As has almost become customary of late, the Electoral College has come under attack once again by the the losing side in a presidential election. Though the election happened quite some time ago, the argument has yet to end about what could have been if the Electoral College votes were not a factor. It keeps popping up all over the place – both on social media and in the mainstream media.
The argument, as always, is furious and full of convictions, one way or another, depending on whether you fall in the camp of the winning candidate or the candidate who lost. It seems nobody in this argument is willing to look at the merits, or otherwise, of the Electoral College as a stand alone issue. Nobody in this argument seems willing to talk about the origins of the Electoral College which will help understand the reason for its establishment.
The argument is based solely on emotions driven by how the people involved feel about the outcome of the presidential election, and what the outcome would have been if the Electoral College votes had been absent. That, however, is a very bad premise to base this conversation on. The Electoral College has very important reasons why it was established, and to fully understand it, and what role it plays – to be able to criticize it – one needs to understand the reason why it was put in place, and the part it is supposed to play in the election of the country’s president.
Because of the fact that the study of civics is no longer taken seriously in our education system, so many of today’s Americans lack this knowledge, and that’s what unscrupulous politicians and their mouthpieces in the media are hoping to take advantage of when they attack the Electoral College. These charlatans try to paint it as being anti democracy because, as they put it, it negates the basic democratic principle of one man, one vote, but that’s false because it actually doesn’t.
On the contrary, what it does is promote and make sure that the democratic principle of fairness is obtainable in the contraption that is the United States of America. This is because it ensures that every member state of the union of independent states which we know as the United State of America plays a role in the election of the person who will lead the union.
To fully understand the importance of Electoral College, you need to understand the make up of the United States as being quite unique. The United States of America is not you normal country which is mapped out and then divided into states, but a group of individual countries, or states, which all voluntarily came together to form a union. These member states have different sizes both in land mass and in population, and this led to the fear among the states that the biggest states, population wise, would have an unfair advantage on the election of the union’s leader.
The Electoral College is a way to make sure that all of these independent states who decided to band together in a union feel represented in the election of the person who will oversee the affairs of the union, without their size and population disenfranchising them. It was, and still is, a system to make sure that the most populous of the states don’t elect this leader on their own, but that every member state feels a sense of belonging.
Without the Electoral College votes, there is a very distinct possibility that a few states with large populations could band together and make the election of the president theirs, and theirs alone, thereby defeating the very basic tenets of democracy which it fairness. That, of course would mean alienating the rest of the members of the union, and ultimately causing the type of disaffection that could ultimately result in the disintegration of the union.
The Electoral College is the reason why those running to be president have to campaign in all the 51 states of the union, and that’s because everybody is important in the system. Without it, many of the states with small population could be ignored outright by the candidates who would want to concentrate on only the states with the largest populations. That would not be fair on the union members so ignored, nor would it be democratic.
According to the 2017 census of the United States, a population of 308.7 million people was reported. Out of that, 113. 5 million people live in just the five states of California with 37.2 million, Texas with 25.1 million, New York with 19.3 million, Florida with 18.8 million, and Illinois rounding it out with 12.8 million people. Add to that the population of the next 5 most populated states of Pennsylvania with 12.7 million, Ohio with 11.5 million, Michigan with 9.8 million, Georgia with 9.6 million, and North Carolina with 9.5 million people, and you’ll find that just ten states have over half the population of the United States, 166.6 million people, to be precise.
That’s enough people for those 10 states to elect the president on their own in the absence of the Electoral College, so imagine what type of democracy we would have if the presidency is decided by just 10 out of 51 states of the union. Imagine what type of union we would have if a vast majority of member states feel the disenfranchisement and impotence such a state of affairs would cause.
The Electoral College does recognize population size which is why it gives more votes to the larger and more populous member states of the union. That is the reason states like New York, Texas, California and others with large populations have more votes than the rest of the states. It does, however, ensure that everybody, even if you have just three votes like many smaller states do, feels that sense of belonging in the union.
The Electoral College is genius, and don’t let anybody tell you otherwise. It is sine qua non to the practice and survival of true democracy in a union like ours, and must not be tampered with.
NB: The population figures used must have increased significantly by now, but census is taken every ten years. The last one taken which was used for this article was 2010 and the next one won’t come out until 2020.
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