At 6:50 AM on November 9th, my alarm clock blared. Unlike most mornings where I lay motionless for the next ten minutes, I bolted upright. I reached for my laptop on the floor next to my bed. The blue illumination of the screen when I open the laptop momentarily blinded me. My tabs from last night still open, each one a news site’s coverage of the election. I directed the mouse to the Politico tab, and a series of statistics appear. To my astonishment, and to most of the country’s, Donald J Trump had received the Electoral votes necessary to become the 45th president of the United States.
The Electoral College is a representative system for electing the president. Contrary to conventional democracy, in the United States when you vote in the general election you aren’t directly voting for your desired candidate. Instead, you’re voting for which electorates will vote on your state’s behalf. The number of Electoral votes your state has depends on the population of your state. For states other than Maine and Nebraska have a winner takes all system for electoral votes. No matter if the margin is one vote or one million, all of the votes go to the majority candidate.
This leads to a couple of problems. For example if the popular vote goes to one candidate but the electoral goes to another, as in the case of Clinton vs. Trump and Bush vs. Gore. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.6 million votes, but because of Trump’s strategic wins, he will take the White House come January. It would seem to me that the Electoral College is failing its job if the people’s voice is unheard because of the system in place. It is clear that are issues to our political system that need changing.
Voter turnout is a considerable factor in this situation, as the Electoral College is fractioned off by population of a state, not the voting population. With voter turnout greatly varying between states, this can have a real effect on much your vote is worth.
The populations of Hawaii and New Hampshire are comparable so we both have three electoral votes. Voter turnout in Hawaii, however, is among the lowest in the country. In this election around 350,000 thousand people voted in Hawaii, while around 700,000 voted in New Hampshire. Our state’s voting power is the same as theirs despite us having twice the amount of voters. A vote in Hawaii is therefore equal to two votes in New Hampshire. This is unacceptable, a system should not restrict our voice by giving equal weight to a state whose voters turnout was 52 percent
The electoral college was intended to curb the power of those whose votes were uneducated. In the 1700’s news and knowledge was slow to spread, the electoral college was the founding fathers solution. The electorates were more educated and informed about different components of government so they were better suited to make the decision than rural illiterate farmers. But in current times, with a more informed public the Electoral College is outdated. In addition with shifting demographics, the Electoral College curbs minority votes.
For states such as Pennsylvania, demographics shift greatly when you move from urban to rural. In Philadelphia, 44.1 percent of the city is black (US Census Bureau), meanwhile, in Potter county, a mere .29 percent is black. These two places exist in the same state, and their citizens voted drastically different with Philadelphia voting 82.4 percent in favor for Clinton and Potter county voting 80.3 percent for Trump. The state had a popular vote in favor of Trump, with all 20 electoral votes going to him, despite the fact that many urban counties voted for Clinton. With the Electoral winner take all system, states are grouped together without regard for demographics.The 2,844,000 people who voted in favor for a Clinton presidency voices were unheard because of Trumps 1.2 percent majority.
Following the 2000 election a movement to abolish the Electoral College grew support, but quickly diminished following Bush entering office. Yet again the debate has been brought up, but what can be done?
Given that its abolishment would have to be done through a bill passed by the legislative branch, which is currently Republican controlled, it is unlikely it will happen in the next four years. It’s just not in the parties best interest. Reforming the Electoral College is necessary so that never again the office of Presidency will go to the person with the most Electoral votes but not the popular. Already democrats are pushing for reforms following Hillary’s lost.
In a movement spearheaded by Jill Stein, efforts to recount votes in three states is underway but an overturn of the results is unlikely.(http://www.nytimes.com/2016/11/28/us/politics/donald-trump-hillary-clinton-recount.html)
In the meantime activism is the best way to create change. Attending protest and demonstrations are more effective than rants on Facebook. Many feel this is the best way to overturn the results from the election. If you feel that change is necessary get out and make your voice heard.
Written by Dillon Mulhern