The Undemocratic Side of the Electoral College

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America is one of the largest, oldest, and standing democracies in the world. The only reason that the country still stands is because of its adaptive and evolving Constitution which governs its government. When the American Constitution was first created, the founding fathers and the framers of the constitution dictate that they create the constitution “in order to form a more perfect Union” (Monk). The framers realized that the constitution was not perfect and that future members of government would change the document as necessary, yet the modern American citizens and members of government fail to change an outdated, an undemocratic, and a potentially dangerous institution that still stands, the electoral college. Most American citizens fail to understand the problems that occur and could occur because of the electoral college. The electoral college needs to be perceived and understood in its whole by all americans; its undemocratic nature in choosing a president far outweigh all of the advantages brought about because of it.

The electoral college was created and established during the constitutional convention of 1787. Presently, the electors number five hundred and thirty eight; a single elector for each representative in congress for each state. The electoral votes that are assigned to each state is determined based on the decennial census to represent the population accurately in the electorate. Each state receives two electoral votes regardless of population, and the remaining four hundred thirty eight votes are divided according to the population distribution of the United States. Other than the states, Washington DC is given the same amount of votes as the least populous states in the United States which is currently three votes (Monk). Each state can decide how to allot the electoral votes during the election. Forty eight states have a winner takes all system where the candidate who wins the majority of votes in the state gains all the votes held by the state. The other two states, Nebraska and Maine, allot their votes based on congressional districts; a candidate will receive a single vote for each district they win, and the candidate who wins the overall state will receive two vote that are not included with the votes with the district wins (Bolinger). In the presidential elections, a candidate must win at least two hundred seventy votes to become the president. If none of the candidates mange to win two hundred seventy electoral votes, the contingent vote takes place in congress where each state has one vote regardless of population (Monk).

The present model of the electoral college is in many areas undemocratic in nature and Americans should solve this problem. Many would argue that the original intention of the electoral college is irrelevant when discussing it because the framers are not here and that those intentions were something they had in mind over two centuries ago, but no one can argue that the electoral college has an undemocratic nature which does not align with the idea of democracy. The idea that every person should get only one vote and that majority should rule is something that is clearly not present in the electoral college and can be seen through the “minority president,” contingent election, and the problem with the decennial census (Neale). This paper will prove how the electoral college is undemocratic by examining each of the above mentioned examples and attempt to address the more popular counter arguments made in support of the institution. Most people who argue against the electoral college would site the minority president, a president who wins the electoral college but fail to win a national popular majority, as a primary reason for the electoral college to change. Five of the forty five presidents have been minority presidents because the current system discounts the votes of the millions of citizens, does not allows millions of citizens to be a part of a national process, and one person does not mean one vote (Miller). States with close races during the presidential election end up discounting the votes that lose in the state.

During a national and federal election, the electoral college only looks at who wins fifty one different regions and disregards any and all the votes that are lost in those areas. It would be logical that for a national election that the votes should be counted nationally because the president does not represent fifty one different regions, but rather a single country under one flag. Not only does the present system discount votes but also does not allow for votes of millions of citizens from United States territories (Bollinger). The twenty-third amendment gives voting power to citizens residing in Washington DC; the states themselves gave power to vote to its citizens which determines how the electoral college votes are allocated to each candidate (Monk).

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So, American citizens and the American government both agree that citizens deserve a right to vote for the national and international representative of America, but it is difficult to understand why citizens in US territories are denied the same rights as those that live in Washington DC. Washington DC is home to less than one million people where as the territories are close to four million denizens (Census). The electoral college denies the right to vote for a national figure to approximately four million citizens. States would be hardpressed to remove the citizens’ right to vote for the president; there would be an outrage and the state government would be replaced with one that gives citizens the right to vote for the president. Both the discounting and denying of votes creates an unequal political power for each citizen depending on where they live. The smaller states receive an mathematical advantage in terms of voting power of each citizens and those who do not have the right to vote have no say in even a single electoral vote (Neale). This clearly violets the democratic principle of “one person, one vote” and proves the minority president to be an undemocratic part of the electoral college. Not only does the political inequality exists when the election is successful, but it continues to be unequal even in the contingent election that follows the failure to get the two hundred seventy votes to win the election by all candidates. One would expect an election based on majority with the principle of one person, one vote should all of the candidates fail to obtain two hundred seventy electoral votes; however the House determines who becomes the president with one vote for each state and the same occurs with the Senate which determines the next vice president (Monk). The election that follows only give a single vote to each state for electing both the president and the vice president. This disregards the population differences present among all of the states. Once again based on where a citizen lives, he/she has more or less influence in the national election process than another citizen who live in a different region. This also does not take into account the millions of people who do not have a representative in the Federal government, so the territories are once again denied any say in the choosing of the president; this was never the intention of the founding fathers who supported the idea of one person, one vote.

Alexander Hamilton wrote an essay about the electoral college, The Federalist Paper 68, in which he explains that the purpose and intent of the electoral college is to maintain democracy in a way that does not lead to tyranny of the majority, to ensure that foreign powers are not able to intervene in the american presidential election, and keep the president from being a congressional puppet (Hamilton). The contingent election allows for congress to be involved in the election process and elect a figurehead president. The framers specifically place the decision to elect the president into the hands of an electorate separate from Congress, yet the current institution increases congressional involvement in the presidential election. Not only does the congressional involvement in the contingent election violate the original intent of the founding fathers, but it also fails to uphold the basic idea of democracy (one person, one vote). Regardless of how the president is chosen whether by electoral college or Congress by way of contingent election, the decennial census distorts the population distributions when electing a president. The census is taken every ten years, but the elections occur every four years (Miller). Within a year there can be several population shifts in the United States; because the census is taken every 10 years, the congressional seats assigned to a state and by extension the electoral votes are not accurate in reflecting the general population spread in the second and third elections of every decade. This inaccuracy further contributes to the problem of political inequality as not all states are accurately reflected by the number of congressional seats.

Supporters of the electoral college acknowledge that there exists a huge amount of political inequality and that the institution is by its very nature undemocratic, but they argue that it preserves the bi-party system, promotes federalism, and protects minorities’ interests (McCollester). The bi-party system is not dependent on the electoral college nor does the college benefit the current party system. Edwards, in his book published by Yale University Press, claims that the college does not promote the two party system, but instead undermines it as third parties are encouraged to run in the elections to gain attention from the two major parties, and the party competition is discouraged in states that overwhelming side with one part (Edwards). The so called advantage to the two party system is non-existent, since the two major parties end up having to make deals and concessions to these various third party in order to win in a state.

To address McCollister's second claim that the electoral college is required for federalism, it is necessary to examine how federalism works. Edwards examines federalism and concludes that “the electoral college is not based on federative principles and is unnecessary for a healthy federal system” (Edwards 194). Edwards is correct is his conclusion that the electoral college is not necessary to promote or preserve federalism because federalism is protected as long as there are state governments which are independent of federal government. The last popular argument in support of the electoral college is that the institution protects minorities’ interest. In some sense, it protects the interests of the smaller states due to the electoral votes, but without institution there exist the Senate and House, the true rulers of law and policy, that protect the interest of those represented. However, even if that was to fail, minority groups have access to the Supreme Court which is the ultimate defender of minorities’ interest in the United States government. Racial minorities “do not benefit from the electoral college because they are not well positioned to determine the outcomes in states” (Edwards 194). Miller, Bolinger, and Neale would all agree with Edwards’ thoughts on how the electoral college is not the best method for a modern day presidential election. The political inequality present in the electoral college is acknowledged by supporters of the institution, however the same cannot be said for the arguments in support of the electoral college because many like Edwards and Neale do not acknowledge the benefits and prove that the inequality is much greater than any advantage brought about by the institution.

America is the face of democracy all across the world, yet america still uses a very antiquated and undemocratic institution to elect its president. America took part in the Cold War, the Vietnam War, and the Korean War in the name of spreading democracy, but Americans fail to change, reform, or remove the electoral college even though it is by its very structure an undemocratic institution with minimal if any advantages to the American citizens. This paper does not call for the removal of the electoral college, but merely points out its flaws and the political inequality that it creates in an attempt to continue a discussion that usually only occurs when a minority president is elected. It is important to discuss any problems that occur with the american government because if these problems are not addressed then foreign influence in American elections is inevitable as pointed out by Olsen, a former director of National Counterterrorism Center and general counsel at National Security Agency, in his article, “The Electoral College Is a National Security Threat.”

To conclude, the electoral college is structurally undemocratic and creates political inequality that far outweighs any possible benefits of the institution.

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