Election results call for reexamination of Electoral College
Millions of Americans sat glued in front of the television last week watching the election progress. The world waited as we watched critical battleground states turn red in the race to 270 electoral votes. In an upset that shocked people across the country, then-Republican candidate Donald Trump won the race. In the process, Trump won Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio to secure his title, and he is set to become our next president. Following the election, emotions ran high among both sides, with Democrats questioning how this happened and Republicans celebrating their unexpected victory.
In particular, Hillary Clinton supporters were astounded with the results, confused about how Donald Trump had secured the majority.
Then it became clear as the news came out that not only had he not secured the majority, but Trump had missed it by a larger margin than this country has ever seen. According to The New York Times, it seems Trump lost the popular vote by more than 1.5 percent or 2 million votes. The majority of Americans elected Hillary Clinton, yet Donald Trump is still our President-elect, all thanks to the Electoral College system.
According to Time Magazine, the Electoral College was originally used because the founding fathers did not believe that the average person had enough national knowledge to cast an informed vote. States are assigned electors to represent the interests of the majority of their constituents. The amount of electors a state gets is based on its population and is equal to the number of senators and representatives that the state has in Congress. California has the greatest number of electoral votes, topping the list at 55, followed by Texas which has 38, and New York and Florida, each of which have 29.
While it is assumed that the electors will cast their votes following the state’s popular vote, it isn’t strictly required, and 29 states have members called “faithless electors” that can switch their vote whenever they please. This has lead to a petition that has gained over four million signatures on the popular site change.org, calling for the Electoral College to cast their votes for Clinton instead of Trump, thus reflecting the true popular vote of the country. If the Electoral College chose Clinton at this point, the act would be unprecedented.
Another way to make the election process fairer is to abolish the Electoral College system altogether. While its original intent might have been valid, now that the internet makes information readily available to the masses, it might be time to consider getting rid of this outdated system. Senators and governors are elected via popular vote, so it would make sense for the president to be elected in the same way.
Senior Christina Rontell noted that while the Electoral College isn’t wholly to blame for this chaotic election, it is certainly a contributing factor to this election cycle’s frustration.
“The Electoral College system is flawed,” Rontell said. “It bothers me when people say we should trust the process, as if there would be something wrong with overturning, even questioning, the decisions of white slave owning men who couldn’t have even begun to predict the dynamics of contemporary life. I don’t know that [Hillary Clinton] winning the popular vote means anything necessarily. What I do know is that [Clinton’s] loss isn’t to be blamed on our voting system; the guilt is collective and much more complex than that.”
Senior Caitlin Foote, a USD student from Canada, echoed this sentiment and pointed out that it is not the system itself that is the problem, but the reaction it is causing for people who see it as unfair.
“I don’t know a lot about the electoral college, in fact I’ve never really paid that close of attention to the presidential election at all, but I think, given all the buzz and negative reaction surrounding the election outcome, that it does appear to be outdated, and not what, at least the Americans around me, want or trust,” Foote said. “We have a very different electoral system at home, so I have never really experienced this much distaste following an election. It is pretty clear there needs to be change.”
Although it is unlikely the use of the Electoral College will cease because it is written into our Constitution, the system itself could change. As is stands now, most states issue all of their electoral votes for whichever candidate wins the plurality vote in their state, essentially disregarding all the votes that are not for the majority. Were the system to change to allow states to split their electoral votes to reflect the percentages of votes issued for either candidate, the election results may be deemed fairer.
This is the type of progress that may help better future election cycles. While it may not be prudent to abandon the Electoral College altogether, a lot has changed since its conception, and it’s time it caught up to the present.
By Dani DeVries, Opinion Editor