WASHINGTON. Recently, Elizabeth Warren and a number of other 2020 Democratic presidential candidates suggested that Congress should abolish America’s Electoral College in presidential elections. As of now, under the US Constitution, a candidate for president must win a majority of America’s Electoral College votes regardless of the outcome of the national popular vote.
President Trump in 2016 and President Bush in 2000, did not win the popular vote, but they did win a majority in the electoral college. Democrats claim that this lacks fairness and insists that the president win the popular vote for the nation’s highest office. In fact, a number of states are trying to change their electoral college votes based on the national popular vote rather than the vote within their state.
In theory, a Democracy or a Constitutional Republic makes major decisions based on the desires of the majority of the people. Indeed it was rule by a generally elite minority, rather than the majority, that was core to the founding of our country.
However, our forefathers also recognized that the United States of America, while honoring rule by the majority, also realized that individual states must have basic rights and should have a voice in presidential elections.
Hence, America’s Electoral College.
Why did our forefathers establish two chambers of Congress?
When Congress was formed under the newly-ratified US Constitution, two distinct Congressional bodies were seated: the House of Representatives and the Senate. Realizing it would be impossible to have a direct democracy in an already vast, widely dispersed new nation where each citizen would vote on each issue, the Constitution established instead a representative democracy.
Meaning that voters elect representatives who will vote for them in Congress. Moreso, those representatives should vote on issues in a way that reflects the views of their constituents.
The House of Representatives was set up to reflect the majority of the population.
That’s why today, states like California have 53 votes in the House. A more lightly populated state, like Wyoming, will have only 1 vote. The current total of 435 seats is re-allocated every ten years after each national census so that vote allocations reflect the current population.
While this configuration ensures that votes passed in the House reflect the majority of the national population, it does ignore what the majority of states may want.
The Senate reflects states’ rights.
The US Senate was established to correct this problem. Each state, regardless of population, gets two senators, and hence two votes in the Senate. This means that Wyoming with a population of just over half a million people has the same voice as California with its nearly 40 million people.
This ensures a majority of states must approve a law before Congress sends it to the president for his signature.
While this protects states’ rights, it remains possible that 82 Senators from 41 states have the votes to approve a law. Those Senators may represent less than 50% of the population. even though they represent a large majority of states.
That’s because the population of the nine largest states (18 Senators) is about 51% of the total US population. If 18 Senators from nine states are the only ones to vote no on a bill, the bill still passes.
But with less than 50% of the population’s support.
America’s Electoral College solution recognizes competing needs in an innovative way.
America’s Electoral College system ss a way to balance the popular vote while preserving the rights of individual states. Currently, the Electoral College consists of 538 electors in the Electoral College. Each state receives one elector for each member of the House of Representatives (435 in total) plus one additional elector for each of its two Senators (100 in total).
The District of Columbia gets three electors.
If Congress abolishes the electoral college, allowing a president to win a national election with a simple majority, more than 50% of the states could lose their voice. A number of states have already considered having their electors vote for the candidate who gets the majority of the national vote.
This would mean candidates would campaign mostly in densely populated states while ignoring the less populated states. America would effectively divide into two nations.
Over the centuries, even with an occasional glitch, America’s Electoral College process has worked very well for the country. With a few exceptions, America’s Electoral College vote reflected the will of the majority of American voters. For the few exceptions, the results reflected our Constitution’s desire to give all states a voice in the electoral process.
With two chambers of Congress determining national laws and the Electoral College determining the President, our electoral process works. And has done so for the last 231 years.
The Electoral College voted for George Washington’s first and second terms.
Only five times has a Presidential candidate won the popular vote and lost the election.
- Andrew Jackson in 1824 (to John Quincy Adams);
- Samuel Tilden in 1876 (to Rutherford B. Hayes);
- Grover Cleveland in 1888 (to Benjamin Harrison);
- Al Gore in 2000 (to George W. Bush);
- Hillary Clinton in 2016 (to Donald J. Trump).
Additionally, two presidential elections were determined by the House of Representatives. At the time, Electoral College members were permitted to vote for two names for president. If there was a tie in the Electoral College, the House would determine the winner.
Jefferson and Burr each received 73 electoral votes. A contingent election in The House of Representatives in February 1801 elected Thomas Jefferson on the thirty-sixth ballot.
America’s Electoral College system reflects the will of the majority of the people. It also gives all states an equal voice in the presidential election.
There is no reason to change it.
— Headline image: Oil painting by Howard Chandler Christy (1873-1952), now in the East stairway of the House of Representatives: Scene at the Signing of the Constitution of the United States. US Government image, now in the public domain.