In the 243 years of the United States’ existence, there have been a total of 58 Presidential elections. However, of the 45 men who have served as President of the United States, five have lost the popular vote but were still awarded the Presidency. After the elections of John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, and Benjamin Harrison in the 19th century, Americans went over 100 years without a president losing the popular vote but winning the electoral college. It was not until the elections of George Bush in 2000 and Donald Trump in 2016, despite their opponents having won the popular vote, that America once again questioned why we have an electoral system that does not count the votes of every American equally.
Under the electoral college, the power of your vote depends on which state you live in. With the way that the system is structured, the votes of those in smaller states usually carry more weight than those from states with higher populations. To put this disproportionate delegation of power into perspective, look at the state of Vermont, home to Bernie, Ben & Jerry’s, and about 520,000 eligible voters. Because the state has 2 Senators and 1 Congressional Representative, they are granted 3 electoral votes. This means that the state has 1 elector for about every 173,000 voters. Meanwhile, America’s most populous state, California, has about 25.3 million eligible voters and 55 electoral votes. This means that there is just one elector for every 460,000 Californian voters.
In addition to its undeniable inequality, the electoral college also discourages millions of Americans from voting. Because of the winner-take-all rules for electors in 48 states, many of those who live in red-dominated or blue-dominated states and are in the political minority feel that their vote does not count. This claim is supported by voting data that shows that “battleground” or “leaning” states usually have higher-than-national-average voter turnouts, while states like Texas, California, and Mississippi, which are all known for being solidly red or blue, have lower-than-average turnouts. This data is visualized in this graph from NPR from after the 2016 election.
Finally, it is worth mentioning that the electors are not elected themselves. Electors are chosen by a state’s government and therefore the political party in power in that specific state. The only rules for who can be chosen to be an elector state that electors cannot be current political office holders and cannot be any person who has engaged in rebellion against the United States. Additionally, there is no federal law that prevents electors from not voting in accordance with their state’s popular vote. This is why seven so-called “faithless electors” were able to vote for candidates who were not even running for President in the 2016 election.
In conclusion, the electoral college is an undemocratic system that values the votes of some Americans more than others; discourages millions of Americans from participating in our elections, thereby hurting local and state elections as well; and puts American democracy in the hands of 538 unelected officials every four years. Not valuing the popular vote of Americans results in the country having leaders who do not reflect the interests or values of a majority of the population. If we do not fix our system to better represent our country, there is no guarantee that what happened in 2000 and 2016 will not happen again.