Following the November 8th upset of Donald Trump’s election as President, there have been many questions raised over the legitimacy of the electoral college. Many believe that it takes power out of the hands of the people, while others believe its sole purpose was to undermine democracy. If I do say so myself, the last people in American history who should be accused of undermining democracy would be the founders of our nation, but that is merely an opinion. The electoral college is a system of individuals that represent each state proportional to the number of federal representatives and Senators that state has. The least amount of electoral votes in 3 (two Senators and One representative, held by several Plains states) and the largest amount of electoral votes in 55 (Two Senators and 53 Representatives, held by California). In total, America plays host to 538 electoral votes from each of its 50 states and Washington, D.C. Electors are awarded to candidates by state according to who won the popular vote in that state. For example, Hillary Clinton won California, therein she gets its 55 electoral votes, whereas  Donald Trump won Pennsylvania’s popular vote (although by only 80,000 votes) and gained its 20 electoral votes.

Trump is now the fifth president in US history to achieve the presidency by not winning both the electoral and popular vote, with the most recent being George W. Bush in 2000 beating out Al Gore in Florida. Many people have come to question how this rare phenomenon actually happened, while the reality is really quite simple. As I mentioned before, the electoral college awards votes in each state based on who won those individual states, not based on how many votes nationally a candidate obtained. If that were how the system were run, there would be no need for the electoral college. How this happened was those who voted Democratic turned out in higher numbers in states Hillary won by far than they did in states Trump won, which is an obvious fact. Take for example, to explain this a bit better, a comparison between two states, Texas and New York. Texas was awarded to Trump while New York was awarded to Hillary. If the combined popular vote between the two came out to Hillary winning over Trump, it makes sense that Trump won altogether, because Trump won the state with the higher amount of electoral votes. While many more people in New York and Texas voted for Hillary when combined with one another, it was more important for Trump to win the state with the larger amount of electoral votes (Texas). This type of dissonance between the system of popular democracy over an electoral system is what gave Trump the presidency.

The reasoning behind the implementation of the electoral college is because of the belief that there should be no tyranny of the majority over the minority. In this case, the 51% would rule over the 49%, and could practically enslave their fellow man if the pure form of democracy were put into place. The founders had this in mind as they authored the Constitution, and decided instead to put a fail safe on the American institution of Democracy in order to keep that from happening. The end result was the electoral college. Another widely-accepted analysis behind the reasoning for having the electoral college is that it was to prevent the American people from making a poor decision in leadership, although I do not believe that that would have been possible this past election either way.  While it may not seem fair to some that the electoral college determines the presidency, it does have a significant purpose behind it that describes why we should keep it in place.

There have been many calls for the electoral college to be amended out of the Constitution and replaced with a purer form of one vote equaling one person, however the reasons described above should prove why it should remain in place. One of the most recent pushes to pass legislation abolishing the electoral college is led by Barbara Boxer, the outgoing Senator from the state of California. In the upcoming lame-duck session of Congress, a time when outgoing legislators take the time to propose legislation they didn’t have the courage or support to propose during their tenure, a vote is expected on this legislation. From what I have read, however, the Honorable Mrs. Boxer does not have an understanding of government because it not only requires a congressional vote to amend the Constitution, but also the approval of 3/4ths of all state legislatures, a feat rarely achieved.

 

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