It’s time that we have a serious conversation about how we elect our President. The Founding Fathers never intended for women, people of color, or even non-property-owning men to have the right to vote. That we have changed our voting laws to include more people in the democratic process suggests we can change them again to abolish the antiquated Electoral College and elect our President by popular vote. The Founders didn’t design the Electoral College with the intention of protecting small states from big states (that’s the job of the US Senate). They designed it the way they did because they believed everyday Americans were too susceptible to emotion and mob-mentality and that rational men of means and education should, therefore, have the final say on who is elected President. It is ironic then that the system designed to prevent the election of someone like Trump failed to do so in 2016. Obviously, America has changed since 1787, and so, too, should our electoral system.
Many people may push back against this by saying that the popular vote is unfair because it would afford California and New York too much power in deciding the outcome of a presidential election. But this is problematic for several reasons. First, it lets the Republican Party off the hook for failing to create a broader message that is more attractive to moderate Americans. We don’t know how campaigns would adapt in response to a new electoral system. Ideally, creating a system where every vote counts equally would drive candidates to adopt broadly popular platforms. Second, the math just doesn’t add up. There are not enough Democrats in California and New York alone to give only those two states the power to decide elections. In fact, there are more Democrats in the other 48 states. Similarly, there are more Republicans in California or New York than there are in, say, Wyoming, but their votes don’t matter in presidential elections. The same can be said for Democratic voters in deep red states. Third, it ignores the fact that the power to decide elections is already in the hands of a small number of states: swing states. Because of the Electoral College, states that are heavily blue or heavily red are outright ignored by politicians from both parties.
In the Federalist Papers, Hamilton and Madison were clear about the need for the will of the majority to prevail over that of the minority. In today’s polarized America, the Electoral College all but ensures the opposite. America is at an inflection point right now, and we should take the opportunity to seriously consider the ways in which we can ensure a democracy that works for all.