Presidential candidate Hillary Clinton is now beating President-elect Donald Trump in the popular vote by more than 2 million votes. This is by far the biggest deficit in popular votes by a winning candidate in the history of the country.
But the discrepancy between electoral and popular votes shouldn’t make us question the legitimacy of the election — the Electoral College is the law of the land. In the words of president-elect Donald Trump, abolishing the Electoral College would make for a “whole different [type of] campaign.”
Under the current system, one of the first questions that a presidential hopeful probably asks him or herself is: Can I win the battleground states? Can I win Ohio? Can I win Florida? Do I have the policy chops to cut it in North Carolina?
If the aforementioned questions seem very focussed on swing states, it’s because of our current system: the Electoral College. Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker said it best: “The nation as a whole is not going to elect the next president, 12 states are,” and right he was.
According to the National Popular Vote, 94% of presidential campaign events in 2016 (375 of the 399) were held in 12 states (the 11 states identified earlier in the year as “battleground” states by Politico and The Hill, plus Arizona), with 68% held in only 6 states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan).
So guess what? If you are not a voter in one of those states, then your vote doesn’t mean as much. The presidential candidates and their respective campaigns agree.
A voter from swing-state Florida is immensely more important than a voter in consistently red Texas in our current system. So all of the campaign’s resources are being poured into this minority of states which accumulate all of the attention and leave most of the other 38 states in the cold.
Some of the arguments that proponents of the Electoral College system make is that, if the electoral system wasn’t in effect, candidates would just campaign in the big states, disregarding the smaller states and not taking their unique policy needs into account. Unfortunately, small states are still being disregarded, along with every state that is not included with the special “battleground” states.
In the 2012 presidential campaign, 99.6% of advertising funds were used in only 10 battleground states, according to Fair Vote. The result? Voters in battleground states turn out at a higher rate (on average 7.4% higher) than the other 38.
Under our current system, presidential campaigns tell most voters, “your vote doesn’t matter.” Worse still, the system encourages the media to focus only on those states, essentially making the other states almost irrelevant.
This creates all sorts of implications for down-ballot races and propositions, and can lead to a disconnect between the American people and the Executive Branch.
The problem is further aggravated when you take into account that battleground states are not only getting the electoral benefits, but are also receiving funding and policy advantages. According to the National Popular Vote, “Battleground states receive 7% more presidentially controlled grants, twice as many disaster declarations, considerably more Superfund and No Child Left Behind exemptions, and benefit from many other major presidential policy decisions.”
So why would a majority of the American people support this clearly outdated system? The answer is simple. They don’t. A Gallup poll conducted in 2013 shows that 63% of Americans support doing away with the Electoral College, with support coming from across the aisle.
So is the Electoral College in line with the concept of “one person, one vote”? Is it fostering democracy and promoting voter turnout across the republic as a whole? It certainly doesn’t appear so.
But the two-party duopoly, which has pretty much taken over the Electoral College system, driving it in a direction that is not compatible with our Founding Fathers’ original intent, have grown to like the comfortable balance that it provides for their agenda.
It’s time to fix our most important election process, promote voter participation among ALL of our states, and restore faith in our democratic process.
Please tune in next week, as I will discuss possible courses of action and what the future might look like for the Electoral College.