Why does the Electoral College matter?

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Written by: George Burns III


There has been a lot of discussion, as of late, as to whether or not the Electoral College system of electing a President still works for our Nation.  I understand both sides of the argument; keeping the Electoral College and the tradition that it comes with, or eliminate the system and move to a populate vote system.

I was inspired to write on this topic today because of a screenshot that someone texted me early this morning.  The screenshot was of a Facebook message that I’ll share the text of below.  Whether the facts and figures that are claimed here are true, I’ll leave that up to someone else to fact-check me; what is more important is the fact that this is someone’s perspective on the 2016 election (to clarify, the sender would not tell me the name of the person they got this screenshot from).  Most importantly, to me, is how different this perspective is from my own, and by extension, what I’m going to do to better understand it.

The text was as follow:

“There are 3,141 countries in the United States.
Trump won 3,084 of them.
Clinton won 57.
There are 62 counties in New York State.
Trump won 46 of them.
Clinton won 16.
Clinton won the popular vote by approx. 1.5 million votes.
In the 5 counties that encompass NYC (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Richmond & Queens) Clinton received well over 2 million more votes than Trump.  (Clinton only won 4 of these counties, Trump won Richmond)
Therefore these 5 counties alone, more than accounted for Clinton winning the popular vote of the entire country.
These 5 counties comprise 319 square miles.
The United States is comprised of 3,797,000 square miles.
When you have a country that encompasses almost 4 million square miles of territory, it would be ludicrous to even suggestion that the vote of those who inhabit a mere 319 square miles should dictate the outcome of a national eletion.
Large, densely populated Democrat cities (NYC, Chicago, LA, etc) don’t and shouldn’t speak for the rest of the country.”

Ok, before I address why this is important, I feel compelled to breakdown this argument a bit.  The underlying premise here is that people alone shouldn’t control the vote, but that somehow the land a voter occupies should somehow be a part of that calculus.  On its premise, I reject this theory, a person’s vote is unique to them, and equal to that of their neighbor, meaning your vote is no more or less valid, or should carry more weight, than my vote.

But, let’s ignore all of that for a minute.  Ignore the words and their implied meanings.   Focus on the intent.  Focus on the perspective.  Focus on the individual who feels compelled to publish this perspective on social media.  Sure, there’s an need for attention and validation motivating this, but there’s also a feeling of want.  Want of understanding, want of validity, and want of power.

The writer needs the reader to understand that, from their perspective, the number of individuals who voted for Trump were more “right” than those who voted for another candidate.  They need this claim to be validated, for what reasons, I’m not entire certain, but it is safe to assume that it’s not for unity (to me, the core language does not invite unity,  but rather supports division, but that’s merely interpretation).  Curiously, however, is what I feel is a need for power; power over others, and that need scares me more than anything.

All together, this perspective, to me, is threatening.  The publisher feels compelled to expose some sense of purpose to the reader; some sense of, “the cause I believe in is more important and more valid than the cause you believe in.”

However, our forefathers conceived of a system that does not allow for anything like this to happen.  With the installation of the Electoral College, Presidential votes are tabulated by state, and then those nominated electors come together case official votes for the Presidency.  Each state is assigned a number of Electoral College votes proportionate to that state’s population.  Smaller states with larger, more dense populations will have a higher vote of Electoral College votes, as composed to states larger in area that may be more sparsely populated.

Essentially, this system ensures that all areas are represented within the system; a system that defines our Presidential campaign strategies.  Think about it, if we moved to a popular vote system, the Presidential candidates would ignore sparsely populated regions and only focus on those areas with the highest population densities.

But, the Electoral Collage is not without problems.  In its history, the tabulated votes of the Electoral College did not match the intent of the popular vote, as is the case with our most recent Presidential election.  In the 2016 Presidential election, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by more than 2 million votes.  This same Presidential election would have had a very different outcome if these same candidates campaigned the same way, and the votes were tabulated differently.

Now, I’ve seen a few articles and social media posts that have called into question the validity of votes that were cast for Clinton.  President-elect Trump tweeted this week about the Electoral College, saying:

On another political site (which some may call a news site, but it is nothing that could not be further from the truth, in my opinion), an “article” was published claiming that Donald Trump actually did win the popular vote.  Again, the premise and claims he article are wildly against anything that I believe, but the intent remains.

The potential of these perspectives was conceived of by our Founding Fathers.  They knew that less populous states needed to be protected against such discrimination.  The concept of tabulating votes by state, with electors assigned by population, would equalize the playing field, along with granting the right to vote to each eligible voter, a right that was denied by many at first, and has since been expanded.  Recently, voter laws have been modified to restrict the right of casting a vote from eligible voters, but that’s a discussion for another day.

In the end, does the Electoral College still protect our citizens?  Yes, I think that it does.  Trump won the election BY winning these smaller population centers.  Without the Electoral College, these rural areas would have been ignored by the Presidential campaigns.  Every eligible voter needs to be equally represented in our system, and the Electoral College ensures that will remain the same for all voters.

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