Last Updated on March 8, 2021 by Filip Poutintsev
In the 2016 United States of America’s presidential election, the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, lost to the Republican nominee, Donald Trump, despite securing few million votes more than that of Donald Trump.
Yes, how’s that possible? Shouldn’t the one with the majority vote win? This should have been the case if the United States of America did not have a process called Electoral College, which overrules the popular vote.
According to the National Archive, Electoral College is a process, not a place. It was established in 1788 by Article II of the US Constitution, as a compromise between having a vote in Congress to elect the President and the election according to the popular democratic vote.
So, as this system requires, a group of people equal to the number of representatives in Congress is temporarily created such that these people will be the one to cast a ballot and elect the President and Vice-President of the nation. Currently, in the USA, the presidential candidate who acquires 270 electoral votes out of 538 wins the White House.
As a result, Hillary Clinton, who received 236 electoral votes, lost to Donald Trump, as he acquired 306 electoral votes, despite Clinton leading in the popular vote by a few million votes.
Besides the United States of America, according to CIA World Factbook, here is the list of 10 countries that follows some form of Electoral Colleges to elect the legislators or presidents.
As George Edwards III said, “It wasn’t like the Founders said, ‘Hey, what a great idea! This is the preferred way to select the chief executive, period,’ They were tired, impatient, frustrated.
They cobbled together this plan because they couldn’t agree on anything else.” Electoral College was a compromise; thus, it wasn’t supposed to be perfect. Consequently, it always has the potential for chaos. So, in this article, we’ll try to gain better insight into the Electoral College, specifically relevant to the United States of America, by weighing its pros and cons.
Table of Contents
- Pros of Electoral Colleges
- Cons of Electoral Colleges
Pros of Electoral Colleges
1. Informed Voting
This system ensures that the final voting is more informed. Using electors instead of the popular vote, to a very extent, ensures that these people who are more aware politically makes a better decision than the misinformed public.
According to Alexander Hamilton, the Electoral College is at least excellent, if not perfect. He believed that this system ensured “that the office of President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications.”
And, according to the founders of Electoral College, they believe that informed representatives are at the best place to make better decisions which accounts for the will of the populace rather than the majority.
2. Relevancy of Smaller States
Consider a nation having 10 states which accounts for a total population of 10,000. Now, if 4 of the 10 states account for a total of 6000 people, then it is safe to assume that the candidate might intend to focus more on those densely populated areas and less on the remaining since this would easily help him/her gain higher vote.
This would make the problems of light state less relevant since the way of living is significantly different than that of populated states.
So, Electoral College, to a very extent, ensures that these smaller states are not left out while making policies since they might account for a significant number of electoral votes in total to make a difference in the final voting to elect the president or legislators.
3. Minimizes the Upheaval in Nationwide Election Process & Signifies Coalition
In case of voting issues in certain states, Electoral College replaces the need for a national recount of votes by shrinking the issue to just that state. So, it minimizes the upheaval in the nationwide election process. Also, if a candidate wins the electoral vote, it signifies that the informed people (according to the founding fathers of Electoral College) believes in him/her.
Cons of Electoral Colleges
1. Less Relevant in the Age of Information Technology
One of the crucial reasons why the Electoral College came into place was to minimize the direct impact of uninformed voting. However, with technology being available to a significant amount of people around the world, the information about the candidate and their policies are accessible to everybody.
This helps them make an informed decision that defies the relevancy of the Electoral College in the current age of Information Technology.
2. Too Much Power to the Swing States
In American Politics, swing states are the battleground states which could be won by either the Democratic or Republican candidate during the election.
Swing states are significant during the time of competitive election because of the fact that they possess a significant number of electoral ballots than other states, because of their higher population.
According to the PBS NewsHour episode of November 6, 2016, “Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton have made more than 90% of their campaign stops in just 11 so-called battleground states.
Of those visits, nearly two-thirds took place in the four battlegrounds with the most electoral votes — Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and North Carolina.” Thus, it’s only fair to infer that Electoral College makes swing states gather most of the attention although they aren’t the whole of a nation; consequently, giving more power to swing states.
3. Clash with Popular Vote and Ignores the Will of People
Although Hillary Clinton won the presidential election of 2016 by popular vote, Donald Trump became the president by winning the electoral votes.
She didn’t just win by a few hundred thousand but by a few million. So, Electoral College basically gives these 538 people the power to overrule the will of people from having the president they voted for.
While the intention of structuring and keeping the idea of Electoral College seems significant from a historical viewpoint, are they still relevant in the current world where the advent of information technology has brought citizens closer to knowing their candidates and policies?
With candidates focusing more on swing states, does Electoral College really maximize the relevancy of smaller states? If not the Electoral College, what would be the alternative to minimize the risk of the “tyranny of the majority”? These are a few of the questions to think about.