Does Your Vote Count? The Benefits and Shortages of the Electoral College
November 29, 2016
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The 2016 presidential election was one of the longest and dirtiest elections in US history, and the only hope that many people had during the election cycle was that the it would eventually end there would be a clear winner. This is not the case, however. On November 8th, the day when the uncertainty about America’s future was supposed to clear up, only more uncertainty arose.
There is no clear winner to the 2016 election. Sure, Donald Trump won the presidency, but only because he won the electoral college. On the other hand, Hillary Clinton has amassed two million more votes than him in the popular vote. The US claims to be a democracy, which is by definition run by the people, and the citizens of the US chose Hillary Clinton to be their president.
This discrepancy between the popular vote and the electoral college is nothing new to American politics. In 5 out of 57, or 9%, of presidential elections, a candidate won the electoral college without winning the popular vote. Imagine putting all right answers on a 57 question quiz but 5 of them are marked wrong, so instead of getting a 100%, you get a 91%. This is the same situation as American politics, but instead of your grade suffering, our country is suffering.
Many voters still do not understand why the electoral college was implemented in the first place, but there are two main reasons why it was first made. When creating the electoral college, the Founding Fathers aimed at creating a system where the small states would not be forgotten by candidates and where a select group of people could prevent someone who posed danger to the country from coming to power. These are worthy concerns, but the electoral college does not address them properly.
Most states have a winner-take-all system, where the candidate who wins the state’s popular vote earns all of the state’s electoral votes; therefore, if a candidate knows that he/she will win at least 51% of a state’s popular vote, he/she will not waste their time campaigning there. This causes states ranging from California to Wyoming, the greatest populated and least populated states, respectfully, to not receive many campaign stops because they are consistent with their party affiliations. The electoral college does not protect the small states; it only protects the small number of “swing states” that will give them a better chance of winning.
The popular alternative to the electoral college is having a direct democracy, where the winner of the popular vote wins the election. This is model is better than the electoral college, but it still has its problems. The US is a very geographically and culturally diverse country, and the presidential election should represent all people. If a direct democracy were used, then the candidates would likely focus on gaining the votes of people in the Northeast and in California, the two major population centers of the country, and many people living in less populated areas might not feel like they are represented equally.
There is not a perfect system for electing the president of the United States. The electoral college is a 200-year-old system that does not serve the purpose that it aims for, and having a direct democracy will leave much of the country alienated. Some sort of a compromise between the two systems must be created. It may not exist yet, but with the abundance of research and statistics available to today’s political scientists, a new system definitely can and should be implemented.