Time to scrap the Electoral College
This week, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that states can compel their electoral college delegates to follow the popular vote results for that state. The decision is yet one more bandaid to keep this institutional relic alive for another election cycle.
While the framers of the U.S. Constitution back in 1789 had faith in the ideals of democracy and self determination, they were also terrified of â€śmob ruleâ€ť and the risk of populism. Within the Constitution, they built safeguards such as state legislatures choosing U.S. Senators and the Electoral College which put presidential voting on a state by state rather than national basis. The idea in both cases was that serious choices would be in the hands of picked men and not the unwashed masses. While the 17th Amendment, ratified in 1913, established the direct election of senators, the Electoral College has lingered as an antipopulist holdover. This had clear impacts in recent elections with both George W. Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016 gaining the presidency with electoral college victories despite both having lost the popular vote in those elections.
While more populous states have more electors than smaller states, an inherent flaw in the system is the inequality in the number of residents each elector represents. For example, according to the advocacy group FairVote, the average population to electoral votes is about one per 565,000 people. Wyoming has three electoral votes and only 532,668 citizens. As a result each of Wyomingâ€™s three electoral votes corresponds to 177,556 people meaning these people have 3.18 times as much clout in the Electoral College as an average American. The reverse holds true for larger states, with Wisconsin voters being on the losing end of having votes here count less than the national average.
Following the 2016 election there was concern about electors going rogue and deciding to go against the popular vote in that stateâ€™s presidential election and cast a ballot for someone else. Such a move would trigger a constitutional crisis in America. As a result, many states have laws in place to require the electors to follow the popular vote tally for that state. The Supreme Court in their recent decision upheld the constitutionality of those laws while at the same time giving life support to the failing Electoral College system.
At the time the Electoral College was created it satisfied a need for the young republic. With broader education in the voting population and campaigns targeting individual voters regarding issues, that need is no longer in place. All voters have the opportunity to become educated about the issues facing the country and the concept of having â€śpicked menâ€ť making decisions for others is patently offensive.
It is time to consign the Electoral College to the dustbin of history and put the power in the hands of the people to select leaders based on the tradition of one person, one vote. It is time for America to adopt the direct election of presidents.