The Electoral College..An Affront to Our Democracy

No, you don’t get to decide your next president, a group of people you didn’t elect do.

Photo by Clay Banks on Unsplash

No matter who wins the Election of 2020, the voters will always be the losers. Why is that you say? Because technically you don’t get to decide who the next president of the United States will be. Do you know who does? A slate of electors appointed by your state’s political party, who pledge to support that party’s candidate. And they don’t always do. This means that we, the American people when we go to cast our vote for our candidate of choice, we’re not voting for our next President or Vice President. No, we are voting for a smaller group of people known as electors. These electors then cast their votes directly for President and Vice President. This is done at a meeting that is held several weeks after the actual election. There are 538 electors in total, including one for each U.S. senator and representative. Three electors represent the District of Columbia. Presidential Candidates need the majority of 270 votes to win the election and move on to the White House. And typically the winner of the Electoral College is also the winner of the popular vote, but not always. See the 2016 election for reference. 

Our great and mighty constitution, that has never been updated and was written for a different time, a different set of people, and a different way of life, (I digress), does not explicitly state how electors should be chosen. Article II, Section 1 of the Constitution states that electors can’t be a member of Congress, or hold federal office, but as for the rest? States are on their own. The 14th Amendment that was ratified after the Civil War, does state that electors also can’t be anyone who has “engaged in insurrection or rebellion against the United States, or given aid or comfort to its enemies,” OKAY. Because someone who is essentially a traitor to our country should have a part in our democracy. Yeah, ok. Again, state legislatures are charged with choosing electors, but like any and every other thing done in this country, the way it’s done varies from state to state. (How “United” of us). Today, the most common way these electors are chosen is by state party convention. Each political party nominates a slate of electors, and a vote is held at the convention. Typically all it takes to be qualified to be an elector is current membership in the party, current voter registration, and a pledge to vote for the party’s presidential ticket. Oh yeah, and don’t be a traitor to your country. 

Either way, like every other position in American politics, political parties typically choose people who they want to reward for their service and support of the party. Electors can be people who have some kind of personal or professional connection with the party’s candidate, the basic requirements are pretty slim. So yes, when you’re voting, you’re not voting for President or Vice President, you’re voting for these people. And while you have no direct control over who is chosen, you do have indirect control. Local voting. While the President and Vice President candidates are not chosen by the popular vote. The popular vote does elect members of Congress, mayors, governors, state legislators, and even more obscure local officials. These are the people who influence who the electors will be. Everyone knows these members of our legislative system, hold all the real power anyway. 


Ok, so if my vote doesn’t matter, why did my candidate win the election anyway? Because again, most members of the electoral college pledge to vote for the candidate that wins that state's popular vote. Ok, so no harm, no foul. Yes, I didn’t directly choose the people who elect the president, but my vote influences their decision right? Yes and No. 

As it turns out, our constitution doesn’t require electors to vote according to the results of the popular vote in their states, and there is no federal law that requires it. Yes, you read that right. It means that according to the constitution, your vote doesn’t and wouldn’t matter. At all. Sucks don’t it. These are called faithless electors. Electors who do not vote according to the state’s popular vote. Now, nowhere in history has a faithless elector ever decided an election, and more than 99% of electors in our history have voted as they pledged to do. But remember the 2016 election? Seven electors decided to break with what their state wanted on the presidential ballot and six did so on the vice-presidential ballot. Some of these faithless voters were punished and/or replaced for their rogue votes, and their votes did not impact the actual outcome, but STILL. That is way too risky for me. 

Now in 2020, the Supreme Court did rule that the constitution does not require that electors be free to vote as they choose. The Court held that states have the constitutional power to force electors to vote according to their state’s popular vote. Something that is not clearly and explicitly spelled out in our actual constitution. At the time of the Court’s decision, 32 states had passed laws that bind electors, while 18 states have laws on the books that give electors the freedom to vote independently because again, we are so United.

So what does this mean? The Electoral College sucks. It’s too ambiguous, there is no clarity on if your vote matters or not, and all it takes is a couple of rogue electors from 18 states to turn an election. An election that according to our democracy, is for the people by the people. There are over 360 million people in the United States. But the decision to who is going to be the next president of the United States, the highest office in our country, the most powerful position in our country, is not decided by the millions of American voters, but left to the whim and mercy of 538 unelected individuals? How is that right? The popular vote is good enough for Congress, mayors, and almost every other aspect of our legislative system, but not the highest office of our land? The people don’t deserve to have the sole right to decide who they want to be the president of the United States? It should be left to the whim of these individuals? Why subject our presidential and vice-presidential races to the possible drama that the Electoral College can provide? Why not subject it to the certainty of the popular vote? When I vote, I want to know without a shadow of a doubt that my vote has a direct influence on who will be the next president of the United States. Not that there is a possibility that the individual who I had no hand in selecting to represent me, decides to vote against me. Abolish the electoral college. Get rid of it. It’s an insult to our democracy. Nothing but an unmitigated smokescreen that is designed to distract the American people from what it actually is, an affront to our democracy.