Reexamine the Electoral College

Cyril Burchenal, Columnist

Few would contest that the 2016 presidential election was a shake-up. This presidential race was disquieting not only in its volatility, but also in the manner in which it ended. Nearly every pollster predicted the outcome wrong. Rather than a radical opinion shift in the majority of the electorate, the 45th president was decided by an archaic government institution: the Electoral College. It is apparent now that the role of the Electoral College must be reexamined.

As of Nov. 8, 2016, there have been four elections in American history where the popular vote went to a different candidate than the electoral vote. These four elections are 1876, 1888, 2000 and 2016. Some Americans would query what the problem is with these four elections. After all, they were decided in accordance with our nation’s democratic process. Well, the United States aspires to democracy, despite being by definition a republic. The majority of Americans want one candidate, and not giving that candidate is undemocratic. There are reasons why the Electoral College is an institution, and several of them are pertinent to contemporary elections. The magnification of the voice of smaller states is important. There is a compromise though.

A compromise between the status quo and a purely popular general election is not unheard of. The abolition of ‘winner takes all’ would provide the nuance and compromise demanded for change of the status quo. The current electoral system in the United States has it that the winner of a the most electoral districts wins the entire state, rather than having each individual go to their respective candidate. As of 2016, two states have abandoned the winner takes all voting system, Maine and Nebraska. In Maine and Nebraska electoral districts can pledge to different candidates. For example, in the 2016 election three districts voted for Clinton, while one voted for Trump.

The solution of ending ‘winner-take-all’ voting is an even compromise: it allows rural states to maintain their magnified voice, but removes the restrictions on majority rule in states where one or two districts are political outliers. Every district would have their voice heard on a federal level, and no small state would have to relinquish their Electoral College advantages.