By Lindsay Der
A staple of American democracy or a remnant of elitist ideals that plagued the foundation of our nation? The electoral college presents an ongoing debate about the inner workings of our nation’s democratic process. The supposed purpose of the electoral college system was to highlight the states’ role in our government and promote the principles of federalism; many argue that the system must be preserved in order to maintain federalism in America. In reality, according to the National Archives, the founding fathers did not trust this judgement of the general population to elect the president and wanted to leave elections in the hands of “qualified citizens.” Therefore, the only votes that actually make a difference are the votes of the 538 electors, who are not constitutionally obliged to vote in the opinion of their state. Technically, an elector can vote with complete disregard for the votes of their constituents.
The electoral votes are distributed based on Congressional representation, so each state has a minimum of three votes (two senators and at least one House rep). Therefore, even though California has 55 votes and Wyoming has 3 votes, a citizen in Wyoming’s vote is worth four times more than a California vote. Due to the minimum amount of votes, regardless of a lesser population, the electoral college provides disproportional power to the states with smaller populations.
Additionally, many states follow the “winner take all tactic,” where no matter how many votes there are for the opposing candidate, the majority winner receives all the votes from a particular state. The recent votes of Republican Californians have been all but erased since the California votes almost automatically go blue. This also means that candidates tend to ignore staunchly Republican or Democratic states since they know they cannot change the vote in that state; instead, they only campaign where they believe the vote actually makes a difference: swing states. For example, candidates hardly spend any time in California (a known blue state), except for when funding. Consequently, instead of promoting the interests of the minority, the winner-take-all method results in the minority being silenced.
The electoral college represents a stain on our democratic system, taking the vote completely out of the hands of the citizens and echoing the Founding Fathers’ classist values. In order to promote the so-called American democratic process, the electoral college must be abolished or modified to reduce the iniquity so ingrained in the process