The 2016 US elections were a train wreck for the democrats who were quite confident about Hilary Clinton’s victory in the elections. Hilary Clinton had secured 65,845,063 while Donald Trump got about 62,980,160 which secured Clinton around three million more votes in the popular vote count against Trump. Despite winning millions more votes than her Republican counterpart, Hilary Clinton could not get the fate for becoming president and lost the presidential elections to Trump. The major reason for this was the electoral college.
Donald Trump had procured 46.09% popular vote whereas Hilary Clinton acquired 48.18% popular vote. However, Trump received 304 electoral college votes and Hilary lacked way behind with 277 electoral college votes. The debate for abrogating the electoral college has surfaced in America ever since. 2016 was not the first time when popular vote lost to electoral college vote. Four times in US history has electoral college vote been victorious. These were 1824 (John Quincy Adams over Andrew Jackson), 1876 (Rutherford B. Hayes over Samuel Tilden, 1888 (Benjamin Harrison over Grover Cleveland) and 2000 (George W. Bush over Al Gore).
The electoral college was initiated in 1788 under the Article II of the US Constitution along with which the Executive Branch of the US government was also established. The electoral college today is not the same as that of 1788 because it has been revised three times under Twelfth Amendment, Fourteenth Amendment and the Twenty Third Amendment. The presidential election is a part of constitution so it will take a proper constitutional amendment to abolish the system of electoral college.
The founding fathers of America had created the electoral college to create a compromise between election of president through vote by Congress and through the popular vote. The electoral college consists of 538 electors and each state is assigned one elector for a Representative and a Senate. Except for DC which gets 3 electors under the 23rd Amendment. Americans vote for the electors in each state and the electors then directly elect the president and the vice-president.
The debate for the nullification of electoral college has widened since 2016. In the latest Gallup poll, almost 61% Americans voted in favor of abolishing the electoral college which was up 12 points from 2016. So, what is actually all the fuss about this abrogation? What really are the positive and negative sides for the existence of this electoral college? Is it really an unjust system or a fairly appropriate strategy?
The electoral college does have its fair share of pros. It was established as the best method to elect the president. The use of electors instead of popular vote was intended to provide safeguard against uneducated voters. The final decision is given to electors who have the best minds for electing a president. The founding fathers of America also established the electoral college to prevent America from the tyranny of the majority in which majority voters can usurp the minority interests.
The electoral college also ensures that all parts of the country are involved in selecting the President of United States. If the election had depended only on popular vote, then the candidates would limit their campaigning to the heavily-populated states. The presidential candidates need electoral college votes from multiple regions and hence develop campaigning platforms across the country with a national focus. if it were not for the electoral college, groups like Iowa Farmers and Ohio Factory workers would be ignored because candidates would only indulge in metropolitan areas leaving the rural and small town areas behind.
Furthermore, the electoral college also assures a certain outcome for the presidential election. If the elections had been based on popular vote, it would be possible for a candidate to receive the highest number of popular votes without actually obtaining a majority. The electoral college also creates a larger mandate to give the president more credibility. In 277 years of presidential elections history, the winner of the popular vote has lost the electoral college vote only five times which proves the efficiency of this system.
Despite the authentication of this system, Americans’ demand for its abrogation has increased over time due to certain reasons. The reasons that electoral college was established are no longer pertinent. The advanced technology and political parties allow voters to make the informed decisions for themselves that initially the electors were to make. Just like several voting laws that have limited the direct democracy in the Constitution have been modified or discarded throughout history, the electoral college also needs abolishment.
The electoral college grants too much importance and power to the Swing States and the president is elected by just a handful of states. Democrats and Republicans both invest all their campaigning money and efforts in the battleground states like Florida, California, Michigan etc. In 2016, Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton made more than 90% of their campaign stops in just 11 states which happened to be the swing states.
Last but not the least, the electoral college fully ignores the will of the people. There are over 300 million people in the United States, but only 538 out of the millions get to decide the fate of the country. Even President Donald Trump who benefitted highly from the electoral college admitted that he believes in that an American president should be elected by the popular vote.
Although the electoral college was established so that the popular will could flourish, it has actually turned out to be the opposite for that. A total of 700 amendments have been proposed in the last two centuries to invalidate the electoral college. A Senate vote in 1979, the 95th Congress session and the 116th Congress session all proposed various ways to abolish the system but all of them failed.
As a country founded on revolutionary principles of democracy, America should seek the voices of every American in our elections. It is time for America to move ahead with abolishing the electoral college before it distorts the popular will and creates a constitutional crisis.
Author is doing BS in International Relation from Lahore College for Women University. She is a freelance writer. Previously worked with The Frontier Post, Dawn and Express Tribune.