It’s time to vote out flawed Electoral College system

Owen Murphy ’19, Editor-in-Chief

The election of Donald Trump in 2016 revealed a massive failure of the American government: the Electoral College. The Electoral College determines the President based on the winner of the majority of the 538 votes cast by the members, who represent the votes of each of the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The distribution of electors is based on the number of representatives, including senators, that the state sends to Congress, plus three for DC.

This mechanism has damaged the American political system from nearly its conception, but the election of Donald Trump without the majority of Americans’ votes, compounding George W. Bush’s recent similar election, has finally forced the issue of electoral reform into the political consciousness of America.

The Electoral College system is broken; there are no two ways about it. It is destructive to the American people that the government is meant to serve and the American ideals that the government is meant to embody.

It is argued by some that the Electoral College should be maintained because it serves as a safeguard against the ability of the majority to oppress the minority; however, the current system does not amount to a defense of the rights of the minority, but, rather, it is an attack on the authority of the majority.

It is obviously necessary to limit the power of the majority, but when arbitrating the conflict between majority rule and minority rights, it is indefensible to resolve the matter by allowing minority rule. In addition, the Electoral College gives greater weight, not to every minority, but to a single specific minority that populates only certain states, where the dominant opinions often differ strongly from those of the majority.

Two of the last three presidents were initially elected by a minority of the voters. In fact, presidential votes in some less populated states count for more than three times that of voters in some more populated states. Indeed, it has even been demonstrated that candidates could theoretically win in the Electoral College with less than 25 percent of the votes of Americans. Such a system is antithetical to American values of equality and representation.

The ability of any president to govern with the approval of only a minority of the people ensures that the priorities of the majority can be subordinated to the priorities of that vital minority, to the detriment of the American people as a whole.

While these problems have become evident to much of America, the solutions are less obvious. Many reformers have proposed a simple shift to a popular vote in which the victor is chosen by the majority of votes. This seems like a reasonable proposal that would eliminate the chance of minority rule. However, a reformation of the electoral system is an opportunity to not only stop minority rule, but also to allow for the addition of new beneficial features.

The best plan currently proposed is the creation of a ranked choice voting system. This would allow voters to rank their choices of candidates for president. In each round, the candidate with the fewest votes would be eliminated from the race, while the votes they received would be redistributed to the next ranked candidate for each vote.

This type of election process would allow for the growth of third party voting because the ability to rank will mean that voters can choose to vote for third party candidates without revoking their support for candidates from the two major parties. Candidates from the Democratic and Republican parties would likely continue to dominate the election field, but minor parties and, more importantly, their ideas would grow in influence on the national stage.

Ranked voting would better demonstrate the actual opinions of the American people to their representatives by allowing voters to express their agreement with minor party platforms without endangering the election of the voters’ prefered major party candidate. This would accelerate the incorporation of minor party ideas into the major parties because the influence of those ideas would be more obvious. The major parties’ platforms would grow closer and closer to what the American people actually support.

Such a system would eliminate the inequality of power inherent to the Electoral College and make the office of the president as representative as possible of the desires of the American people. The current system, which fails to support the will of the majority of Americans, threatens the legitimacy of the American republic. To maintain the faith of the American people in their government, America must reform the Electoral College.