Opinion: Our current system ensures equality for every voter

In 2016, Donald Trump won the presidential election despite the fact Hillary Clinton secured the popular vote. In American history, five presidents have won the electoral college but not the popular vote. Recently, some prominent figures, including several democratic candidates in 2020, have called for the popular vote to be the only result that matters.

In theory, this sounds reasonable, but the Electoral College was put in place to serve the purposes of the nation. It exists to give the smaller states a voice, and stop larger states such as California, New York and Texas from controlling the outcome of elections.

According to the Huffington Post, the Electoral College works in conjunction with the popular vote. In Nebraska and Maine, the electoral votes are split depending on proportional representation of the citizens’ votes. For the rest of the 48 states and the District of Columbia, the winner of the popular vote takes all the electoral votes for that state. 

The Electoral College was put into place in 1804. According to the National Archives and Records Administration, “The Founding Fathers established it in the Constitution as a compromise between election of the President by a vote in Congress and election of the President by a popular vote of qualified citizens.”

In other words, the Founding Fathers created the Electoral College as a compromise between voting solely by the elected officials, whom they believed were more educated, and the wants of the citizens of the United States.

This reasoning could seem a little outdated, as the general populace today has greater access to political information and is generally more informed about candidate’s policy positions. Additionally, it is easier to remain informed on candidates now with the media than it was when the system
was established.

What is relevant is that the Electoral College gives more power to the smaller states that are otherwise far more insignificant. For example, if the U.S. were to switch to popular vote only, Rhode Island would not have as much sway as North Carolina, nor would North Carolina have as much sway as New York.

Without the Electoral College, the smaller states would become insignificant and their votes would be meaningless. That is not what our founding fathers intended. They created a system of checks and balances, so that one person (or state) would not have too much power over another.

Google  Images
Electoral map — The 2016 vote resulted in Donald Trump winning the electoral college, despite losing the popular vote to Hillary Clinton.

However, even with the Electoral College, the system is not perfect. New York still gets more votes than Rhode Island; however, with the electoral college, Rhode Island still gets a say, regardless of its population.

Consider this: the U.S. has a national population of over 328 million, according to the United States Census Bureau. New York has around 19.5 million which is roughly 6 percent of the national population. Rhode Island has a population of just over 1 million, which is around 0.3 percent of the population. This means that New York has more than 20 times the number of people of Rhode Island.

Though these two states are relatively close in geographical terms, they each have their own economies and wishes that would benefit their state. In a battle of population, New York is going to win every time, and Rhode Island will be drowned out.

In the Electoral College, New York has 29 votes and Rhode Island has three. The Electoral College has a total number of 538 electors. Translation: New York holds five percent of the votes and Rhode Island holds .5 percent of the votes. New York still has roughly 10 times the number of votes as Rhode Island, but in this system, each of the smaller states has a greater say. In this way, the Electoral College allows population to be treated as a contributing factor without it becoming the only factor.

The Founding Fathers knew what they were doing when they created the Electoral College, and it allows the government to give a voice to the little guy without completely ignoring the greater number of voices of the more populated states. In a country that strives for equality, the Electoral College is as close as the country can get.

One comment

  • Respectfully, it must be pointed out that this editorial conflates two issues of “fairness” that are often practically contradictory, summarized by the statement “one person (or state) would not have too much power over another.” As a voter from North Carolina, I wholeheartedly admit that, for all practical purposes, my vote matters more than a voter from Texas, New York, or California (or even Iowa or Rhode Island).

    The system of winner take all electors fundamentally undermines the idea that “one person’s” vote will always have the same meaning–in fact, that unfortunate reality is the basis for political gamesmanship like Gerrymandering. The notion that “all person’s votes should matter equally” itself rests fundamentally on the notion that it is *your vote that matters,* not *where your vote is cast.*

    The electoral college was created as a check on the direct election of the Executive by the population, not because of fairness concerns.

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