You have waited years for this moment. You are finally 18 years old. At last you get to exercise your constitutional right. You select the box of the candidate you want to win and place the ballot into the box. You have watched every presidential debate. You are proud to be a part of a nation where your voice can influence who becomes your president. Except…not really. The hard truth is 538 electors have the power to overrule the voices of hundreds of millions of voters. 538 electors have the power to silence our nation’s opinions. 538. That’s it. This webpage will describe the development of why the Electoral College exists in our nation and what we need to do about it.
The Electoral College was founded at the Constitutional Convention in 1787 and after five revisions, it became the Electoral College America uses today. This system was originally created by our founding fathers for two reasons: to give extra power to smaller states with less representation, and to create a cushion between population and the selection of a president (Schulman).
At the Constitutional Convention, the founding fathers considered several possible methods of selecting a president:
- Congress chooses the president. This idea was rejected because some thought making this choice would leave too many hard feelings in Congress, and it would attract political bargaining and corruption.
- State legislatures elects the president. This preposition was rejected out of fears that a president wight permit the State legislatures to erode federal authority; therefore, undermining the whole idea of a federation.
- The president is elected by a popular vote. Direct election was rejected because they feared without ample information about candidates from outside their state, people would naturally vote for the candidate from their state or region. The choice of president would always be decided by the largest, most populous states. Moreover, people could be persuaded by propaganda and are therefore not sufficient electors.
Finally, the “Committee of Eleven” proposed an indirect election through a College of Electors (Kimberling). Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution–explaining the executive branch and “the electors”–was then signed at the convention on September 12, 1787 (Constitution Center). On March 12, 1778 Alexander Hamilton published Federalist Paper No.68. It states that the “immediate election [of a president] should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations”(Congress.gov). Hamilton believed that the citizens of the United States were untrustworthy in deciding who should run their country. People are easily manipulated and brainwashed through many modes of propaganda and campaigning; therefore, Hamilton suggested we elect a select few who can not be controlled by the candidates to determine who should be the president. The electoral college, however, was not ratified until June 21, 1788.
The first design was each state was allowed a number of electors equal to the number of its U.S. Senators, always 2, plus the number of its U.S. Representative. This arrangement satisfied both small and large states (Kimberling). Each state’s electors had to meet in their respective states rather than all together. It was thought that this way would prevent bribery, corruption, secret dealing, and foreign influence. Each elector was required to cast two votes for president. One of which had to be for someone outside their home state. The person with the most electoral votes then became president, and whoever received the next greatest number of electoral votes became vice president. If no one obtained absolute majority then the U.S. House of Representatives chose the president from among the top 5 contenders. The vice presidency would go to the contender that had the greatest number of electoral votes. If that was tied as well, the U.S. Senate would break the tie by deciding between the two. Though this was a very elaborate design, it only lasted four presidential elections (Kimberling).
In the Election of 1800, the Electors of the Democratic-Republican Party gave Thomas Jefferson and Aaron Burr an equal number of electoral votes. The tie was then resolved by the House of Representatives in favor of Jefferson (Kimberling). After the 1800 election, the Electoral College was quickly modified by the 12th amendment by September of 1804. The amendment states that the electors would now cast two votes: one for president and one for vice president, to prevent ties (US House of Representatives). Furthermore, the amendment declares if no one receives the majority of electoral votes, then the House of Representatives will select the president from the top three candidates with each state casting one vote. The Senate will then select the vice president from the top two candidates for that position (Constitution Center). This design of the Electoral College has lasted through today, and although it seems foolproof based on its intentions, this system has created a lot of controversy.
After the election in 2016, I became in interested in how the president is elected in America. I did not understand why Donald Trump became our president when the majority of our country did not vote for him. If most of our country does not want him as our leader, then he should not be. There is a reason this nation’s name has the word “United” in it; however, the Electoral College has created a huge divide in this country not uniting us at all. There is such a big difference of opinions in many topics/ideas in America. I believe there would not need to be so many protests if we could elect who we wanted as our president and not who 538 electors want. Moreover, the Electoral College has caused the people of this country to have less of a voice as an individual. Popular vote is overruled by the Electoral College, breaking one of the United State’s main ideals, democracy. If a small committee of elected people has a bigger voice than the rest of the nation, how is that democratic? No other democratic country has a system similar to the Electoral College, why should this country have it?
We have let a system enacted over 200 years ago determine how this nation is run. Yes, the Electoral College was necessary in 1787; however, the United States back then compared to the United States today is extremely different. The original use of it being a cushion is no longer relevant. Candidates use techniques in their campaigning to sway voters in basically every election. Furthermore, the original purpose of defying tyrannical behavior is gone. Donald Trump has created an America with tyranny that defies our founding father’s intentions. Time Magazine states “[w]e cannot deduce, from the Trump administration’s destructive chaos and ideological incoherence, what the post-democratic American regime would be. We can be sure, however, that we would miss being free. The prospect of children and grandchildren growing up under tyranny is terrifyingly real. History can remind us of the fragile fundaments of our own democracy. But what follows now is up to us”(Time). It is up to us to not let this tyranny continue. It is up to us to keep America as free as it was meant to be. It is up to us to fix our nation.
The Pledge of Allegiance pledges liberty and justice; however, a system that strips people of basic rights as a citizen, such as an equal voice, is not a practice of liberty or justice. Moreover, popular vote is overruled by the electoral college, breaking one of the United State’s main ideals, democracy. No other democratic country has a system similar to the Electoral College. Furthermore, with the Electoral College, smaller states have enormous “political leverage”. Therefore, people who live in smaller states have a vote that is worth more than someone who lives in a larger states. Giving some people more of a voice than others is completely undemocratic. The United States is dwelling in a lie, calling itself a democracy and priding itself in freedom; however, America can’t meet these expectations completely until something is done about the Electoral College.
As radical as it sounds, the United States needs to abolish the Electoral College. We cannot let an outdated system rule over our voices. I have proved that the main purposes of the Electoral College are no longer relevant. We still let a tyrannical person run our country, and a huge part of modern day campaigning is manipulation and promises that are hard to keep.
We cannot question why not every person eligible to vote does indeed vote when in the end, their vote does not count for anything. Every person is a citizen of the United States. They are a citizen of this country as a whole, not a citizen of their home state. Each person should receive one vote. An equal vote. A vote that is worth the same as everyone else’s, no matter where in the country you live. With an election decided by the popular vote, people’s voices matter. Their opinions matter. They matter. If everyone matters, and everyone has an equal vote we can proudly call ourselves a democratic country. Our votes do not need to correlate with our home state, but they do need to represent the popular opinion.
With a direct election we can eliminate the divide that has formed in America and start to moving forward after the steps backward our nation was taken in these past two years. Every single citizen in our country should have a voice, and this way they can.
I welcome your constructive feedback and helpful thoughts on how we can fix the problem of the Electoral College.