An Argument Against the Electoral College
The Constitution of the United States remains one of the most influential documents ever written, reinventing democracy and paving the way for a more just and holy union. This text would be ineffectual and without cause, if it were not for its preamble:
We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed,—That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.
This paragraph alone provides cause for the Constitution’s creation and more importantly, cause for its restructuring. Declaring that it is the right of the people to alter or abolish a government when it becomes destructive to the ends it is intended to serve not just suggests but commands its subjects to alter it for their benefit. People are weak, flawed, corrupt beings, and those same people wrote this text. The acknowledgment of possible failure is an action that expresses great humility. It should be interpreted as it is written. If it were not for these words, the following would be devastating and inescapable:
The Electoral College was one of the greatest missteps of the Framers of the Constitution. Outlined in Article II, Section I of the Constitution, an election process is described in which a number of electors in each state (equal to the number of senators and representatives for each respective state) are appointed and cast their ballot according to the popular vote of their state. The most common defense of the Electoral College is its supposed guarantee of representation of rural, less populous states. However, this argument fails when one looks at the other branches of government and how the Electoral College has influenced elections in history.
First, the representation of states with smaller populations is precisely why the United States has a bicameral legislature. Often is the function of the legislature confused with that of the executive branch. The executive is a single person who cannot reasonably be expected to “represent” the entire nation. Considering the United States still uses the Electoral College, one would expect to find a multitude of examples within the past 250 years where the President has not only spent a great deal of time campaigning in rural states, but taken an action because he was concerned for a small state. One finds, however, naught. The President acts for the best interest of his most influential supporters. For example, look to the rather recent Iraq War. While veiled under the fear of weapons of mass destruction and retaliation against al-Qaeda (the relationship still being under question), there is strong evidence that the Bush Administration invaded Iraq in search of oil. Bush and Cheney’s campaign found its largest benefactors in Big Oil (Exxon, Chevron, BP, and Shell). Within three months of the inauguration, maps outlining Iraq’s oil capacity had been produced, and the rest is history. The President acts in support of his largest, most influential benefactors. This is why the legislative branch exists. The President cannot be expected to always act in the best interest of the country, and the Electoral College does nothing to change this.
Even at its least harmful, the Electoral College distorts election outcomes. It creates the image of massive victories and defeats that just are not representative of the popular vote. The Electoral College has created the notion of “red” and “blue” states, and most importantly, “battleground” or “swing” states. Due to the two-party political system’s entanglement with the Electoral College, the rest of the country’s votes are essentially guaranteed, compelling candidates to campaign primarily in these battleground states, as to do otherwise would be a waste of resources. In turn, this disincentives voter turnout in the states where the vote is essentially guaranteed. If a voter prefers the “loser” candidate in their state, they have no reason to vote. Under a popular vote, these voters have an equal incentive as the rest of the country to cast their ballot. All this is seeing the Electoral College in its most favorable light. Five times has the president lost the popular vote. Five times has the country seen a leader it did not vote for. The Electoral College’s creation was a direct attempt to reduce the influence of the populace in the government. It was created as a compromise between the popular election of the President and the election of the President by Congress. This fact alone displays how anti-democratic and ineffective the Electoral College is.
Finally, the Electoral College has led to the creation of and continues to support the two-party political system. The system highly incentivizes the creation of monolithic parties which dominate the legislative process and makes it impossible for third parties to gain electoral traction, limiting the effectiveness and adaptability of democracy. Half of Americans do not align with either party, and half of Americans are not being represented in bureaucracy, negating the purpose of democracy entirely.
The Electoral College renders many votes useless, limits representation, fails to support rural communities, incentivizes polarizing campaign rhetoric, and has five times failed to elect the popular candidate. It is a completely ineffective, disastrous, counterproductive, anti-democratic system that must be abolished. But the good news is that it can be. The preamble provided just cause to change this system, and as this institution has become destructive to its own ends, Americans have the duty to abolish it.