OPINION: The Electoral College is not representative of American voters



A supporter of President-elect Joe Biden holds up his mobile phone to display the electoral college map outside the Philadelphia Convention Center after the 2020 Presidential Election is called, Saturday, Nov. 7, 2020, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

The Electoral College, as of now, leaves room for a presidential candidate to challenge the legitimacy of it since rather than using the popular vote — it is based off of land. If it should still remain, it must be changed to fit the growing population of the 21st century so it can represent Americans in a better way. 

Whether the presidential candidate loses or wins the popular vote, American voters demand to be represented with an updated system.

The United States has expanded and grown to include a vast majority of people from all over the world since the time the Electoral College began. 

An issue with the electoral college can be summed up by the results from the 2016 and 2000 elections. Because of the way the Electoral College is used, the presidential candidate with the majority vote does not necessarily become president.

Those two previous presidential elections show that the Electoral College is not a representation of Americans and does not honor the popular vote. 

“The U.S. has only had a few times when the Electoral result did not correspond with the popular vote… 1876, 1888, 2000, 2016,” said professor Richard Sautter of DePaul’s School of Continuing and Professional Studies.

Before I and other voters were alive, this issue with the Electoral College existed in which a popular vote does not give the candidate the win and for many, they are disappointed in the way it determines the outcome of the election.  

“Its initial design and purpose was to give all the states in our federal “republic” a role. Initially, no [individuals] voted for president. Instead, the state legislatures designated electors they wanted to vote for a president, to represent their state,” Sautter said. “The popular vote of all males, including those without property, in every state for president didn’t materialize until 1832, during the election of Andrew Jackson.”

The history of the Electoral College can help explain why it was initially created, yet I still believe it should be adjusted to the population today and to the growing population to come.

It should also change whether there is a decrease or increase in the population of the state. The smaller states are guaranteed lesser electoral votes which will only leave them with not enough representation when in their cities, they have a bigger population. 

Perhaps, a change should be set in place so that smaller states get split up by the area with higher and lesser population. This means that where people mostly live in small states get a higher number of electoral votes, while the areas within the smaller states that don’t have a high population get a lesser number of electoral votes.

I understand that the Electoral College’s purpose is to give the land the vote, but the people should still be able to get their vote heard. 

Its initial role can continue as long as it gives Americans their representation which has lacked in previous presidential elections, especially because cities with the most votes are where most people live.

“If we changed to the popular vote, the vote of three or four states, California, New York, Illinois or a couple of other big states would always determine the outcome, and candidates wouldn’t even bother trying to get the vote in smaller states, leading to the feeling of disunity among many of our fellow citizens. That is not a good outcome either,” Sautter said.

Although his opinion slightly differs from mine, I understand the importance of the Electoral College.

“If it is not that broken, don’t fix it because of the law of unintended consequences. There have been scores of bills introduced in Congress over time to abolish the Electoral College,” Sautter said. “None has received the required two-thirds support in Congress for a Constitutional Amendment, and it is unlikely that 3/4 of all states would ratify such a bill if it passed Congress. So more or less, this is a futile effort.”

The Electoral College is important, but how can the U.S. be a democratic country when the president that people want the most cannot be president due to an old and outdated system?

The presidential election should be more representative of the people and to adapt to the population of today. There is a noticeable difference now in our population than when the Electoral College first began.

“The Electoral College came about as a compromise between large states and small states and the circumstances of the constitutional convention, which met to amend the Articles of Confederation. Although there are claims that it was designed to protect slavery, it was mainly a compromise between large states and small states,” said professor Wayne Steger of the Political Science department at DePaul. 

Through his insight, I was able to determine why the Electoral College began.

“The virtue of the Electoral College is that it requires a combination of popular and geographic majorities, so that a subset of the states cannot impose their will on the rest. Today, it is essentially a procedure that requires the political parties to compromise internally to nominate moderate candidates who can win in a wide variety of states rather than in just large or small states,” Steger said. 

As of today, the Electoral College continues, and the number of electoral votes has not changed.

“However, the country is vastly different from the time of the constitutional convention. We are a vastly more metropolitan society, with the majority of Americans living in suburbia. The consequence of tremendous population differences across states means that small states are greatly over-represented in the Electoral College on a per-capita basis,” Steger explained.

The population difference is an issue as more people have come to the United States, and I don’t believe it is equally representing the American voters.

“Voters in Wyoming and Rhode Island, for example, have three times the weight per voter in the Electoral College as do people in California. That same small state bias exists in the Senate, which currently benefits smaller population states, which at this time in history are largely Republican,” Steger said.

He then brings up a problem which I can agree on because I believe that the Electoral College brings in the lack of representation to American voters.

“The other major problem is that most states have adopted the unit rule, in which the candidate with a plurality of the popular vote in that state gains all of its electoral votes. This disenfranchises voters on the losing side within a state since they have no representation in the Electoral College,” Steger said. “As of now, with a million or more votes yet to count, there are 4.8 million Trump voters in California and 5.2 million Biden voters in Texas who have no representation in the Electoral College.”

The Electoral College can still remain in place, but I believe it has remained the same for too long. Every American should be allowed to have a voice in the United States whether it is for the candidate that wins or not. 

Brandon Tejeras, president of the DePaul College of Democrats, believes that the Electoral College should stay but there should be changes made to adjust to the population there is today in the 21st century.

“My opinion is that it is not very beneficial because you see that the trends and demographic changes are shifting. You don’t have high representation and people don’t feel connected to the actual results of the election. It doesn’t really accurately reflect where the population is, it more represents land than people itself,” Tejeras said.

When the Electoral College was set in place in the past, that was meant for how it was then. Populations have grown and changed. Back then, there was not as much diversity of people all over the world in the United States as there is now because as we all know, it started off as settlers from Europe that arrived in the United States.

There has been a consistency of immigrants from all over the world coming to live in the United States. Plus, over time, not every family will stay in the same state. Some may go out to live on the east or west coast of the United States for other new opportunities.

“I think at the very least that they should make the Electoral College more proportional to the population with giving the right amount of votes to California to Texas to New York to Illinois. It is something that we can feasibly do to make it more proportional and the outcomes more representative of the number of people who are voting for the candidate,” Tejeras said.

States like California, Texas, New York and Illinois all have a growing population and the number of electoral votes should be adjusted to the new population growth.

“I don’t think it was built for the 21st century and for what the country will be going into the future. And so, I think it definitely needs a change because Bush beat Gore in 2000 and then Clinton beat Trump. This is within 16 years that it’s not representative of the most number of people and that’s what democracy is all about,”Tejeras said.

As the population grows in the United States, the number of electoral votes should be changed to fit it.

“One person, one vote and we all get a fair shot at electing a candidate. And if we win, great. If we lose, we lose. But that was representative, and the outcome was proportional to the input,” Tejeras said.