Electoral College needs to adapt to modern times


Ellis McGinley Copy Editor

Election years always seem to open the same wounds, not the least of which is the continued use of the United States’ Electoral College.

But what is that, exactly?

Established in the second article of the Constitution, the College is composed of 538 delegates divided amongst the 50 states. It is described there thusly:

“Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors, equal to the whole Number of Senators and Representatives to which the State may be entitled in the Congress: but no Senator or Representative, or Person holding an Office of Trust or Profit under the United States, shall be appointed an Elector.”

Lots of old-time fancy talk. Essentially, when an election comes around, each state appoints electors, also known as delegates.

However, they can’t be elected officials or government employees, and there must be a two plus however many representatives the state has, which is assigned every decade based on population counts taken by the census.

The way these delegates then cast their ballots has changed over the years. As of now, they are obligated to vote for the winner of the popular vote in their state.

They can be punished by a fine or even removal from their position if they ever break this rule . Most states also give all their delegates to whoever wins the total vote in their state.

Sound complicated? I believe so.

The Electoral College was established when the United States was still no more than a bakers’ dozen of newly fledged states, embarking on the virtually unattempt feat of Western democracy. (There’s a reason we’re called the ‘Great American experiment,’ after all.)

Also, despite what it’s supposed to do, the electoral college has gone against the popular vote five times, including in the 2016 and 2000 elections.

We have only elected 45 presidents; that means one out of every nine lost the popular vote, but won the position.

I think that should be enough to get rid of the accursed thing. But an argument I regularly hear against the abolishment of the electoral college is that states with high, dense populations, like California and New York, would determine elections.

This is a mis-framing. Californians and New Yorkers would, admittedly, have a strong sway over an election; likely because combined, they make up about 18 percent of the U.S. population.

(In 2016, they had a cumulative 84 electoral votes, or 15.16 percent).

Abolishing the electoral college would give smaller states more voting power than they have now. Wyoming, which has a population approximately one-sixth of Connecticut’s, has three more delegates than we do.

Furthermore, those who vote against the popular vote, like Californian Republicans, would have their votes counted for their candidate. Historically, they are overlooked.

According to a poll by CNN, 31 percent of California voted for President Trump in 2016, but all 55 of the state’s delegates went to Hillary Clinton.

Here in Connecticut, an even higher 40.9 percent of voters chose Trump, but every one of our seven delegates (again, several less than a state that is mostly wind farms) went to Clinton.

The Electoral College also creates a division of attention. Why would a candidate come to Connecticut, knowing we only have a meager 7/538 delegates and all of them are predicted to vote Democrat?

There is no clear reward when compared to a state like Ohio or Pennsylvania, which switch between the parties and offer higher rewards for a candidate’s time.

I think, fundamentally, American politics will never actually be about the American people for precisely this reason.

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