The Echo Chamber: On the Electoral College

Hillary Clinton is the fifth presidential candidate in American history to have won the popular vote but lose the election. This is due to the Electoral College, a system that many see as a slight toward democracy and a sign of its brokenness in America. But are those feelings justified? Is the system truly broken? To find out, we need to take a step outside The Echo Chamber.

Our presidential electoral system consists of 538 electors. Each state is allotted a number of electors that is equal to the number of its representatives plus the number of its senators. But since every state has two senators, each state receives an extra two electors no matter their population. This skews the electoral college toward smaller states who get a minimum of three electors even if their population is much less than 3/538ths of the country.

In a pure democracy where one person always equals one vote, Texas, with its nearly 27 million citizens, would not have the same senatorial representation as Vermont, with just over 600,000. The question of whether or not the Electoral College is a good system is less a question of democracy and more of who should decide on the next president, the people or the states? Most Americans tend to agree with the former, with 63 percent in favor of getting rid of the Electoral College according to a 2013 Gallup poll.

Even with the overwhelming opinion against it, some argue that the Electoral College gives a voice to the voiceless by inflating the value of small, rural states. In this regard, the Electoral College fails spectacularly. Rather than incentivizing candidates to focus on a broad slew of states, candidates focus on four or five swing states where, due to the winner-take-all nature of the Electoral College, a single vote can swing up to five percent of the entire electoral vote. All of Florida’s 29 electors were decided by a mere 537 votes in 2000. This winner-take-all system is at the core of the “states versus the people” divide. Is the will of a state-entity more important than the will of the people at large? To address its consequences, we must look at potential alternatives.

A national popular vote (NPV) is another option, but it is not without its faults. An NPV could create a logistical nightmare with a nationwide recount and it could enable a candidate to win the presidency with just a small plurality of the vote. The NPV could also lead candidates to focus solely on large urban centers, leaving a huge portion of the population behind.

Maine and Nebraska have devised a second way, dividing electors proportionally to their internal popular vote. This system retains the inflated representation of smaller states so that they are not outshone by urban centers, while ridding the country of the winner-take-all swing state problem. States would split their electors, and the millions of democratic votes in Texas would finally be made worthwhile.

The Electoral College is an incredibly flawed system, but is it truly an affront against democracy or merely a different interpretation of what our democracy should be? And if it must go, what are the best alternatives? That’s for you to decide. For now, I just hope that you’ve enjoyed some time outside The Echo Chamber.

5 Responses

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  1. Mark Hughes
    Nov 16, 2016 - 10:04 PM

    Here is something to consider about the electoral college: Do we want a president who wins by running up the score in one or two states, or do we want a president who wins by garnering narrower victories in a wide array of states? Clinton won New York and California. Trump won Texas. And Florida. And North Carolina, Ohio, Michigan, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and even one electoral vote in Maine. He won the Electoral College by assembling a more politically and geographically diverse group of states than Clinton did. In our system, winning the Electoral College confers legitimacy because such a victory exemplifies the reality the Electoral College was created to ground in our political order: that the United States is a federal union of semi-sovereign states. Those states, not the Electoral College, were Hillary Clinton’s downfall. Read more at: http://www.nationalreview.com/article/442231/popular-vote-hillary-didnt-really-win-it

    My comments: By winning more politically and geographically diverse group of states, support for the president-elect (or any president elect who wins the electoral college vote) is broader based than for a candidate who wins the most populous states, which, except for Texas, are basically blue states. Why change a system that has led to peaceful (i.e. no military involved) transition of power for more than 230 years just because our candidate didn’t win the electoral college. If a candidates’ message doesn’t work, then maybe the message of the party’s next candidate should change? Hmmmm.

    • Monk
      Nov 17, 2016 - 07:18 AM

      It’s ironic that Trump’s victory was due to more diverse support. This is a reality that escapes the self-styled champions of diversity in the media and on college campuses, not to mention the Democratic Party.

      • heatherGirl
        Nov 28, 2016 - 11:47 AM

        Your confused about liberal diversity. They believe in a diverse group of people, different races, genders and sexual preferences, who all think exactly the same.

        Trump supporters think the wrong thoughts….. they were people of different genders, sexual preferences and races, who had diversity of thought, not something liberals approve of!

  2. Tao4mind
    Nov 17, 2016 - 01:27 AM

    The Electoral College allows the rural areas to be included in the democracy. If you remove the Electoral College system only NYC and Los Angeles and high population areas would matter. Places who have become comfortably numb to criminal activity. Just like Jerry Sandusky the rapes of little boys in showers had become “normal” behavior. Main Stream media feeding Hillary debate questions and Hillary taking Haiti children to Bahama for sex trafficking is normal and as Loretta Lynch said: “We need to protect the inter circle” which is why Jerry Sandusky crimes were ignored. In the 1980’s when U.S. murdered millions of people in South America Sanctuary involved over 500 congregations in the United States that, by declaring themselves official “sanctuaries,” committed to providing “shelter, material goods” and often legal advice to Central American refugees. Various denominations were involved, including the Lutherans, United Church of Christ, Roman Catholics, Presbyterians, Methodists, Baptists, Jews, Unitarian Universalists, Quakers, and Mennonites. The federal government did not supply any funding for sanctuaries and the religious groups paid for shelters and material goods. Your demands for sanctuaries without any religious backing will only get you “obstruction of justice” from government lawmakers. Why is Trump being quiet? The Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, commonly referred to as the RICO Act or simply RICO, is a United States federal law that provides for extended criminal penalties and a civil cause of action for acts performed as part of an ongoing criminal organization and sentencing guideline are 50% higher in election cycles.

  3. heatherGirl
    Nov 28, 2016 - 11:43 AM

    These people are so amusing. If Hillary Clinton had won the electoral college and not the popular vote, do you think any of these people would be telling us we need to end the electoral college?

    They are sore losers….. these are the very same people who declared that questioning the outcome of the election would undermine our democracy……. that was until they lost!

    Could you just imagine if Clinton had won and Republicans were out in the street setting things on fire??? THEY would be called radical extremist……. but what we have now are Democrats out in the streets setting things on fire…… the media calls them protesters.

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