The Electoral College Explained

By now, many of us are somewhat familiar with the Electoral College during this proceeding election, though it was not until recently that I was made aware of how exactly the system worked. Unlike many other western democracies, the United States does not elect government officials through the popular vote. Instead, the U.S. utilizes the Electoral College system to avoid winning an election solely from high-population urban centers. If the U.S. were to take the popular vote into account, the president would almost always be democratic.

In the Electoral College system, each state gets a certain number of electors based on its total number of representatives in Congress. Each elector casts one electoral vote following the general election. There are a total of 538 electoral votes, meaning the candidate to win at least 270 votes wins the election. When citizens cast their ballots in the presidential election, they are technically electing a slate of electors. Electors cast the votes that decide who becomes the president of the United States. 

The Atlantic believes that the electoral college system is “outdated” and partisan to rural regions in the U.S. The Daily claims that there are three primary flaws in the electoral college: it is undemocratic, it can award a candidate with a disproportionate amount of votes, and it has an extreme “winner-takes-all approach” for each state (except Maine and Nebraska, which split their votes across congressional districts).

The electoral college is rooted in racism, as the founders of the system were elite white men—many of whom were slave owners. The system was created to empower white southerners by providing them with more “weighted” votes to account for their slaves. This seems to highlight how disconnected the Electoral College is from any modern understanding of democracy. 

In an attempt to make our voting system more representative of the U.S. population, sixteen states have enacted the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) into law. This bill will award all electoral votes to the presidential candidate who wins the overall popular vote in the fifty states and in the District of Columbia. This initiative would ensure that the President that wins the election is the candidate that was the most popular amongst the entire country.

It is evident that the Electoral College must be amended and it seems that the NPVIC is the only feasible way to do so — with an amendment to the constitution being extremely difficult to achieve. By 2024, it is possible that the U.S. could take the national popular vote into immense consideration. 

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