Abolish the Electoral College

Bella Nieto, Managing Editor

In Federalist Paper 51, James Madison says, “if men were angels, no government would be necessary,” articulating the need for a stable government in the face of a capricious mankind. One structure meant to manage elections effectively is the Electoral College. In this dual-based system, an elector casts a ballot that is meant to reflect the popular vote in a given state. A candidate must collect 270 electoral votes from across the United States to win the presidency. In some instances, a candidate can win the popular vote, but not the Electoral College vote, which was the case in Bush v. Gore and Clinton v. Trump, where Clinton and Gore both won the popular vote but fell short of achieving the 270 thresholds needed to claim victory. The disconnection between the popular vote and Electoral College results has called into question the need and validity of the seemingly outdated system. The current electoral process is not suitable for contemporary politics because it is archaic, elitist and not reflective of democratic principles.

The Electoral College as it operates now is outdated, and therefore the presidency should be awarded on a nationwide popular vote. At its drafting, the Framers, the men who wrote the constitution, were hesitant about a direct election of the president by the public because they feared “mob” rule. However, their logic is shortsighted, given the Electoral College has been used almost since the nation’s infancy, yet mobs stormed the capitol on Jan. 6, 2021. In addition, the Framers were also concerned the people would not have the necessary information to choose leaders for the country. In this sense, the Electoral College seems to have a check and balance on the public, rather than the other way around. The Electoral College can ultimately cast their ballot for whomever, regardless of the popular vote. The Framer’s concern of mob rule is independent from the existence of the Electoral College, as evidenced by the attacks on Jan. 6, and therefore are not causes for concern when it comes to moving towards a solely popular vote system. Not only that, the concern over the public not having enough information is an elitist claim and, again, outdated. The Framers could not have foreseen the technological advancements that would be made in the following centuries. Information on candidates is widely available, and little is stopping citizens from researching and becoming acquainted with candidates. Understandably, not every citizen will take the time to research and give adequate deliberation. However, it stands to reason that civically engaged citizens would take the time to do their due diligence. The Framer’s reasoning reflects a different time period, and as democracy has evolved, so should the process for electing the president towards a solely popular vote-based system. 

In addition, selecting the president based on a nationwide popular vote would squash elitism and lean towards more democratic principles. The reasons for creating the Electoral College — a tyranny of the majority, politically disengaged public, etc.— are grounded in elitist principles. Even Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 68 claims that the “right” people should elect the “right” president, “men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the state…acting under circumstance favorable to deliberation … to a judicious combination of all the reason … which were proper to govern their choice.” Again, the reasoning of Hamilton did not age particularly well given the Electoral College results in 2016 elected Donald Trump, a businessman, rather than Hillary Clinton, who was objectively  the most qualified candidate given she was the Secretary of State for the previous administration and had experience in public office. Hamilton came to a similar idea when he asserted his confidence that the persons elected to the presidency will be qualified based on the Electoral system, “It will not be too strong to say that there will be a constant probability of seeing the station filled by characters preeminent for ability and virtue.” Again, this conclusion was disproved with the election of Donald Trump, objectively the least qualified candidate to hold the presidential office. Of course, Hamilton could never predict how the country would evolve, but it again shows how archaic his information has become. Aside from that, his reasoning is elitist because it places the concentration of power in the hands of the few rather than in the public as it should be. At the drafting of the constitution, the Framer’s had their own misconstrued opinions about the “right” type of citizens. However, there is truly no “right” citizen; certainly, all are rightfully worthy of electing whomever they reason is best. Moving towards a nationwide popular vote would ensure that no citizens are alienated from having the final say in their elected representatives.