Electoral College is Undemocratic but We Have no Better System

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Following the 2016 presidential election, calls of #notmypresident shattered liberal circles of the internet. Candidate Donald Trump had just won the presidential election over Hillary Clinton while losing the popular vote by a margin of nearly 2.9 million votes (Official 2016), and this isn’t the first time this has happened to our nation. In the 58 elections held since the founding of the United States, there have been six instances in which the winner of the national popular vote has lost the presidency (Popular Votes). So how does this keep happening? Under the current winner-takes-all system, which is utilized by 48 states, elections hinge on key battleground states which are much more prone to swinging parties from one election to the next. As a result, voters in less key states tend to turn out in lower numbers than swing states. In addition, the means by which electors are delegated allows smaller states to have greater relative influence than larger states on the results of the electoral college. For these reasons, the current version of the electoral college is undemocratic such that it weights the votes of certain groups more heavily than others.

Among the foundations of what it means to be an American is the belief that all people are created equal. This fundamental value applies to our voting system as well, where every person receives one vote which is worth just as much as everyone else’s. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be. According to Article 2, Section 1 of the United States’ constitution, each state receives “a number of electors, equal to the whole number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress” (Article II).

This means that at a minimum, a state can receive three electors and at the upper end is California with 55 electoral votes. While this model may seem fair, when you look at the actual proportions of the populations of the smallest states compared with the largest states, the imbalance becomes clear. Take, for example, the state of Wyoming: the state with the smallest population.

With a population of 563,626 people, according to the 2010 US Census (United States Census Bureau), Wyoming makes up for approximately .18% of the population of the nation. As for electoral votes, Wyoming receives 3 out of the total 538 electors in the electoral college, making up .56% of the total electoral vote. Compare these values to California, the largest state in the union. With a population of 37,254,518 making up for approximately 12.06% of the population, California’s 55 electors make up 10.2% of the total electors.

Looking at the ratio of electoral vote share to population share, the vote of a resident of Wyoming is worth nearly three times as much as that of a resident of California, and this isn’t the only case where this is true. Across the board, smaller states have significantly higher ratios of electoral vote share to population share, making each individual vote worth significantly more than those of people living in more populous states. This undemocratic weighting of votes is compounded upon by the impact of battleground states on non-swing states.

From the lowest of local levels to big ticket presidential elections, the democratic process requires voters to show up and represent their beliefs and values. Without participation, democracy is meaningless. One major result of the current system of the electoral college is the introduction of battleground or swing states: states where both the democratic and republican parties have similar levels of support. These states are more susceptible to changes in winning party in presidential elections. In these states, which are viewed as more important to winning the presidential election, candidates tend to spend significant amounts more of both time and money than in other states.

For the other states, this means that presidential candidates are less focused on listening to what voters think and care about, meaning voters are less engaged in the electoral process. This effect is reflected in election day turnouts. According to data from the 2016 presidential election collected by the United States Elections Project, of the fifteen most commonly accepted battleground states , 13 of these states fell above the national turnout rate of 59.2% (2016 November). On the other side, voters in states where a single party regularly has a plurality tend to feel like their votes matter less. For instance, in California, where a republican has not won a presidential election since 1988 (Krishnakumar, et al.), the turnout rate was only 56.5%.

Not only does the winner-takes-all system hurt voters who are passing on their chance to potentially sway the result of the presidential election, but it also effects down ticket races. For republicans in states like California and Hawaii and democrats in states like West Virginia and Alabama, if voters are not turning out to vote in presidential elections because they feel like their vote is worthless in the winner-takes-all system, they are not voting on down ticket races and ballot measures which may have far more direct consequences for them. Any system which discourages citizens from participating in their government is definitively undemocratic.

When the electoral college was founded with the ratification of the constitution, American democracy resembled nothing close to what it is now. Electors served a very different purpose than they do currently, public knowledge surrounding elections was much more limited, and the relationship between the state and federal governments was much different. The electoral college was a system imposed to protect voters from themselves, but in the last 200 plus years, our nation has changed. With the advent of faster transportation, telephones, and ultimately, the digital age, voters have significantly more access to information than the founding fathers ever could have imagined.

So, what should elections look like? The perfect world answer would seem to be a popular election, but this obviously has its drawbacks in practice. In the case of a recount, if the entire nations votes were to be recounted, it could potentially take a significant amount of time and money. The electoral college could also be reworked to be similar to Maine and Nebraska, where electoral votes are distributed proportionally rather than the winner-takes-all system, though this would make it significantly harder for candidates to reach the required 270 votes since third party candidates would be able to accrue electoral votes more easily. Ultimately, the perfect system may not exist.

There are countless factors which must be taken into consideration when looking at how to make the system more effective and more efficient and it may not be possible to meet all the criteria for the perfect election. In the end, even though the system is demonstrably ineffective, it favors certain demographics in congress who would never vote against the system that helps them. Until our representatives and senators, on both sides of the aisle, are able to come to a nonpartisan solution, American democracy will carry on as is.

Cite this paper

Electoral College is Undemocratic but We Have no Better System. (2021, Jun 14). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/electoral-college-is-undemocratic-but-we-have-no-better-system/



Do you think the Electoral College should be abolished Why or why not quizlet?
I think the Electoral College should be abolished because it is an outdated system that doesn't accurately reflect the will of the people.
What are the three main weaknesses of the Electoral College system quizlet?
The main weaknesses of the Electoral College system are that it is undemocratic, it is outdated, and it is undemocratic.
What is undemocratic election?
An undemocratic election is an election that does not adhere to the principles of democracy. This can happen when the election is not free and fair, when there is voter fraud, or when the results are not respected.
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