How Every Vote Can Matter

An argument for the end of a ‘winner take all’ electoral college system.

Leo Ellenberg, Editorial Columnist.

Leo Ellenberg

Leo Ellenberg, Editorial Columnist.

A prevalent phrase in our culture is ‘political polarization.’ This refers to the fact that our country is so divided among party lines that many people on each side can’t stand or refuse to listen to the other side.  While there is no one catalyst for political polarization, one of the most influential is the current system of the Electoral College.

 In the last five presidential elections, two of the winning candidates lost the popular vote but still won due to the Electoral College, the group of people who formally decide who gets elected President based on the citizens’ votes. Forty eight states allocate their electors through a ‘winner take all’ system, where the winner of the state’s popular vote, no matter how small the margin is, collects every single electoral college vote in that state. For example, in 2000 George Bush won Florida by just a slight majority of 531 votes, yet attained every single one of the 29 electoral votes in that state.

According to a Pew Research study, 58% of adults in the U.S. want to amend the Constitution so the winner of the popular vote wins the election, while 40% want to retain the current system. However, because three-fourths of the states need to approve the change, it is very unlikely the electoral college will be successfully abolished. 

Therefore, I believe that for individual states, the amount of electoral votes a candidate receives should be proportional to the percentage of voters who choose them. Under the current system, not a single vote for a candidate that doesn’t win the state’s popular vote holds any water. This leaves thousands of voters feeling disenfranchised, looked over, and like they don’t have a voice. Many proponents of the electoral college oppose the popular vote because it would lead to a 51% ordering around a 49% minority, yet the current electoral college dictates the exact same thing in individual states. My proposed solution would allow candidates to earn electoral college votes in every single state, regardless of the extent of support that they have in a certain state. This doesn’t mean that the ‘flyover’ states have no say because the electoral votes in California, New York, Texas, and other large states will be split up. Every state comes into play for electoral votes in the election.

Harrison Kreiger ’21, agrees with this idea because, “it helps to account for how close it was in that state. If a Democrat were to win 51-49, it wouldn’t be the same as them winning 75-25, which helps paint a better picture of how much support is actually going to the candidates in all of the states.”

The electoral college also needs to be reformed because the current system allows for a minority of states to actually impact an election with their votes. One of the most popular lines of reasoning for the electoral college is that it forces candidates to travel to states in the middle of the country, whereas my proposed system or a popular vote would only incentivize candidates to campaign in the most populated states, such as New York, California, and Texas, whose citizens could bear most of the brunt in obtaining a majority. However, many rural areas across the country are not represented under the current system. Nonprofit Vote studied campaigning behaviors in the 2016 election, and discovered that, not including fundraisers, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump put 99% of their advertisement spending and 95% of their time in just 14 battleground states: Arizona, Nevada, Georgia, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina, Michigan, Florida, Virginia, Iowa, Wisconsin, Colorado, New Hampshire, and Maine. 

As well as letting states allocate electoral college votes based on proportions, states need fair and proportional amounts of electoral college votes. According to the U.S. Census Bureau Population Review, California has approximately 39,512,223 citizens and 55 electoral college electors, meaning that one elector accounts for approximately 718,404 people. Wyoming, on the other hand, has one elector for approximately 192,920 people. This is absurd. Electors have to be accurately proportional to each state. This can be done by setting a base number of citizens for one electoral vote, using the U.S. census to find the approximate population of each state, and then fairly assigning a non-integer number of electoral votes to each state. For those who may think that places like California are ‘one-party states’ and will use every single one of their votes to elect a Democrat, approximately 31.62% of Californians voted for Donald Trump, and that perception is partially present because the current electoral system paints many states as party-binary. 

Despite the gargantuan prevalence of a mere 14 states and an unequal electoral representation system, Republican proponents of the Electoral College see that the bias is fine as long as states like New York and California don’t affect presidential elections due to their large Democratic majorities. But for multiple Republican politicians and media figures, this reasoning is hypocritical, as they criticize ideas such as intersectionality and affirmative action, but are perfectly content with giving certain states unearned advantages and that are not based on their population. Furthermore, the importance of a voter’s opinion in an election is relative to the state in which they live. However, the concept of a popular vote election process or one that proportionally allocated electoral college electors and their votes to states is a system of ‘coastal elitism,’ and looks over Middle America, and is therefore unacceptable.

The current Electoral College system is extremely flawed because forty-eight states don’t distribute electoral college votes to the candidates proportionally, every state has a different ratio of citizens to electors, and only fourteen states are considered to matter in the election. While my proposals may leave some people disenfranchised, every voting system gives some people the short end of the stick in terms of where candidates travel to reach out to citizens. But my suggestions for improving the Electoral College make it more proportionally equal for the people in the states that the government represents. If our country really believes in ‘one person one vote,’ it shouldn’t matter what state a citizen lives in, in order to impact an election.

“It helps to account for how close it was in that state. If a Democrat were to win 51-49, it wouldn’t be the same as them winning 75-25, which helps paint a better picture of how much support is actually going to the candidates in all of the states,” said Harrison Kreiger ’21.