During this year’s election coverage, you will continuously hear pundits talking about polling data. What’s particularly weird about our national elections is how much we focus on state polling data. Why do we care so much about how the people of Ohio are voting? You would think that what should matter is the entire country’s view on who should become president.
The reason we care so much about certain states is the fact that we have the electoral college. But should we keep it? The answer is a resounding ‘no’ — the electoral college needs to go.
How does the electoral college work? Each state is allotted electors that are equal to the representation they have in Congress. For example, California has 53 representatives and two senators equaling 55 electoral votes, whereas Maine has two representatives and two senators, giving Maine four electoral votes. The electors are brought in by popular vote. During the election, these electors cast their vote for whoever wins the most votes in their state.
One reason this system needs to go is because it has run against the democratic will of country on occasion. The elections of 1876, 1888 and 2000 were all won by the candidate who didn’t win the popular vote. The most recent case is George W. Bush’s presidential win with 47.87 percent of the vote, even though Al Gore won 48.38 percent.
The system also causes certain votes to not matter. California is an overwhelmingly Democratic state. A Republican voting in California does not matter overall, because a Republican majority in California won’t reasonably happen. Similarly, Democrats in Texas have no reason to vote because it is a Republican state. The system discourages voting participation. In the U.S., a country that already has low voter turnout — 57 percent in 2012 — this is something we need to avoid.
This system further leads to the creation of swing states. Swing states are states that switch their voting tendencies. These states include Florida, Ohio, New Hampshire, North Carolina, Wisconsin, Michigan and a few others. This adds a different dynamic to the election. Candidates spend most of their time and money in these states to influence the outcome of the election. This makes the campaign about these states only. Blue and red states essentially don’t matter. A Democrat has no real reason to travel to rural Louisiana to hear the concerns of the people. A Republican has no real reason to go to Portland, Oregon.
Not only is the election centered around certain states, but certain individuals possess more power per electoral vote. According to an analysis from Slate, in Maine, there is one electoral vote for every 263,457 people over 18. In California there is one electoral vote for every 508,344 people over 18. This gives the people of Maine more power per vote than the people of California. Any democratic system that gives more power to some individuals over others is not a truly democratic system.
The electoral system needs to be reformed. Since the system is written into the Constitution, it will take a constitutional amendment to change the system. But it is clear that a system that creates a condition where certain people’s votes matter over others is not a fair democratic system. To truly represent the desires of the people, we need to get rid of the electoral college.