Presidential talk has been all the rage the past few months. You’re tired of it, I’m tired of it, and yet the media still keeps raving on about how “Donald Trump Is Staying In The Trump Tower!?”, or “That Green Party Stein Person is Calling For a Recount!” But even as you read these headlines and silently cringe, you still feel an inert political and moral responsibility to “educate” yourself as you’ve seen celebrities say in commercials, in order to “make the right decision.”
Let’s be real here.
Hillary Clinton received two and a half million more popular votes than Donald Trump. Yet, he still won because of his electoral college majority. That means that a man won the office of the most powerful position in the world’s one and only superpower – with less than half of Americans’ support. Seems like a odd disparity, right?
Now, I’m certainly not implying that Trump is a bad candidate, nor am I saying not to properly do your research on candidates for government positions. But let’s be honest; something is definitely wrong when there have now been five instances in our country’s history where the “people’s vote” didn’t matter.
But let’s start from the root of the issue. First, some recap. The Electoral College is a body comprised of 538 electors (based on each state’s amount of Senators, Representatives, and Washington D.C.’s extra three) that votes to officially elect the President of the United States. There are many, many technicalities to this process; but the main thing you need to remember is that all the votes people cast on Election Day are simply used for the electors to base their vote off of, and thus don’t really count for the actual election of the President.
But the good news is, every state (with the exception of Maine and Nebraska) has chosen to require their electors to follow the results of the state’s Popular Vote (the amount of votes that normal Americans cast). This means that if a state’s popular vote turns out to be 51% for one candidate, and 49% for another, then all of that state’s electors should vote for the former candidate.
Except, here’s the catch.
If a state like California, which is allocated a sizeable 55 electoral votes, ends up in a situation like that, then that means that all of the 55 electoral votes will go to a single candidate. This means that 49% of the state’s population isn’t being represented. Add on the fact that “require” is a very broad term; while a state may “require” their electors to follow the popular vote, the penalties for not doing so are incredibly lenient and divided – if any exist at all. In fact, many states do not have any penalties in place in the instance that a “faithless elector” doesn’t vote according to the popular vote. And for those who do diverge from the popular vote, such a penalty may only be a small fine; and, even then, it’s rarely enforced.
Even if you ignore all of these representation and ‘faithless elector’ issues, there’s still another obvious obstacle that the Electoral College faces. In order for the next President to be elected, they need to receive a majority of 270 votes. And if nobody gets a majority? Then the election is moved to the House of Representatives, with each state then receiving one vote for a total of fifty votes. Thus, the winner then needs to win a majority of 26 votes. But in this instance, the law states that the three candidates who received the most electoral votes are balloted. This makes it possible for there to be another stalemate of no majority; in which case the House revotes. And revotes. And revotes. Constant, endless stalemates; and while you could argue that the our current two-party political atmosphere makes it impossible for three candidates to be moved to the House, it’s important to remember that things can change. What’s the point of such an inefficient, indirect system in our country, considering how much we pride ourselves on our democratic ways?
The Electoral College is a process in which unreliability, inefficiency, and misrepresentation can easily run rampant. It was created by our Founding Fathers to provide a buffer from the ‘less-educated’ population and the most powerful office in government. But today, such a rigid, generalistic system has no place in American society; literacy rates and education standards have vastly improved compared to a United States of the 1800s. “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.’ When did we consent to allow the cornerstone of our nation – the democratic election process – to be a false reality, created only to benefit the government?
Graphics: Jessica Chang