By Akash Kumar
The 2020 presidential elections are steadily climbing to prominence in the news, but how democratic is the American presidential election system? As you may know, U.S. President Donald Trump won the 2016 election by 77 electoral votes, despite the fact that Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of nearly 3 million. Shockingly, Trump was the fifth president in U.S history to lose the popular vote but win the electoral college. How did this happen? Well, simply put, each state is granted a certain number of electors in proportion to its number of representatives in congress. According to the winner-take-all rule, which is applied in 48 states, if a candidate wins a majority of the votes from people in a state, he or she receives all of that state’s electoral votes. Trump won the electoral college but lost the popular vote because he earned support from many smaller states, which totaled more electors than the larger, but fewer, states won by Clinton.
There are a plethora of drawbacks to the electoral college. Evidently, the electoral college sheds too much power to “swing-states.” These states, like Colorado, Florida, Iowa, and Michigan, have a nearly even balance of Democratic and Republican voters, so their electoral votes can “swing” to either party in any given year. They tend to appeal to candidates more than “safe” states, which typically give their votes to the same party every election. With this in mind, voters in safe states feel like their votes are of no real worth and quite literally count less than votes in swing states.
In the early days of the U.S, as the founding fathers were composing this country, electors, who were wealthy white property owners, chose who they thought would be the best fit for the president. This unjust method of choosing the president was undemocratic and didn’t properly capture the people’s will. The National Archive and Record Administration writes, “There is no constitutional provision or Federal law that requires Electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states. Some states, however, require Electors to cast their votes according to the popular vote.” In fact, 21 states do not have any provision that mandates their electors to vote with the popular vote. This is a concern because it means that in nearly half of U.S. states, there is no guarantee that votes will actually count. In fact, multiple electors voted against the popular votes of their states in 2016. The electoral college is contradictory to the message of political equality and democracy within the United States.
The solution is clear: get rid of the electoral college and use the popular vote as a means to elect a president. Swing states possess too much power, so much that votes from their citizens are more significant than the votes of others. We have to be fair to our population, not like how our country was originally run. Removing the electoral college would shift us onto a fairer path where majority rule is used as a simple and yet effective way to elect a president, and democracy is maintained.