In the wake of 2016’s U.S. presidential election, some people are claiming that the Electoral College is obsolete and unfair. There are a couple of petitions circulating, along with miscellaneous talk on social media, about doing away with the Electoral College. Some people now believe that only the popular vote should matter.
Most don’t know what the Electoral College even is, or why it might be important. Many complaints are reactionary in nature. Not understanding how elections work has left a large number of people confused, scared, and/or angry. I don’t blame them, simply because of the education system here in the United States. A lot of facts aren’t being taught. For example: Only 36 percent of Americans can name the three branches of government. The United States also isn’t a pure democracy. It’s categorized as a democratic republic, federal republic, or constitutional republic with a representative democracy.
Here’s a 5-minute explainer on the Electoral College. In short, Americans vote for a vote; the system has good and bad aspects, but viable alternatives haven’t been seriously discussed on a national level. A short video from Praeger University says the Electoral College accomplishes three major things: it protects against mob rule, encourages coalition-building, and helps protect against voter fraud.
The most obvious folly to only electing the President by popular vote is this: candidates would just campaign where the most people are. A large portion of the United States would be ignored, forgotten, and without a voice. The most sparsely-populated areas wouldn’t matter at all to politicians. (Maybe local ones.)
A 2013 article from Business Insider detailed how “half of the United States population is clustered in just the 146 biggest counties out of over 3000.” Take a look at their map:
Those shaded-in-purple counties are where half of the United States lives. The urban-rural divide will likely increase over time, too. The Electoral College ensures that every state has a say in who gets to be President. It wouldn’t be fair if only 3 states controlled who governs all 50 states. If you’re campaigning for election, you should bring together people from all walks of life – not just metropolitan areas. Removing the electoral college would give major cities more power while taking away power from people who don’t live in cities.
One of the biggest problems with the American voting system is Americans themselves. In the past 100 years (1916-2016) the voter turnout never went above 64 percent.