The Electoral College is a complicated system that the United States uses to decide its President. Yes, how an Elector votes is meant to be based off of individual votes, it is who gets the most that wins, rather then the popular vote. This system has become controversial in recent years as it feels for many that the popular vote is not what is electing Presidents. While I am not an expert of the Electoral College by any means, I can break down why this system is a double edged sword. So why should we, or not, use the Electoral College?
If my history is correct, the Electoral College was created, in part, to be a buffer between the people and the election of the President. What does they mean? It means that it’s creators wanted a system in place that could, in a sense, protect the people from themselves. While, as a rule of thumb, Electors vote in accordance with the people of their State, Electors have the power to cast the vote for whomever they wished. If the candidate who received the most votes was deemed dangerous, incompetent, or otherwise unfit, the College would have the power to check the people. At least that was the intent. Over the years States have passed laws that required Electors to vote with their State; thusly removing the check.
The other major role of the Electoral College is an attempt to create a level playing field between the States. Meaning that through the College large States and small States are supposed to have equal voice. It is meant to give small populations States the ability to have a real contribution to the election. With a strictly popular vote, those areas of the Nation with highest population would dominate the election.
One needs only to look at the United Kingdom to see the problems of a strict popular vote. Due to high population density of the southeast of the UK, the majority of bills that come up for a popular vote end up being decided by those that live in the south of the UK. Additionally, due to high population of those areas they tend to have more MP’s in the Parliament, thusly meaning that the major priorities of the government are driven by those from the higher populated areas of the Nation. This too could be a major problem for the United States if it were to move to a strictly popular vote election system.
Yet, when you look at the break up of States and their Electors, you find that those States with the highest populations have the highest number of Electors. Additionally, within states, it is the highest populated areas of a State that often decide the direction that the State will lean toward. Given that urban, higher educated, areas tend to be more liberal politically, and rural, less educated, areas tend to more conservative politically, those States that have the bulk of their population living in urban areas will tend toward their State Electors being given to the Democratic candidates; vis versa for largely rural States. This, could be argued, is a form of voter suppression. But why?
Outside of two States, Maine and Nebraska, all States allocate their Electors based off the majority vote of the State. Within Maine and Nebraska, their Electors are divided up such that it is possible for their Electors to be split. With this latter system those of the minority vote are given a voice in the election, even if it is one Elector. All other States, in a sense, are suppressing the votes of the minority group as the will of those voters dies at the State level. This fact is a benefit of a popular vote. Ones vote goes directly to the candidate that is chosen on the ballot.
With all this taken into consideration, the difference between the Electoral College, and a popular vote, are not all that great. That is, if all States allocated Electors they way Maine and Nebraska do. As it stands, if a candidate can win all the big States, then odds are that person will win over all. This means, as a general rule, that the candidate with the most vote wins. This is obviously not always the case. One needs only look to the 2016 election to see how the popular vote does not necessarily equal winning the Electoral College. A major flaw of the system.
So should the United States get rid of the Electoral College? I see the value of retaining it, and getting rid of it. It does, on the face of it, allow for a balance between big states and small states. If necessary, and allowed, it has the ability to correct a glaring error in the body politic (as it should have done in 2016). Yet, due to fact that using it nullifies the votes of losing ballots, except for in Maine and Nebraska, it seems it is time to get rid of it. Either way, there will be a constant problem of small State complaining that the bigger States drive the agenda.