As Long as the Electoral College Stands, the U.S. Can’t Have Democracy
Ian Franks
10 Sep

True democracy is one person, one vote. 'Rand Paul' by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Love it or hate it, the U.S. electoral college exists to elect the country’s president and vice president - not “we, the people”.

With both candidates and their running mates now confirmed, it’s time to take a look at the peculiarly American body which decides elections.

Firstly, it’s important to say that the members of the electoral college should, and mostly do, vote according to how the people in their state have voted.

But that doesn’t mean that the candidate who wins the national popular vote is guaranteed a place in the White House.

We’ve see this contradiction play out twice in recent years. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the national people’s vote by more than half a million ballots, only to see George W. Bush, a Republican, elected by the college for his second term.

Even more recently - and likely the example you’re most aware of - Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by nearly three million, but it didn’t stop Donald Trump becoming president.

The electoral college voted 304 to 227 in his favour.

You might think that such a system is an insult to democracy - especially in the ‘land of the free’. I know I do.

But the U.K. system is no better. There, the winning party is the one that gets the most MPs elected, with no account being taken of the number of votes cast nationally.

The multi-party system in the UK makes direct comparison difficult because it’s extremely rare for the winning party to receive 50% of the nation’s votes.

Not once has one party achieved that in the last 100 years.

But, with a focus on the U.S., what purpose does the electoral college serve?

Image by Element5 Digital via Pexels.

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As it turns out, in modern-day America, that’s up for debate.

According to a report by Pew Research Center’s FactTank, 58% of U.S. adults support amending the Constitution to award presidency to the winner of the popular vote.

Those in favour of keeping the electoral college were the minority, at just 40%.

Abolitionists argue that the system is out of place in a democracy that strives for ‘one person, one vote’.

Certainly, their claim that it can thwart the will of the majority can’t be contended with. It’s happened twice in the last five elections.

That is not democracy; it’s a farce.

They also say that it results in candidates concentrating their efforts disproportionately, putting more resources into a handful of key swing states and giving more voting power to those who live in less populated states.

Those in favour of the electoral college say that it’s fundamental to American federalism.

They reason that it forces candidates to take their campaigns to voters outside of large cities, increasing the influence of smaller states.

As far as I’m concerned, areas with fewer people, say 1000, should have far less power than those with more voters, say 5000.

It’s nonsense to suggest that they should hold equal weight.

Every individual should be equal, wherever they live, and every vote should be counted equally.

The electoral college is an affront to the very democracy it purports to strengthen.

True democracy is one person, one vote. Nothing else will do.

Ian Franks is the managing editor of 50 Shades of Sun.
OPINION
As Long as the Electoral College Stands, the U.S. Can’t Have Democracy
Ian Franks
10 Sep

True democracy is one person, one vote. 'Rand Paul' by Gage Skidmore, licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0.

Love it or hate it, the U.S. electoral college exists to elect the country’s president and vice president - not “we, the people”.

With both candidates and their running mates now confirmed, it’s time to take a look at the peculiarly American body which decides elections.

Firstly, it’s important to say that the members of the electoral college should, and mostly do, vote according to how the people in their state have voted.

But that doesn’t mean that the candidate who wins the national popular vote is guaranteed a place in the White House.

We’ve see this contradiction play out twice in recent years. In 2000, Democrat Al Gore won the national people’s vote by more than half a million ballots, only to see George W. Bush, a Republican, elected by the college for his second term.

Even more recently - and likely the example you’re most aware of - Democrat Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016 by nearly three million, but it didn’t stop Donald Trump becoming president.

The electoral college voted 304 to 227 in his favour.

You might think that such a system is an insult to democracy - especially in the ‘land of the free’. I know I do.

But the U.K. system is no better. There, the winning party is the one that gets the most MPs elected, with no account being taken of the number of votes cast nationally.

The multi-party system in the UK makes direct comparison difficult because it’s extremely rare for the winning party to receive 50% of the nation’s votes.

Not once has one party achieved that in the last 100 years.

But, with a focus on the U.S., what purpose does the electoral college serve?

Image by Element5 Digital via Pexels.

Get The Locus sent straight to your inbox
Thanks for subscribing to The Locus!
Something went wrong. Sorry about that.

As it turns out, in modern-day America, that’s up for debate.

According to a report by Pew Research Center’s FactTank, 58% of U.S. adults support amending the Constitution to award presidency to the winner of the popular vote.

Those in favour of keeping the electoral college were the minority, at just 40%.

Abolitionists argue that the system is out of place in a democracy that strives for ‘one person, one vote’.

Certainly, their claim that it can thwart the will of the majority can’t be contended with. It’s happened twice in the last five elections.

That is not democracy; it’s a farce.

They also say that it results in candidates concentrating their efforts disproportionately, putting more resources into a handful of key swing states and giving more voting power to those who live in less populated states.

Those in favour of the electoral college say that it’s fundamental to American federalism.

They reason that it forces candidates to take their campaigns to voters outside of large cities, increasing the influence of smaller states.

As far as I’m concerned, areas with fewer people, say 1000, should have far less power than those with more voters, say 5000.

It’s nonsense to suggest that they should hold equal weight.

Every individual should be equal, wherever they live, and every vote should be counted equally.

The electoral college is an affront to the very democracy it purports to strengthen.

True democracy is one person, one vote. Nothing else will do.

Ian Franks is the managing editor of 50 Shades of Sun.
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