Who Elects The US President?
The Electoral College is a unique method for indirectly electing the president of the United States. It was established by Article II, Section 1, Clause 2 of the U.S. Constitution and modified by the 12th and 23rd Amendments.
When Americans cast their ballots for the US president, they are actually voting for a representative of that candidate’s party known as an elector. There are 538 electors who then vote for the president on behalf of the people in their state.
Critics argue that the Electoral College is less democratic than a national direct popular vote and is subject to manipulation because of faithless electors and the influence of smaller swing states whose population demographic clearly has a bias towards one party or the other. This may seem like a liberal rant to defame the current state of electoral affairs but I will remain as neutral as possible. Effectively any candidate can simply have their base states sit on auto-pilot and collect the Dem. or Rep. votes and then go find an angle for the swing states to win. Here are the factors involved:
Who Should Really Be Getting The Electoral Votes?
The military should get a skew of electoral votes. This is unconventional and totally different than doling them out by State but to me it represents a system that rewards those who have given it all for their country . These people put it all on the line for us and in a world where we are passing propositions to let prisoners vote. Electoral votes by State is based largely on under represented industries and States which are simply institutions, that is economic and undemocratic in my opinion. Dole out electoral votes for military voters.
Throughout American history, 157 electors have voted contrary to their state’s chosen winner.. The precedent set by these people creates uncertainty about how future Electoral College votes could proceed. This possibility became even more likely after a recent court decision. In the 2016 election, seven electors defected from the dictates of their state’s popular vote. This was the highest number in any modern election. A Colorado lawsuit challenged the legality of state requirements that electors follow the vote of their states, something which is on the books in 29 states plus the District of Columbia. In the Baca v. Hickenlooper case, a federal court ruled that states cannot penalize faithless electors, no matter the intent of the elector or the outcome of the state vote.
Popular vs Electoral Votes
The more popular argument is the principle of “one person, one vote” and there can be elections where one candidate wins the national popular vote but another wins the electoral vote, as in the 2000 and 2016 elections. Individual citizens in less populated states with 5% of the Electoral College, have proportionately more voting power than those in more populous states, and candidates can win by focusing their resources on just a few swing states. With this system, a candidate can simply invest in policies friendly to those states to effectively buy them off with things like support for farmers etc.. The population is much smaller and their votes count by roughly 3 times more than people in other states:
Wyoming has one electoral college vote for every 193,000 people, compared with California’s rate of one electoral vote per 718,000 people. This means that each electoral vote in Wyoming represents over three times as many as in California. These disparities are repeated across the country.
All things considered, the US has had 5 presidents out of the 58 elections since 1789 who lost the overall popular vote but won the election. So we have to decide if 9% of the elections being won by the electoral college but not the popular vote is a problem or not as the trend in the last 5 elections has been 40% (2 out of 5) who have lost the election on a popular vote.
The Winner Take All System
The Electoral College nearly always operates with a winner-takes-all system, in which the candidate with the highest number of votes in a state claims all of that state’s electoral votes. For example, in 2016, Trump beat Clinton in Florida by a margin of just 2.2%, but that meant he claimed all 29 of Florida’s crucial electoral votes.
The margin of victory in each state is irrelevant under the current system. The math is clear when we look at 2016 as an example. In 2016, Trump gained ¼ of his electoral votes from just 191,000 votes in the closest four states. That basically says that ¼ of what Trump won the election with was decided by the same population as the city of Mobile, Alabama.
Furthermore, the makeup of these states favors Republicans and differ from the national average.The demographics of these is older, they have more white voters without college degrees, and often have smaller non-white populations. These characteristics generally favour Republicans, and made up the base of Trump’s votes in 2016.
Biden could face the same hurdle in November, meaning he will need to focus his attention on a handful of battleground states to win the presidency.
The Unequal Distribution of Electoral Votes
While the number of electoral votes a state is assigned somewhat reflects its population, the minimum of three votes per state means that the relative value of electoral votes varies across America.
Wyoming has one electoral college vote for every 193,000 people, compared with California’s rate of one electoral vote per 718,000 people. That is 3.7 times the voting power per person for Wyoming residents vs. California. These disparities are repeated across the country. Wyoming represents industries that California doesn’t and that is part of what we are trying to boost with the electoral college vote distribution. Is it worth it?
Is The System Biased?
Experts have warned that, after returning two presidents that got fewer votes than their opponents since 2000, the electoral college is flawed.
In 2000, Al Gore won over half a million more votes than Bush (half a percent of people who voted in 2000), and Bush became president after winning Florida by just 537 votes out of the 5.9 million who voted “At the moment, the electoral college favours Republicans because of the way Republican votes are distributed across the country. They are more likely to occur in states that are closely divided between the parties.”
As candidates easily win the electoral votes of their solid states, the election plays out in a handful of key battlegrounds. In 2016, Trump won six such states – Florida, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin – adding 99 electoral votes to his total. So in many ways the election is pre-determined because the populous states are virtually pre-decided and so the candidates switch their strategy to market in the key battlegrounds. The entire election rests on swing states because of the demographic of individual states and their respective leanings.
The demographics of these states differ from the national average. They are older, have more white voters without college degrees, and often have smaller non-white populations. These characteristics generally favour Republicans, and made up the base of Trump’s votes in 2016. Trump knew this and used it to his advantage, bravo. This may be the reason Trump chose to be a Republican after switching parties many times before his run for President. He is a marketer at heart.
Trumps Core Demographic Are In Swing States
The picture graphic below shows the disparity in electoral vote distribution. California has a bigger population that 22 other states combined but has 57% of the electoral votes that they do.
OK, Show Me Other Solutions Then.
Several alternative systems for electing the president have been proposed and grown in favour, as many seek to change or abolish the electoral college.
The National Popular Vote Compact (NPVC) is one option, in which each state would award all of its electoral college votes in line with the national popular vote. If enough states signed up to this agreement to reach the 270 majority, the candidate who gained the most votes nationwide would always win the presidency.
However, the NPVC has more practical issues. Every state would have to sign up, whether they skew Republican or Democrat. Only a few Democratic states are currently signed up, but support could simply switch in the future if a Republican candidate faces winning the popular vote but not the presidency.
The NPVC is a solution that would elect the president with the most votes without the difficulty of abolishing the electoral college that is enshrined in the constitution.
The current system is also vulnerable to distorted outcomes through actions such as gerrymandering. This practice involves precisely redrawing the borders of districts to concentrate support in favour of a party. The result being abnormally shaped districts that disenfranchise certain groups of voters. Here is an example of how easily a district can be won even though you only get 40% of the vote:
Today, an amendment that would replace the college with a direct national popular vote is seen by many as the fairest electoral system but is under intense scrutiny largely based on party lines. The most prevalent argument against this is that certain states will be under represented.
The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. It has been enacted into law by 15 states and DC with 196 electoral votes
This whole debate boils down to a single question; how strongly do we believe in “one person, one vote”?