A defense of the Electoral College
There has been a lot of discussion about the Electoral College from many recently. Presidential candidates have been arguing for its abolishment claiming that it is incompatible with a democracy, since it sometimes does not reflect the vote of the general population.
According to these critics, this reflects a violation of democratic principle of one man, one vote. Since America is a democracy, they claim, more should be done to eliminate these barriers. Before one can investigate if the electoral college is in tension with democracy, one must consider the nature of why it was established.
The United States was established by the 13 colonies once under the domain of Great Britain, with an emphasis on the importance of each state to the respective union. The importance of each state can be seen in the make-up of the legislative branch.
While the House of Representative assigns representatives based on the total population of the state, the Senate gives two senators to every state regardless of the population.
The number of electoral college votes that a specific state gets corresponds to the total number of federal representatives that it has. California has the most with 55 votes, while Alaska, Delaware, Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota, Vermont, and Wyoming all have three electors. (The 23rd amendment gives the District of Columbia three electoral votes).
With the importance of the representation of the individual states in union highlighted, let us continue to investigate how the electoral college works.
The easiest way to explain the electoral college is using the World Series as a parallel. Take this year’s teams: the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers.
Suppose that during the first game the Sox get 5 runs and Dodgers get 4; the second game the Sox get 2 runs and the Dodgers get 8 runs; the third game the Sox get 3 runs and the Dodgers get 2 runs; and the fourth game the Sox get 2 runs and the Dodgers only get 1.
The Red Sox would win 3 of the 5 games, but only scores 12 runs while the Dodgers scored 15 runs. However, no one would go around stating that the Los Angeles Dodgers won the World Series because the goal of the World Series is not to score the most runs, but rather win the most games.
By the same token, the point of the presidential election and in turn the electoral college, is not to get the most votes possible, that is winning the popular vote, but by winning a majority of the states’ electoral votes.
Without the electoral college, a vast majority of the states would be irrelevant for presidential candidates to campaign in because winning the popular vote only requires winning the major urban areas in the country.
The electoral college prevents against tyranny of the majority, and allows for all states to have a say in the election of the highest office of the country. This ensures that presidential candidates campaign in rural areas as much an urban area.
The electoral college ensures that small states can have a slight advantage and not give complete influence to the large states and cities. The electoral college protects the very institutes the union was made up of, the citizens of the states.
The principle of one man, one vote is in harmony with the flourishing of the American union, however attempting to extend democracy to the likes of mob rule is problematic in a democratic republic has been designed around the importance of each state within the union.
The electoral college is not a restrictive and outdated institution, but rather just another important check put in place by the Founding Fathers to prevent mob rule and ensure that urban areas would not monopolize the vote of the entire union.
Katie Samalis, a senior, studies Political Science. She is a Copy Editor for Le Provocateur.