The United States proclaims itself as a democracy, or as President Abraham Lincoln called it, a government ruled “by the people, for the people.” With the Electoral College in place, however, this country seems more and more like it is run solely by those in high places rather than American citizens.
The Electoral College, a group of delegates from all 50 states and the District of Columbia, has existed for over a century and has altered the outcome of five different presidential races by overruling the popular vote.
That’s right, five. That is the number of times the public vote has counted for nothing.
These five men, ranging from John Quincy Adams in the election of 1824 to George W. Bush in the election of 2000, gained their power over the United States by winning over delegates rather than American citizens.
Take, for example, the election of 2016. President-elect Hillary Clinton received 2.9 million more votes than her opponent, Donald Trump, giving her the popular vote. That’s it. End of story, right? Hillary Clinton has now become the first woman in office. After all, she did win over the American people.
Trump, the man we now call President of the United States, beat her, all because he won over the Electoral College.
I vividly remember the day after the results of the election were in. It was a school day, and even though we weren’t allowed to vote yet, the whole school was chattering about the results of the election. Practically every sentence I overheard featured the words “Trump” and “Clinton.” By the end of the day, I couldn’t tell you how many times I’d heard the words “Can you believe he won?”
The Electoral College was first established to bring balance to the House, giving each state votes proportionate to the number of its senators and House members. But this is not the only reason why.
As Alexander Hamilton wrote in Federalist Paper No. 68, “The choice of several, to form an intermediate body of electors, will be much less apt to convulse the community with any extraordinary or violent movements, than the choice of one who was himself to be the final object of the public wishes,” creating what Hamilton called a “detached and divided situation.
In other words, the Electoral College is in place to censor and divide the public in case we get any crazy ideas like, say, voting for the person we think is right for office. Sounds a bit off, doesn’t it?
The group was set in place nonetheless, and, despite its drawbacks, everything ran fairly smoothly in the beginning. That is, until the difficulty of the “faithless elector” arose. These electors cast their ballots contrary to their state’s chosen winner, essentially throwing away the public’s vote for their own satisfaction. According to Smithsonian Magazine, there have been a grand total of 157 electors throughout the course of American history that have strayed from their state’s preferred candidate when voting.
We live in a country where we are told that every vote counts, that every voice matters, but in the end, it is not truly up to individual voters who wins a presidential election. Everything lies in the hands of the Electoral College.
The American public has outgrown its need for the Electoral College, and the group must be dismantled; it has undermined the meaning of true democracy for too long.
So, as the United States heads into this year’s elections, will the American people get the president we want, or will we get another leader that the Electoral College decided was better? Guess we’ll just have to wait and see.