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The Cost of (Electoral) College

Our House’s electoral College

Well, it’s the end of 2019 and that means one thing for Americans; it’s election season. Hurray. We get to look forward to a year muckraking, fear mongering, and good ole lying. I’m sure all of you are just tingling with excitement. In all seriousness, I’d like to give my thoughts on a topic that’s been a talking point on and off for everyone since the 2016 results: The electoral college.

For those of you who are still baffled by the process here’s the long and short of it. In the USA, we don’t technically vote for our president. We vote for people who will then vote for our president. These people are called electorates. Each state gets a number of electorates equal to the number of members it has in congress. Additionally, each state not only chooses who is an electorate in their own fashion, but how to distribute the electorates among the presidential candidates. The next president of the United States is whoever wins the majority of the electorate votes. If all of this is confusing to you, don’t worry, it’s confusing for everybody, and it needs to change.

The current replacement system being touted by both parties is popular vote. Just a straight up popular vote without any of this weird electoral whatever to decide who’s president. On paper, it sounds like a great idea. But so did the electoral college (not really, the electoral college was a compromise). Personally, I think deciding who’s president by popular vote is a terrible idea, and here’s why: Brexit. Brexit was decided by popular vote and it’s turning out to be terrifying debacle of historic proportions. Popular vote only works if you have a properly informed populace. We clearly don’t have a properly informed populace. A large portion of our populace is informed by fear-mongering and blatant misinformation (that is to say: lying). This is pretty much the exact opposite of the social/political environment I want for a popular vote.

I propose, rather than get rid of the electoral college entirely, we revise it. Fix it up so it works as intended. Here’s a couple of suggestions to get the ball rolling.

1. Increase Election Security

This should happen regardless of what happens to the electoral college. Since the 2000 election, it’s been pretty clear that we need to tighten up security around our election system. Since then our election security hasn’t really changed, and with the recent increase in exposed bad faith politicians election results with poor security are becoming more and more suspect.

2. Stop Voter Suppression

Another thing that should just happen regardless of what we do with the electoral college. Rationalize it how you want, if you’re preventing any portion of the population from voting, you’re acting in bad faith. It needs to stop; it’s messing with our election results.

3. Redistribute the Electorate, Possibly Increasing Them

Part of the original intent of the Electoral college was to prevent low populations states from being under represented. A legitimate concern but the fix of assigning electorates based on number of congresspeople makes low populations states roughly three times more powerful than their populations would indicate (It’s the two senators. A state that only has one member in the House gets a huge boost from the senate). Here’s an idea: How about we tie the number of electorates to the total population of the country? We’re supposed to be a representative democracy right? Let’s get some actual representation in here. We could say every 100K people is one electorate, and then we could distribute electorates across the states based on their populations. That way states get the appropriate amount of representation.

4. Change the Way Electorates are Awarded

While each state is free to decide for themselves how to award the electorates to the presidential candidates, every state but two has a “winner take all” policy. Which is a bit messed up for a country claiming to be a representative democracy. If 51% of my state votes for the candidate I don’t agree with, it feels like I wasted my vote. No wonder voting apathy is at an all time high. Everyone switching to a proportional award system (so a candidate gets electorates proportional to their percentage of the popular vote) would help balance things, and help with the whole “under represented/over represented” issue.

5. Force the Electorates to Actually do Their Goddamn Jobs

Okay, so hang on with this one. One of the reasons the Electoral College exists is because the Founding Fathers were worried that, left to a popular vote, the rural populace would make ill informed decisions. The point of the electoral college was to insulate the office of the president from a potentially ill informed or miss informed general populace. We were never supposed to vote directly for who would be president, we were supposed to vote for who we thought would make the right choice one who got to be president.

But that’s not how it works is it? Currently, the electoral college is a really messed up, convoluted, and broken popular vote system. The electorates (who seem to be chosen by the dominant political parties) just stick to their party lines. What’s the point in all of the confusing roundabout voting if we’re just going to turn it into a popularity contest anyway?

The Founding Fathers did have a point though, our voter base is both miss informed *cough cough Fox News cough cough* and ill informed. It’s gotten to the point where people now disbelieve well established facts. And the amount that’s happening in our political landscape makes it literally impossible to be well informed without dedicating your life to studying politics.

And that’s honestly what we need. An electorate that’s both well informed and insulated from political parties. Barring that (which is impossible), I’d take making the electoral college a non-partizan, independent organization who’s job it is to be informed about politics. That way the electoral college would actually do its freaking job.

Sadly, I’m pretty sure that’s not going to happen. People are weirdly attached to traditions, even in the light of them doing more harm than good. Honestly, I’d settle for any of the first four suggestions to be put into effect, especially better election security and less voter suppression. You know, the ones we should be doing anyway?

Blog · Essay · Nonfiction · Political

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