The Electoral College: Outdated or Fundamental?

A+visual+representation+of+the+Electoral+College%2C+from+classroommagazines.scholastic.com

A visual representation of the Electoral College, from classroommagazines.scholastic.com

Zack Hayes, Journalist

     Throughout the history of the United States, five presidents have won the presidential election despite losing the popular vote. This is made possible by the Electoral College, a system where states are given a base amount of two electoral votes each, as well as additional votes based on the state population. Most recently, in 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million votes but ultimately lost the presidential election to Donald Trump by 77 electoral votes, the most out of any of the five elections. Through recent years, debates have arisen around the question of whether the Electoral College is a fundamental part of our national government that shouldn’t be changed, or an outdated system which gives certain areas of the country a larger advantage.

     Some young voters, such as Olympia High School Senior Miles Wilderman, believe that the Electoral College has no place in our current democracy. Wilderman thinks the system is, “outdated because it gives more power to states with less population. People in these states have a larger voice than people in, say, California,” he continued, “This is unfair and not very chill or democratic”. He also believes there is an easy solution to be pursued. “The system should be switched to a popular vote system. This system would favor democrats as the current system favors republicans, except the system would actually be democratic,” said Wilderman. His logic is based on the idea that each person’s vote should have the same weight, as he believes this is the true meaning of democracy.

     Although many current-day voters advocate for a change in this system, there are also many people who believe it is an essential part of our national government, and that it should not go anywhere. Kent Renda, Senior at Bellarmine Preparatory High School acknowledges that the Electoral College seems strange in recent election results, but still believes it is a valid system. “Although it seems weird for the popular vote to not always decide the winner, the electoral college allows for minority opinions and prevention of mob rule to have a standing chance in our democratic republic,” said Renda. He continued, “This also makes more voices heard and [makes people] more connected to the candidates because [the candidates] must run and rally in more states. With an election decided on the popular vote, there is no reason to base your campaign anywhere other than California, Texas, Florida, and New York.” Although controversial, Renda’s point is supported by the data. According to nationalpopularvote.com, in 2016 twelve states shared 94% of the total campaign events for all candidates. 

     In the end, what is a good solution that satisfies both sides? Should the current system be left alone? Different candidates who ran for the 2020 presidential election have varying opinions on how this issue should be addressed. According to the Washington Post, candidates like Pete Buttigieg and Elizabeth Warren believe it should be scrapped and that the popular vote should decide the president, while Joe Biden and Mike Bloomberg believe it is a system that should remain in place, and a few candidates even have ideas to reform the system to more of a compromise. Andrew Yang, for example, believes that the Electoral College is not a completely fair system, but he proposes other solutions such as the system of ranked-choice voting, where voters rank their choices of candidates to allocate a number of votes. Tulsi Gabbard, another 2020 election candidate who dropped out, thinks that it is unfortunate that the appeals for changing this system often come from the side who had been disadvantaged by it.

     Clearly, there are a variety of viewpoints around this issue, but what does that mean for any real-life changes? For a change to be made in the presidential election system, an amendment would need to be added to the constitution. For an amendment of this sort to happen, three-fourths of each House of Congress would have to vote in favor of ratifying the amendment, meaning that a vast majority of people would have to come to an agreement on a better system for any actual changes to be made. In the meantime, while some participate in activism against the system and others defend it, the Electoral College remains a crucial part of our democratic government which will most likely impact all of our futures as it elects the ones who lead us.