminatory, undemocratic system that no longer has a place in our country. 

This system was established by the founding fathers during the 1787 constitutional convention in Philadelphia as a compromise between the election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens and by a vote in Congress. The founders’ intent was to end the formation of political parties and factions. 

It consists of 538 electors, the same number of electors as the congressional delegation. There is one elector for each member in the House of Representatives and two electors for the two Senators. D.C. has 3 electors. As a result, a majority of 270 electoral votes is required to elect the President. 

Each presidential candidate has a group of electors known as a slate, chosen by the candidate’s political party in each state every four years in the months leading up to the election date. This process varies from state to state, some list elector’s names on the general election ballot, and they are often party leaders, donors, or state legislators. 

Most states have a winner-take-all system except Maine and Nebraska, which use the Congressional District Method. In the winner-take-all system, all the Electoral College votes will go to the candidate who polls more overall. In the Congressional District Method, the winner of the state’s popular vote gets two electoral votes, and one vote is awarded to the winner of the popular vote in each congressional district. 

The intent of the founders was to satisfy everyone and provide representation, but it’s a poorly put-together system that doesn’t do that at all.

Instead, it’s made us dependent on the two-party system. How can two parties be expected to represent almost 330 million people? Partisans on both sides can’t even work together to help the American people. Due to the winner-take-all system of the Electoral College, a vote for any other party other than the democratic party and the republican party is seen as a waste of a vote, making it tough to get rid of the two-party system.

Not to forget, the Electoral College has roots in racism and slavery. 

In the past, the Electoral College greatly benefited White slave owners in the south. It was created to protect the power of the south. In a direct election system where the popular vote would decide the presidency, the South would have lost because slaves couldn’t vote. With the three-fifths rule, southern states were able to get more representation in Congress through the Electoral College. This created a cycle as it incentivized them to continue growing the number of slaves. More slaves meant more power in Congress, and more power in Congress meant keeping slavery. This also meant that Antebellum Presidents were almost either always slaveholders or at least supported slavery.

Even after the Civil War, with the 14th and 15th amendments, it still helped White voters. While southern states still had a larger amount of representation, and more Electoral College votes, they would keep Black citizens from voting through discriminatory practices such as literacy tests or poll taxes. Because this benefitted the democratic Party, then dominant in the South, republicans tried to admit new states from the Midwest and West to counter that power. 

As a result, now those new states – such as Nebraska or Wyoming – have a lower population and are mostly White. These states with smaller populations have more representation now because they have more electoral votes per resident. In states like Texas, gerrymandering also occurs, hurting voters, and contributing to the winner-take-all system of the Electoral College. 

The Electoral College doesn’t properly represent everyone in this country. It must be abolished and replaced with a system that will make every vote count. Every voice heard. Because that’s what democracy is about. 

However, abolishing the Electoral College would be difficult. This would require a constitutional amendment, requiring two-thirds approval from both the House and Senate, ratification by the states, or a constitutional convention called by two-thirds of the state legislatures. This would be pretty unlikely. Or there would have to be a Supreme Court case since only five judges are needed to amend this constitution through a judicial opinion.

The Electoral College doesn’t properly represent everyone in this country. It must be abolished and replaced with a system that will make every vote count. Every voice heard. Because that’s what democracy is about. 

With that being said, it doesn’t mean we shouldn’t fight for change. Many Americans already want this change. According to a survey conducted by the Pew Research Center in 2020, 58% of Americans say the constitution should be amended so the presidential candidate receiving the most votes nationwide wins. In fact, on September 18th, 1969, the House of Representatives voted 338 to 70 to send a constitutional amendment to the Senate to dismantle the Electoral College. In a 1968 Gallup poll, 80% of Americans believed it was time to elect the president by a direct popular vote. 

The movement to abolish the Electoral College has existed for a while and we must continue to push for a change. There are better alternatives to the current system. 

Two of the most popular options are The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact and Ranked-Choice Voting.

The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is an agreement among states to award all of their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the popular vote nationwide. 15 states and DC (totaling 196 votes) have already signed onto the interstate compact. This would only take effect once the compact has enough states to total 270 votes. While this doesn’t necessarily erase the Electoral College entirely, it definitely erases its power because the popular vote would basically decide the presidency.

Another option, which would better satisfy people in my opinion, is Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV). In this system, voters would rank candidates by preference on their ballots. It’s slightly more complicated but would also mean that the people aren’t forced to choose between two parties that don’t represent them well. If a candidate wins an outright majority, at least 51%, of the first-preference votes, they would be declared the winner. If there is no outright majority, then the candidate with the fewest first-preference votes would be eliminated, a new tally would be conducted from the remaining votes, and this process would be repeated until a candidate wins a majority of the votes. This would be the best option for our country because it provides more choice for voters by getting rid of the two-party system that the Electoral College helps keep in place. 

A truly democratic government is one that is elected by its citizens. Every citizen deserves to be heard and must be heard. A system that was implemented by White men over 230 years ago has no place in our democracy. Abolishing the Electoral College and replacing it with one of the systems above would actually allow the chance for everyone to be represented. 

Deshna Chitrarasu is a staff writer for Oswego East High School’s online news magazine the Howl

Leave a Reply