What is the fuss about the Electoral College

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Robert F. Kennedy’s name on the ballot in several swing states could alter the contest for Donald Trump even though he draws votes from both candidates. Photo Credit: Facebook/Robert F. Kennedy


As the US election approaches, more news, opinions, and information will be discussed about America’s electoral college and whether or not it has become obsolete. Some argue that its time has passed, it no longer represents democracy very well, or that it gives the Republican Party an advantage in winning elections because smaller areas receive greater representation than they deserve. Contrasting viewpoints contend that large states should not dominate elections, that the electoral college originates in the nation’s constitutional framework, and that a party favoured in one era may not be favoured in another. Having read about and researched the presidency, elections, and the American Constitution for almost half a century, I see the Electoral College as a singularly brilliant example of how the founders designed a democratic system that proved durable, relevant, and clever. 


The fundamental thinking behind an electoral college arose from a debate about who should select the president. The founders contemplated giving the responsibility to the elected Congress but decided that the people should make the choice. Writing for The Family Foundation, Paula Ryan suggests that during the constitutional discussions in 1787, there were concerns that voters would not be informed enough to choose a president, that mobs could intimidate voters, or that populist candidates might command dangerous power. Granting Congress this responsibility also had drawbacks. In response, the Electoral College became the compromise. Each state would receive an electoral vote for each congressional district and its two senators. This ensured that smaller states would have an equal voice because every state was allocated two senators. The elimination of the Electoral College today would mean larger states like California, Texas, Florida, and New York would be the focus of the candidates and their campaigns. Smaller states like Wyoming, Iowa, or Idaho would be ignored. 


There are flaws in the two-party system. Failing to nominate the best candidates is one of them.  If there were no electoral college the incentive to run additional candidates would increase, driving down the possibility of any candidate accumulating a majority vote victory. As recently as 1992 the impact of third party candidates reduced the winner’s vote tally well below 50%. Ryan argues, “What would happen if we did away with the Electoral College and instead implemented a system whereby a person could win the presidency with a plurality of the popular vote? If this were to occur, every special interest group would have their candidate, and the field of candidates would be enormous. Thus, EVERY election year would be utter chaos.” 

The Heritage Foundation points out that the Electoral College preserves federalism because every state has a stake in the outcome meaning the federal government has to think about representing all parts of the nation, not just big cities or large urban areas where votes are concentrated. Heritage also emphasizes, “Large cities like New York City and Los Angeles should not get to unilaterally dictate policies that affect more rural states, like North Dakota and Indiana, which have very different needs. These states may be smaller, but their values still matter—they should have a say in who becomes President. By forcing presidential candidates to address all Americans during their campaigns, not just those in large cities, the Electoral College has the added benefit of eschewing radical candidates for more moderate ones.”


Two factors are at play in the 2024 election that could play a strong role in determining the winner, and they both affect the Electoral College vote. The role of a relatively popular third-party candidate will impact the race’s outcome. Robert F. Kennedy’s name on the ballot in several swing states could alter the contest for Donald Trump even though he draws votes from both candidates. The tight race anticipated means that even a loss of a small percentage of voters could throw the election to Trump in enough swing states to secure him the victory. The Democratic Party has been working hard to silence Kennedy, block his efforts to get on state ballots and use his family members to try and diminish Kennedy’s legacy as a Democrat. If that does not work, their efforts to ensure Trump spends all his time in court will be doubled. The problem is that Trump seems to be getting a bounce from many who believe the use of legal wrangling to impede his campaign seems high-handed. 

On top of that, many of the legal proceedings are being delayed past the election date. Many are concluding that Trump will have to be defeated at the ballot box and polls indicate that Trump holds the edge in battleground states. The Biden campaign needs to design a better electoral college strategy or risk piling up votes in California, Illinois, and New York while losing closely in states where they must pick up enough electoral votes. 

In a razor-close race, the second factor could easily determine the winner. As Justin Haskins writes on FOX NEWS online, “Following the 2020 Census, the House of Representatives reapportioned congressional seats among the states, a constitutional requirement. Whenever the House of Representatives is reapportioned, the Electoral College is also adjusted.This may seem like a small adjustment, but it is easy to see how the new allotment could be determinative in Trump’s favour. After the census, thirteen states were impacted. Seven lost a single electoral vote (California, Illinois, Michigan, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia) while five states gained one vote (Colorado, Florida, Montana, North Carolina, and Oregon) and Texas gained two. As Haskins suggests, this means a four-vote swing favouring Trump states (two red-state gains and two blue-state losses). Trump can win fewer states and still be declared the victor. 

Haskins further explains with an example that seems more likely than not to occur. “ In 2020, had Trump beat Biden in Arizona, Wisconsin and Georgia — all states he lost — Trump still would have been one vote shy of the 270 Electoral College vote requirement needed to win the race outright. Under the 2024 adjustments, however, Trump would have 272 votes. 

Similarly, all other states remaining the same, had Trump won Georgia and Pennsylvania in 2020, Biden would still have had enough votes to win the presidency. Under the 2024 vote count, Trump would win with 270 votes under such a scenario.” And Haskins argues that other scenarios would also benefit Trump. These facts do not sit well with leading Democrats and if a script plays out where Trump wins because of the shifting Electoral College, a movement to change the allocation of those votes, or an effort to replace the College will gain momentum. 

The big fuss about the Electoral College comes down to winning and losing, but it remains the best way to represent all areas of the country and ensures the protection of democracy. Democrats too often confuse democracy with their holding power while the Republicans sit in opposition. Democracy is an intentional effort to represent the people and their choices, not the pre-determined outcomes of elitists in the media. The Electoral College has proven to be the best vehicle for doing that since its inception. As usual, the Founders saw further and knew better than the myopic wishes of twenty-first-century politicians intent on consolidating power and protecting privilege.      

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