For the fifth time in U.S. history, the winner of the popular vote did not obtain the number of Electoral College votes necessary to become president-elect. Hillary Clinton currently leads Donald Trump by approximately 800,000 votes with plenty left to count.
We’ve all heard the argument for doing away with the Electoral College, and it’s a simple one: The candidate with the most votes should win. In times like these, there is sure to be an abundance of outcry from those on the losing side pushing for the popular vote to decide the presidency. However, they may ignore some compelling evidence showing why we need the Electoral College now more than ever.
This nation's founders framed the process of choosing a president quite carefully. Back then, people would say, “The United States are…” — symbolic of the decentralized nature of the country and the sovereignty of each state. After all, the country owed its existence to each colony banding together as one to win independence. The Founding Fathers, in short, were largely put off by the idea of a centralized election as it would ignore the integrity of states in the federalist system.
Today, the fact that we are still a union of states is integral to our democracy.
If our presidential elections were a mere summation of votes in which their location of origin was irrelevant, then high population centers would be the focal points of presidential campaigns. The dense urban and metropolitan areas in California, New York, Illinois, Texas and Florida would render useless the need for any candidate to visit small towns or rural areas. Voters in many Midwest, southern, and northeastern states would be passed over simply because of the comparative lack of people per square mile in their counties.
This scenario would be harmful especially in light of how this election turned out. Hillary Clinton's losses in Ohio, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Iowa were in part due to her party's difficulty in addressing the economic and social concerns of alienated, Rust Belt, blue-collar folks. While the Clinton campaign held big city rallies with Jay-Z, it essentially ignored the people of Wisconsin.
Those who had comprised the Democratic Party’s base some twenty or thirty years ago, in short, became dissatisfied, and those who were supposed to help fix things were looking the other way. This crisis would have been lost on us in 2016 — and those people would still not be heard — had states been irrelevant in the election.
Furthermore, by anticipating population trends — how some areas are expanding rapidly while others are essentially being wiped off the map — we can see how the Electoral College is integral to state and regional sovereignty moving forward.
Los Angeles, for instance, has gained 300,000 residents since 1990, whereas socially and economically deprived Flint, Michigan has lost one-third of its total population in the same span. If there were no Electoral College, then presidential candidates would be more inclined to ignore floundering areas and orchestrate campaigns that disproportionately target southern Californians who hold the fate of citizens in Flint in their hands.
Having fifty statewide elections — in addition to Washington, D.C. — also discourages voter fraud. In our current system, each state has its own rules regarding early voting, registration, and recounts; one state cannot interfere with the process of another. Successful voter fraud requires an excess, reduction, or alteration of ballots in a particular state or combination of states — something that requires anticipation and guess-work.
But if the president is determined by just one large pool of votes, then illegitimate ballots from anywhere can alter the results. If you thought a recount in one state could get chaotic (see Florida in 2000), then imagine the disaster of a fifty-state recount of over 120 million votes if the margins are slim. That could very well extend past Inauguration Day, thereby straining not only our national unity but our democratic procedures regarding transfer of power.
Some have argued that the Electoral College discourages voter turnout in states that are solidly red or blue. I would counter that the system, as laid out in the Constitution, does not inhibit the exercise of one's voting rights. The Electoral College does not even come close to infringing on one’s franchise, and so there are no grounds for the argument that “discouraging” turnout warrants a change to popular vote.
Just because the current system has a side effect that makes citizens of certain states feel less inclined to vote, that does not by any means make it a faulty system. After all, we are not guaranteed equal circumstances when we vote; to expect such would be far too idealistic.
Others have taken the drastic measure of suggesting that when the electors gather in Congress on December 19, those whose state populations cast their ballots for Donald Trump should refrain from voting for him, whether to make a statement against the Electoral College, or, even worse, because Trump is an extreme danger.
This is absurd. To do so would represent an assault on the foundations of our government and disrespect for this time-honored process. The system is just as valid whether it has rewarded your friend or foe; it should not be hijacked out of personal, vindictive reasons.
This nation has been, and will continue to be, one of states with various environments and distinct populations with wide-ranging concerns, ideals, traditions, and hopes. The Electoral College is the better way to ensure the representation of all the states and those who are proud to call them home.