U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, recently criticized the electoral college at a town hall in Mississippi. Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana and another Democratic presidential hopeful, proposed abolishing this antiquated institution of American political elections, as well.
The electoral college hinders democracy. When you vote for your senator, congressperson, governor and mayor, you can be assured your vote matters. But when you cast a ballot for the most prestigious office in the United States — the presidency — your vote likely has a marginal impact of zero.
Every state has electoral votes equivalent to its number of congressional seats. A simple majority of votes determines how the entire state votes, except in two states. Therefore, Republican voices in deep-blue places such as Massachusetts and California are drowned out in addition to Democratic voices in deep-red states like Mississippi.
However, Maine and Nebraska have revolutionized how votes are cast in their states. Both of these states have a system in which two electoral votes are awarded to the popular vote winner of the state, and the other electoral votes are given to the popular vote winner in each congressional district.
This system, if adopted by all states, would be the best solution to increasing proportional representation. However, there are many states where presidential elections are competitive, known as swing states, who would be unlikely to adopt such a measure.
The electoral college also pushes presidential campaigns to focus their efforts on swing states — Florida, Ohio, Virginia and Wisconsin — instead of the country as a whole. Most states are typically ignored in the final weeks and months of a presidential election.
Whether you are a coal miner in West Virginia or an accountant in New York, it’s possible presidential candidates may skip your state on the campaign trail and you will see few advertisements urging you to vote for them.
Abolishing the electoral college and instituting a national popular vote for president would be an improvement for our democracy, but it is unlikely to ever happen. Most criticism about the electoral college comes from the left, and for good reason.
A Republican has only won the plurality, let alone the majority, of the presidential national popular vote once in the past seven presidential elections.
Treating the electoral college as a sacred key to the founding fathers’ vision is incredibly misguided. The electoral college was founded to prevent the tyranny of the majority, in which a majority of citizens would dominate political discourse and leave sizable pluralities without representation.
This intended purpose has been perverted in the current state of affairs of the United States. Heavily Republican and Democratic states’ elections encourage the tyranny of the majority when it comes to presidential elections.
There were many mistakes made in the U.S. Constitution — there are 27 constitutional amendments that have changed the original document. We’ve changed how senators are elected, abolished slavery and given women the right to vote.
Abolishing an institution that serves no purpose but to pervert democratic norms should not even be a debate. Unfortunately, it will likely be one for the time being.