This election left the U.S. divided and scared. There have been continuous riots and protests since the winner was announced. One of the many issues brought up was that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote, but not the election. While this may seem crazy to some, it is how our political system works. This has turned the public view once again onto the Electoral College. The same situation occurred in 2000, when Al Gore lost the election to George Bush, but won the popular vote. No matter which candidate you voted for, you should be in favor of a new political system. The Electoral College needs to be abolished. Electoral votes ensure that electors actually decide the outcome of the election, votes in different states are not equally represented, and the popular vote is completely ignored.
Your vote does not count under the Electoral College – well – it does not count equally when compared to others. For citizens living in smaller states, electoral votes guarantee they have more power than those in larger states. Electoral votes are votes cast in the electoral college of the U.S. by the representatives of each state in a presidential election. I will talk about the ridiculousness of these voters, called electors, a little later. The number of electoral votes each state has is determined by the combined total of senators and representatives that the state has. This means that larger states are supposed to have “proportionally” more electoral votes than smaller states. This would not be such a big deal if the number of electoral votes was actually proportional to the amount of people in the state. The infographic below illustrates the fact that the number of votes in different states are not equal to their respective populations. Citizens of Wyoming have almost four times the representation of voters in California. Not only does this give unequal and undemocratic representation, but also, electoral votes, in general, ensure that if you are not voting for your state’s winning party, your vote does not count.
The Electoral College also allows for electoral fraud. In the past, this took place through “buying” people’s votes or by paying people to vote in multiple states. This practice is less common now, especially with heavy media presence and polling places. However, the totally legal practice of gerrymandering continues under the Electoral College to this day. Gerrymandering is a difficult concept to explain as it is best understood visually, but it is basically when state legislators draw state Congressional districts for the election in their party’s favor. For example, look at North Carolina’s Congressional districts below. If that looks messy and confusing to you, you are not alone. Legislators draw these Congressional districts every ten years based on the past voting records in those areas. The result is rigged districts that have less to do with location and more to do with corruption. There is even a website dedicated to the redrawing of North Carolina’s districts because they are so manipulated. Gerrymandering causes certain parties to control districts and in turn help the party’s candidates win that state’s electoral votes. Which, in turn, win them the election. As long as they meet the required population numbers, the majority party’s politicians in their state legislature can draw the districts however they want in most states.
Now let’s talk about electors. You probably have never even heard of these people before. Electors tend to be political party insiders such as past politicians or even relatives of politicians. There are not many qualifications of who can be electors – except they can not be current politicians in power or those who have rebelled against the U.S. government. According to the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration, “Choosing each state’s Electors is a two-part process. First, the political parties in each state choose slates of potential Electors sometime before the general election. Second, on Election Day, the voters in each state select their state’s Electors by casting their ballots for President.” I bet you did not know that when you voted, you are really voting to pick someone who will vote for you. That is right – depending on the which candidate wins your state, certain electors are chosen to vote for the actual president. This does not mean that the electors have to vote for their candidate, unfortunately. Also taken from the U.S. National Archives and Records Administration’s website, “There is no Constitutional provision or Federal law that requires Electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states.” Some states do have laws that require the electors to vote for their candidate, but 21 states still have faithless electors, or electors who can vote for whoever they want. You can see the states that have laws against faithless electors in red on the map below. The rest of the states in gray have no such laws, making it legal for electors to vote for any candidate they want. This is dangerous and completely undemocratic. Faithless electors have voted for a different candidate than they were assigned to in 82 instances throughout the country’s history. In fact, in 2004, a faithless elector in Minnesota voted for “John Ewards.” He not only voted for president a candidate running for VICE-PRESIDENT, but he also misspelled his name. In case you were wondering, the actual presidential election takes place on the first Monday after the second Wednesday in December.
If that is not bad enough, many U.S. citizens can not vote for president. First, people living in U.S. territories are unable to vote for president, even though they are U.S. citizens. This leaves out over 4,000,000 citizens between the five territories in the election alone. Also, felons are legally not allowed to vote. Now, I know what you might be thinking: “They are felons, it makes sense that they aren’t allowed to vote.” But think about it. These are U.S. citizens that have already paid their debt to society by serving time in prison. Why should they not be able to vote? It is not like they can vote for anyone other than the candidates. These disenfranchised voters reach over 5,000,000 in numbers.
This law hindering felons from voting was first created in the Jim Crow period. White politicians did not want African Americans to vote, so one way they stopped them was to make a law prohibiting felons from casting votes. To make matters worse, African Americans were often accused (sometimes wrongfully) of crimes, simply to be convicted and have their voting rights revoked. In fact, much of the State’s political history is filled with questionable ethics and ideas such as this. The Electoral College was first created at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 by America’s founding fathers. They created this system to keep the government in power for elections even over the citizens of the country. They did not believe the citizens were intelligent enough to make informed decisions about who should be president. This kind of political oppression has kept this unfit system in place and keeps gerrymandering legal.
At the moment, there is not much that can be done to advocate for the abolishment of the electoral college. There are petitions online (such as http://petitions.moveon.org/sign/abolish-the-electoral-6), but the best way for Americans who want to end the governmental corruption of elections is to spread awareness of the inadequacy and the criminality of our current election methods. The Electoral College negatively affects every U.S. citizen, and in order to advance our democratic nation, it needs to be ended immediately.