How Does The Electoral College Work?

Voting is the most important civic duty of a citizen. It is how people are able to select the representatives, policies, and beliefs which most align with their values and desires… or so one would think. The United States Constitution has a unique system for Presidential elections called the Electoral College. The way the Electoral College works is that even though citizens cast a vote for their preferred presidential candidate, those votes do not directly go towards the election. Instead, each states’ votes are counted and sent to the states’ electors. These electors have the power to decide which candidate will receive the electoral votes for that state. One would think that these electors are obligated to cast these votes in favor of the candidate that represents their states’ popular vote, but the Constitution does not require this. This was called into question in a case presented to the Supreme Court at the beginning of this month. Although the decision of Chiafalo v. Washington is a step towards making the Electoral College more just, the Electoral College itself is outdated and not representative of the People; it should be abolished.

The Supreme Court Case of Chiafalo v. Washington

Only July 6th of this year, in the case of Chiafalo v. Washington, the Supreme Court ruled that states have the right to enforce that electors support the presidential candidate of the states’ citizens choosing. Washington and Colorado prompted this case because in 2016, even though the popular vote in both those states was in favor of Hillary Clinton, the electors did not support her. In the grander scheme of the election, dissenting electors like these helped Trump win the Electoral College vote and therefore the presidency even though Clinton won the overall popular vote. In Chiafalo v. Washington, the electors from Washington and Colorado argued that it was unconstitutional for the state to enforce that they had to vote for the popular choice candidate. Although there was some debate amongst lower courts, the Supreme Court decided unanimously that states do have the power to enforce that the electors abide by these rules. Colorado Secretary of State Jena Griswold stated that this decision “ensures that Americans’ voices will be heard” and that “we must fight all attempts to suppress voters and any corruption in our elections”. Although this decision gives some power back to the people, it is only a small victory in the Electoral College system, which generally takes power away.

Arguments In Favor Of The Current System

If the Electoral College seemingly puts an even bigger divide between citizens and their representatives, why is it still in place? The original intent of the Electoral College was to make the presidential election more democratic and fairer. By benefiting states with smaller populations and rural voters, it was thought to level the playing field. Conservatives especially are in favor of keeping the Electoral College because it is what the founders intended, and they resist change for fear that it could be a slippery slope.

Examination Of The System’s Flaws

Unfortunately, not only does the Electoral College fail to achieve its purpose, it is actually causing harm. Although it intended to boost smaller population states, most of the votes are still proportional to population. Similarly, the goal of helping with the representation of rural voters has not been achieved. Both of these goals are commendable, but it is clear that the Electoral College does not achieve them. There is some debate as to whether the Electoral College benefits one party. It seems that during different elections, it has worked in favor of different parties. However, some research suggests that the Electoral College does give an undue amount of partiality towards whiter and more rural states, which would be favorable towards the GOP. The Electoral College showing overt favor towards any demographic or party should be reason enough to reevaluate and eradicate it. Furthermore, the Electoral College was originally a way for states with large slave populations to be rewarded. Any political systems that are tied to this closely to archaic values of slavery should have already been removed long ago.

Benefits of Change And What Is Needed

The Electoral College, although possibly originally well-intended, is not serving its purpose and should no longer be a part of the United States’ presidential election. The United States should elect its presidents by national popular vote, as it is the most direct way for voters to choose their president; the proxy of an elector who is a “representative” is unnecessary. This would avoid the problem of one candidate winning the Electoral College and the other the popular vote, ensuring a legitimate claim to the presidency. This would also guarantee that the elected president is really representative of what the People want.

Although amending the Constitution is one way to eradicate the Electoral College, an interstate compact is also a viable option. The National Popular Vote proposal is already working towards getting more states to agree to change the Electoral College. The idea is gaining more popularity as more people realize how inept and damaging the Electoral College is. Hopefully, as citizens realize this, they will be able to convince their representatives to change this outdated system.