It’s Election Day. Officially. In every state of the union. The first Tuesday of November.
There are 538 Electoral College votes up for grabs. Kind of. It’s basically a winner-take-all system. So they aren’t really up for grabs. Most of us are now familiar with that after the 2000 election in which Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the Electoral College vote.
Some people dislike the Electoral College. I happen to be one of them. Not because I wanted Al Gore to win in 2000, I didn’t, but I think it is an antiquated system that should be updated after 232 years. As we have already established numerous times, I am a huge nerd. And as my saving of holey socks demonstrates, I save everything. Including stuff I wrote in high school.
I have a feeling I’m going to lose a lot of you here, because, well… it’s kind of boring. So just go vote instead. If you’re still with me let’s look back to high school Hairy Swede and his group of four fellow high school students (MMMH, RL, BK, and AT) and their take on the Electoral College in 2001 shall we? A quick mea culpa. This was delivered as a speech by the five of us, hence the complete lack of any sort of citations. You’ll just have to deal with it.
“The electoral college is made up of electors from each state. State legislatures have the power to direct the manner in which the electors are appointed, and the number of electors per state is determined by how many senators and representatives are in Congress. Through this arrangement each state is guaranteed three electors who vote for the president and vice-president, and the two main parties vote in these electors. Most states, except for Nebraska and Maine, operate by the “winner-take-all” system, where if a candidate wins the popular vote in the state, they also win all the electoral votes. 270 electoral votes are needed for a majority win in the Electoral College. Many people criticize this system, claiming that the people are not directly involved in the election of our nation’s leader, because the electors do not vote until December, and it is they who ultimately decide the presidency.
The Founding Fathers intended the Electoral College to be separate from the people in order to keep the masses from making the wrong decision. It was feared that the masses were not educated enough to actually elect a president, and in light of this, a group of well-informed people to decide the outcome of the elections was needed. Mob rule was especially feared after Shays’s rebellion. If the people could not be trusted not to revolt, how could they be trusted to vote for a president? The Electoral College was put into place because the founders feared what would happen if the people were given too much power. By curbing the power of the people the founders felt they could assure that the right person was always elected to the presidency. Many criticisms have arisen from this.
The Electoral College has endured many criticisms since the election of 1824. The major criticism in 1824 and still today is the fact that a minority president can rule the country. Another argument is that the state electors themselves are not bound by law to vote for the majority picked by each state. Others argue that the Electoral College is outdated, and that it allows the nation to be clearly divided amongst the leader of the current time. The “winner-take-all” aspect has been largely criticized. Also, the number of each state’s electoral votes is determined by the census that occurs every 10 years. Thus, the reapportionment of electors fails to account for significant population shifts that often during the course of a decade. The failure of the Electoral College to accommodate third party candidates has also been criticized. Whatever the arguments may be, there is no question that the current way of electing the president is not one that is approved by all members of society. It is in need of a replacement in order to unite the country.
The various criticisms against the Electoral College prove that it is not a premium method of conducting an election that truly represents the voice of the public. Thus, we propose the following changes to our election methods, a viable solution that not only embodies the characteristics of democracy, but also is proficient and accurate. Our solution is essentially one of instant runoff voting, in which each voter has one vote, and ranks candidates in order of choice—first, second, third, and so on. The counting of ballots simulates a series of run-off elections. All first choices are counted, and if no candidate wins a majority of first choices, then the last place candidate (the candidate with the least first-choices) is eliminated. Ballots of voters who ranked the eliminated candidate first then are redistributed to their next-choice candidates, as indicated on each voter’s ballot. Last place candidates are successively eliminated and ballots are redistributed to next choices until one candidate remains or a candidate gains over 50% of votes.
Voters have the option to rank as many or as few candidates as they wish—their favorite candidate first, their next favorite second and so on. Voters have every incentive to vote for their favorite candidate rather than the "lesser of two evils" because their ballot can still count toward a winner if their first choice loses. There also is every reason for a voter to rank as many candidates as they want; since a voter’s lower choice will never help defeat one of their higher choices. All federal elections except the presidency are decided by a popular vote of the people, and the nation’s chief executive should have to command the same support. It is time to eliminate the Electoral College and implement a more accurate, more representative, and more logical solution. Direct election of the president using an instant electronic runoff would be the fairest and most efficient way to ensure that the nation's chief executive commands support from a majority of voters. It is time to upgrade the method we use in electing our nation’s most powerful office.”
And now you know all you need to know about the Electoral College. From the perspective of a bunch of high school boys seven years ago.
Now go vote.