North Texas Daily

Do we really need the electoral college?

Do we really need the electoral college?

Do we really need the electoral college?
November 24
17:00 2020

Every four years, discourse about the electoral college resurfaces and makes us question why it is in place its actual purpose in the democratic system. It’s odd that the popular vote cannot stand on its own when the purpose of the election is for the people to vote for who they want to lead the country. Amid all the craziness of election week, I was confused by the presence of the electoral college, wondering why we still use this outdated institution.

Each state has a certain number of electors that reflect the size of the population. The larger the population the more electors a state gets. There are 538 electors in total which means to win the presidency a candidate would have to win 270 electoral votes. In most cases, states award all their electoral votes to whoever won the popular vote within each state. However, in the 1824, 1876, 1888, 2000, and 2016 elections, the candidate who won the popular vote did not win the electoral vote, losing the general election. This means the electors did not all award their votes to who won the popular vote in their state.

The electoral college was a part of the Twelfth Amendment and was ratified in 1804. Many claim that the Founding Father’s reasoning was to balance the interests of low population and high population states. Another argument stemmed from the fact many people across the country would lack information and the knowledge to make an informed choice in voting for president.

However, many fail to acknowledge the electoral college’s direct ties to slavery. At the Pennsylvania convention, James Madison argued that a direct national election would not work well in the South because of the number of African Americans who live in the North who have the right to vote. Madison essentially wanted to limit the influence the African American population would have in elections, especially when the slave population in the South could not vote. This gave the North an “unfair advantage” in a sense.

Having access to all this information and knowing what principles the electoral colleges were founded upon, it’s disheartening to know this system is still in place and is possibly a form of voter suppression. The biggest reminder of this was the 2016 election when Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the electoral vote with 232 while Trump had 306 votes. How did someone win the presidency if they did not win the popular vote? Do the American people actually have a say in who becomes their president?

The history of voting in this country is storied, filled with instances where laws and statutes were ratified to explicitly isolate groups of people from voting or making it more difficult in predominantly Black communities. In 1964, literacy tests were used to keep poor people from voting. While we may think things have changed and that maybe we are moving forward from the past, we forget these things happened not too long ago.

While the election may be over, we should not stop questioning these institutions that are built into the foundational structures of our society. While the electoral college may have sounded practical or favorable at the time, things have drastically changed since then. Knowing this country’s history of voter suppression and how election practices have changed over time, Americans should be more curious as to why an outdated institution such as the electoral college is still in practice today.

Featured Illustration by J. Robynn Aviles 

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Meghana Vadlamani

Meghana Vadlamani

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