For the seventh time out of the last eight presidential elections, the Democratic Party has once again managed to win the popular vote but, despite these repeated victories, they have only won five of those eight elections, losing one to the popular vote and electoral votes and two to only electoral votes. As of the time of my writing this post, the president-elect, Joe Biden, has won nearly six million more votes than the incumbent President Trump but even still lawyers are battling in courts around the country to determine the winners of each state as the Trump campaign has filed multiple suits to contest these results. This same man won his election back in 2016 despite losing the popular vote and he now appears hell-bent on repeating his past triumphs, which begs the question, how can a candidate be elected president if the majority of voters cast their ballots for someone else? Only through the outdated and obstructing Electoral College is something like this possible, which is why I propose we must do away with it altogether, sticking only to the popular vote.
To those who are not familiar, though I would imagine most if not all readers are, the Electoral College (EC) was the system put in place by the Framers of the Constitution whereby people may vote not for the presidential candidate, but rather, for the political party and its selected slate of voters. Each state is allotted a single EC vote for each seat it holds in Congress, meaning two automatically for their Senate seats and the rest determined by their population representation in the House. For Washington DC, a region which is not a state and, thus, has no congresspersons but still, obviously, has large numbers of voters, they are guaranteed the same amount of EC votes as the state with the lowest amount, which is Wyoming at 3 EC votes. The selected EC votes go winner-take-all to the party with the most votes, essentially running for a monopoly of each state’s votes. With the exceptions of Maine and Nebraska which use congressional districts to decide EC votes, this is the system the United States uses to elect the president.
Supporters of the EC argue that it is a system meant to give the states proportional influence over the election, with each state receiving votes according to their population. They also argue against the notion of the “tyranny of the minority,” noting that the ten most populous states have 256 EC votes compared to the ten least populous states’ 32 EC votes. This is meant to be an argument in favor of equality, supposedly claiming that since the EC votes are proportional, the weight of each state’s votes is equal, allowing each state to have representation.
First, any such claims of “equality” in the EC are disingenuous at best as the institution does not promote equal representation as, if one looks at the 2010 census, it in fact promotes the exact opposite. Recall earlier the example of DC and Wyoming; the former had a population at the time of the 2010 census of ~600,000, compared to the latter’s ~550,000, but both have 3 EC votes. Not a massive difference, but compare these both to California’s ~37,270,000 and 55 EC votes. If the EC’s purpose is equality through proportion it is failing this, as each vote in Wyoming and DC are seemingly equal to 3-4 in California, with the former two having a ratio of 1 EC vote to ~180,000 and ~200,000 people respectively while the latter has a ratio of 1 EC vote to ~675,000 people. Also, looking at the supporter’s argument above, their logic is flawed at the start anyway as the ten most populous states accounted for about 53% of the US population in 2010, yet they have fewer than half of the EC votes. Thus, if one wanted equality with the current institution, they ought to rework how EC votes are allotted.
Second, with this unequal representation in the EC, states receive unequal attention come election time with many simply ignored or barely touched by the candidates. Most of the states vote reliably for either the Democratic or Republican parties with only a handful considered “swing states,” states which could vote either way depending on the election at hand and, understandably, these swing states are the states which everyone watches and fights for. Looking at campaign funding spent per state, 66% of all funding is spent in the top six states and 94% is spent in the top twelve, leaving the other 38 states to seemingly scrap over the remainder. Why bother spending money in New York when they know it will vote blue? Or why spend money in Tennessee when it will assuredly vote red? I will not deny that the removal of the EC will likely not resolve all issues of campaigning inequality, but it will force candidates to at least consider the voices of every voter in each state as the abolishment of the winner-take-all system would enfranchise each vote equally.
I believe we should take into consideration Robert Dahl’s definitions for what makes a state of political equals just that: equal. Dahl argues for three unimpaired opportunities, the third of which calls for preferences to be weighted equally “with no discrimination because of the content or source of the preference.” Considering this, I would argue that the EC does discriminate because of the source, that being the state. If we as Americans want to finally have the equality that we profess to value, then we must actually uphold a method that promotes equality in voting, and it is not the Electoral College.
 Dahl, Robert. Polyarchy: Participation and Opposition, 1971, chapter 1, p. 2.
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