Strong Opinions: A call to change the college

What our recent national election says about the process as a whole

Strong Opinions: A call to change the college

At this point, American politics are no longer a seldom considered, “once-every-four- years” topic. For many citizens, they are becoming a way of life. However with the recent presidential election, this increasingly prevalent impact has only been further compounded. A million and a half things can be said about the current governmental state and its unique situation, ranging from former Vice President Joe Biden’s victory to the wild accusations from Presidential incumbent Donald Trump that followed. But this election has mostly just reminded me of what I consider to be a constant, fundamental flaw in the democratic-republic system of the U.S.: the Electoral College.
The United States is not a direct democracy. Implemented during the drafting of the Constitution, the Electoral College serves to give every state a fair representation in federal elections. Generally, a state gets a base of two electors and additional electors with regards to population. This system was established with Britain’s imperialist control still fresh in the minds of its drafters and was as such created with the intention of combating pure Federalism. While the sentiment was valid then, the Electoral College now mostly acts as an antiquated political machine, one filled with loopholes, that continues to gnaw at the democratic principles of our country.
The primary argument against the Electoral College relates to its violation of true democracy. National citizens are not directly responsible for their national representatives. While state elections should obviously, for the most part, dictate the outcome of state issues, why should state-elected electors determine the outcome of a federal one? This is one of the most crucial problems with the Electoral College in theory. However, in the current state of politics, it poses ample problems in practice as well.
One of the biggest issues clouding the effectiveness and legitimacy of the presidential election is the constantly prominent matter of voter apathy. Voter apathy refers to the lack of interest and participation from citizens in an election. When a vast number of eligible voters ignore their right to do so, democracy as a whole is considerably less effective. While this election saw record turnouts with over 66% of voting-eligible people contributing their ballot, (a figure that’s 6% higher than it was in the 2016 election)[1] there’s still an entire third of the would-be-voter population whose voice is going unheard. While there is really no outright solution to voter apathy, the Electoral College fans the flames of it. Many states don’t consistently swing conservative or liberal but some very prominent ones do. California and Texas are the two states with the most electors, with the former holding 55 and the latter holding 38. However, these two states have consistently swung the same way in the past decades, with California being a strongly-Democratic foothold and Texas being a Republican one. This sense of a seemingly inevitable, predetermined outcome dissuades many hesitant citizens from voting.
On top of that, individual voters from states with smaller populations also almost always have a more powerful vote. Following the 2016 election, the Washington Post published data indicating that a vote from Wyoming was 3.6 more proportionally impactful than one from California.[2] Being from California, it’s easy to see why people who live in bigger, more lenient states have less motivation to get their vote out. If their ballots contributed to a popular vote that held any significance, this narrative could easily be changed. Instead, recent elections far too often fall solely into the hands of “swing states,” where they don’t consistently vote one way or the other. Presidential candidates pay considerably more attention to these states, as their votes can sometimes outright determine the election. Thus, instead of being an all-inclusive representation of the national will, elections of late have become almost sport-like events with analysts focusing almost exclusively on the outcomes in these various swing states. In the most recent one, media outlets were analyzing the changing data of even the individual counties in these states while the all-but-predetermined states, ones with far more electors, seemed to hardly even be mentioned. Maybe this system is more entertaining for some but it is becoming entirely impractical and dated for people who care about the integrity of our government and its systems.
While the Electoral College pertains to presidential elections, its presence has also negatively affected the down ballot races that go hand in hand with them. While the presidential vote leaned strongly towards Biden this election, Democrats weren’t as successful in the Senate and House races (also called the down ballot). The Electoral College can blind many voters to the impact non-presidential positions have, as the President is one of the few truly federal positions. Thus, many citizens don’t recognize the importance of these lower, state representative positions. Voters who believe their contribution to be meaningless in regards to the presidential election often overlook the importance of the other races. This combination of apathy and ignorance further deteriorates the foundations of democracy.
Ultimately, no government or means of appointing a government is perfect. As the current incumbent President has demonstrated, (even though he lost the popular vote in 2016) winning an election certainly doesn’t make one a good leader. However, the Electoral College will continue to dilute the election process unless it is abolished or at least reformed. Even if we can’t produce flawless heads of state, we can still try to make them resemble the will of the people as truly and fairly as possible.

Works Cited:
[1]Kevin Schaul, K. (2020, December 08). 2020 turnout is the highest in over a century. Retrieved from https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2020/elections/voter-turnout/
[2]Durran, D. R. (2017, March 14). Whose votes Count least in the electoral college? Retrieved from https://www.usnews.com/news/national-news/articles/2017-03-14/whose-votes-count-least-in-the-electoral-college