How the Electoral College Fails Voters

The recent confirmation of Joe Biden as the projected 46th president of the United States will definitely be an election forever remembered. Along with it came accusations of voter fraud, partisan bias, and controversy regarding unjust elections. What cannot be debated is that the world was watching, and the people spoke; more than ever before. We saw record numbers in this election; with nearly 150 million Americans casting a ballot for their future. Joe Biden's win was anything but an easy feat, and the fairness of this electoral process will be questioned by the Trump campaign. However, there may be some merit in the claim that our elections are not as fair as they can be, and much of that blame can be placed on the electoral college.

White House with American Flag Photo by Joshua Sukoff from Unsplash

The founding fathers agreed that the leader of the United States would be an elected executive and not a monarch, but there was disagreement as to how the president should be elected. The founders considered allowing congress to pick the president or the lawmakers of the state, but decided against this option due to potential conflicts of interest. Many delegates approved of a national popular vote, but the Southern states knew they would be at disadvantage due to their large population of disenfranchised enslaved people. The electoral college was ultimately a compromise to keep the states united.

election hero image Original illustration by Victoria Giardina

Each state is allotted electoral votes based on the number of politicians present in Congress; two senators and varying numbers of House representatives based upon population. Every state (and Washington DC) has at least one representative, making the minimum electoral votes to be three. It gets a little confusing when you realize that the electoral college does not represent the people, but instead represents the states. Wyoming, for example, has a population of almost 600,000 with three electoral votes, and California has a population of almost 40 million with 55 electoral votes. If you do the rough math, you see that one electoral vote represents around 3.5 more people in California than in Wyoming; in other words, one Wyoming vote is equal to 3.5 votes in California. So yes, the point of the electoral college is to give small states more power, but it still manages to do so miserably. Presidential candidates visit “battleground states,” at much higher frequencies because the opinions of voters in these states have the ability to sway an election. By campaigning in this way, candidates ignore states with low populations, which have not been swing states in recent elections.

This factor of targeted campaigning leads to a larger issue with the electoral college. Because the winner-take-all system is practiced in 48 states, presidential candidates do not have to focus on states where they perform comfortably in the polls. As long as they cross the 51% margin, the other 49% of voters in that state do not matter.  Therefore presidential candidates put their efforts towards states that are likely to result in close margins.

The electoral college fails to represent the values of those outnumbered while simultaneously underrepresenting the majority. If the founding fathers acknowledged that it wasn't a perfect solution, but instead a sacrifice, after exhausting all other options, then why are we still using it?

Sources: 1,2,3,4