Almost a year after the 2016 presidential election, people are still complaining about how Hillary Clinton should be president because she won the popular vote. I’ve seen posts by some of these people asking “why should your vote count more than mine?” (can’t find the Facebook post to get the link, sorry). The answer is, it shouldn’t, and that is why we have the Electoral College. While I’m not saying it is perfect (I’ll talk more about this either later in the post or in another post), it is better than the popular vote being the deciding factor.
The way the Electoral College works is that each state has a certain amount of elected representatives who cast their votes based upon the outcome of their state’s popular vote (at least, that’s what they’re supposed to do). In most of the states, the candidate who the majority of the representatives vote for receives all of the votes from that state. However, there are exceptions, in which case each candidate gets any and all votes that are for them from the states that don’t follow the aforementioned all-or-nothing way.
There are two groups of elected representatives who cast their votes, the Senate and the House of Representatives. In the Senate, each state elects two Senators. In the House of Representatives, the number of representatives to be elected is based upon a state’s population. For example, as you can see in the below map of the number of seats in House of Representatives each state has (I don’t know if is correct or not, but it gets the point across), California, a heavily-populated state, has 55 representatives who vote, while Rhode Island, a state with a much smaller population than California, only has 4 seats in the House of Representatives.
Some of you may be wondering why there are two groups. Basically, when the current system was being created, people in small states were worried that the larger states would control the country if the system were based on population alone. This would be a problem because different states have different interests, obviously. However, the larger states didn’t think it would be fair if the smaller states had an equal say in things, since obviously the larger states were speaking on behalf of much more people. As a compromise, it was decided that there would be two groups of representatives, one based on population (House of Representatives) and one where every state has an equal say (Senate), and any bills would have to be passed by both groups in order to find their way to the president’s desk and be signed into law. I would add a link to a webpage that has more details, but I just wrote this all down from the top of my head from what I remember from a very detailed year of US I with Dos, and
I’m too lazy I don’t feel like looking one up right now. However, feel free to use a Google search for more info. A good search term would probably be “origins of US electoral system” or something like that.
Circling back to the first paragraph of this post, this is exactly how no one person’s vote counts more than another’s (except for, of course, the elected Congressmen and women, but they’re supposed to vote the way their state did, as I stated above). If the election were decided on the popular vote alone, the larger states would have control of the Unites States simply because they have more people living there. The problem with that is that the economy of each state varies. For example, while one state’s economy may be centered around agriculture, another state’s economy may revolve around industry. Let’s say the agricultural state is less populated than the industrial state. If popular vote was the deciding factor in any decision affecting the economy, then the industrial state would have control, and while laws, reforms, and regulations that may help industry would most likely be passed, laws, reforms, and regulations that may help agriculture would be tossed aside, leaving the agricultural state to suffer.
Of course, as with any system, there are flaws. Personally, I think we should keep the idea of representatives, but divide each state into as many sections as it has votes (for example, Rhode Island would be divided into six sections, four for the House of Representatives and two for the Senate), and the outcome of the popular vote of each section should decide one vote. Also, it should not be a winner-take-all system, as it is in most states. Before I really get going outlining my plan for Electoral College reform (which I actually do have, because it was a history project of mine in high school), I’m going to stop myself, because that isn’t why I started this post. Another time, perhaps.
Before I begin to bore you (if I haven’t already), I’m going to end this post. If you have any questions, feel free to leave a comment below, or even use Google to try and find an answer. Thanks for reading!