The Electoral College: Should It Stay or Should It Go?


David O’Brien, Editor

Electoral College results of the 2016 election. Despite Donald Trump’s victory, statistics show Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over two million votes.

Only five presidential elections in American history have led to the president of the United States winning the electoral college and losing the popular vote. Each has led to major controversies. Andrew Jackson claimed that John Quincy Adams only won the presidency through a corrupt bargain with the Speaker of the House, Henry Clay, resulting in Congress refusing to follow his agenda. Rutherford B. Hayes is remembered by historians as one of the most corrupt and controversial presidents of all time because of his “compromise of 1877,” where Hayes promised to end reconstruction as long as Democrats stopped contesting the election and stopped attempting to have a recount. Grover Cleveland replaced Benjamin Harrison after his election, as majority of people saw Harrison’s victory as nothing more than a result of party machinery and the corruption of the Gilded Age. George W. Bush won the election of 2000 because of a controversial 5-4 Supreme Court decision to end the Florida recount. Of course, over the past four years we have all heard the many different arguments on whether or not Trump deserves to be in office since he lost the popular vote by the largest margin in U.S. history. Many Americans have become fed up with the electoral college. Numerous congressional representatives, senators and governors have publicly endorsed abolishing it, and replacing it with an electoral system where whoever wins the popular vote becomes the president. Here is the question — what are the positives and negatives of the electoral college, and should you be for or against it?

Supporters of the electoral college argue that the electoral college is necessary to maintain the balance of power between the states, as well as help the people who may be forgotten in a normal popularity vote to have proper representation. Without the electoral college, presidential candidates would be able to be elected by only campaigning in major urban centers like New York City and Los Angeles. This situation would result in people who many believe to be the backbone of America, such as farmers, rust belt factory workers and small town families, to be marginalized. Many argue that if candidates only need support from major urban centers, they may only support policies that benefit essential backers at the cost of harming those not needed for election. Many argue that without the electoral college, politicians will become populist demagogues who are willing to simply help the 51 percent and leave behind the 49 percent. Supporters also see the electoral college as an institution that provides much needed stability to the election process. Supporters of the electoral college believe abolishing it would result in more contentious outcomes, marginalization of valuable voting blocks and communities and overall harm Americans more than help them.

Opponents of the electoral college claim the reasoning behind its founding is no longer necessary. Originally it was created because the founders feared that the people would not know enough about their candidates to vote properly. The founders did not have complete faith in a true democracy, thus the college was necessary. Opponents of the college find this idea appalling, because they believe a true democracy is the only way a government should be run and democracy is what makes America great, not the founders’ system. Undemocratic principles of the college are plenty for many to support abolishing it. Opponents also believe that swing states like Pennsylvania, Arizona, Michigan, Wisconsin and Florida have too much power under the current system. They believe that with the current system, not all votes matter. If California is always blue, there’s no reason for a Republican to vote there as their vote will not mean anything. This situation furthers their claim that the electoral college is undemocratic, as it leaves many people’s votes meaningless, thus it should be repealed. Finally, people believe that the electoral college violates the general will of the people. Opponents follow the political philosophy of popular sovereignty — if a candidate gets a 51 percent majority, they simply deserve to win, as that is the general will of the people. 

The issue is not fully black and white, however. Some believe that if numerous counties in a state vote blue and numerous counties vote red, the state should not fully endorse one candidate. Instead, the college’s votes should be split. Thus, the college should remove its policy of endorsing candidates entirely by state but should keep its district voting system. This system would allow the election to remain stable, non-urban citizens to still have valuable votes, and for people of all states to have votes that “matter.” Two states have decided to experiment with this plan. In 1972, Maine and In 1992, Nebraska both passed legislation for this plan and it seems to be quite well for the state. Perhaps this idea is the compromise that could be a good resolution between supporters and opponents.

With this current election, many are questioning the importance of the electoral college. Many believe that once all the ballots are counted, a candidate may be put in office without the majority of people supporting them, like last election. This outcome may lead to protests and arguments from both sides that refuse to acknowledge the other’s argument.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s