In the year 2000, I was just 16 years old. But, even in my youth, I understood the US electoral system was messed up in at least one big way.
At the time, I had a full understanding of how we selected the president: It wasn’t by direct vote, but rather, through a mechanism called the Electoral College, which allocated 538 votes to the states based on population relative to the rest of the country.
Many of my peers were confused when the popular vote winner of the 2000 presidential election wasn’t going to become the next president.
It didn’t make sense.
Well, neither does the Electoral College.
Electoral votes carry more weight in smaller states
The Electoral College distributes electoral votes across the country based on populations of the states. A state like California, for instance, currently receives 55 Electoral College votes, while a state like South Dakota only receives three votes.
But, there’s a problem: Allocating 538 Electoral College votes across 50 states (and Washington, DC) can result in an election that gives the presidency to the candidate who doesn’t receive the most votes from ordinary citizens.
The distribution of electoral votes isn’t always equal; an electoral vote in one state doesn’t necessarily represent the same number of people of an electoral vote in another state.
Alaska receives three Electoral Votes, while Rhode Island receives four. But, in 2008, each of Alaska’s Electoral Votes represented about 229,000 residents; whereas, each of Rhode Island’s Electoral Votes represented about 262,000.
The difference may seem negligible, but it does give each voter in lower-populated states more “weight” to his or her vote than in other, more populated states. Each Electoral Vote in New York State, for example, represents more than 628,000 voters.
In other words, a citizen in Alaska has almost three times more weight with a vote than a citizen in New York.
Generally, the Electoral College produces a winner who is representative of who the US population as a whole desires to win.
But, there are several ways a candidate can win the Electoral College without winning a popular vote, thwarting the democratic preference of the nation in the process.
That’s exactly what happened in 2000 when George W. Bush “defeated” Al Gore: Bush won the Electoral College, while Gore received more votes from Americans.
Since that time, nothing has changed.
No Constitutional amendment has been approved or submitted to the states for consideration, and it’s only a matter of time before another disaster, like what happened in the 2000 election occurs again.
Support for change is overwhelmingly strong
Putting a stop to the Electoral College is something most Americans support.
According to a Gallup poll from 2013, more than six in every 10 Americans said it was time to get rid of the outdated method by which we pick our president.
Support for eliminating the Electoral College was across the board, but younger people in general had strong feelings about it, with nearly seven in every 10 Americans between the ages of 18 and 29 saying they wanted it gone.
It's a nonpartisan issue, too. Sixty six percent of Democrats, as well as 61 percent of Republicans, support removing the Electoral College. Independents also supported its removal, with 63 percent saying so within the poll.
More than just a mere majority support removing the Electoral College — a broad consensus of Americans want it gone, too.
Ways to end the Electoral College (or at least its influence)
It's clear America wants this disastrous method of election removed for good. So, how do we get rid of the Electoral College?
The most obvious answer is to put forth a Constitutional amendment that would change the law to accepting results based on a popular vote for president.
Amending the Constitution is no small feat, but it has been done dozens of times over the course of our nation's history.
It may be the foundation of our government, but it is in no way infallible. The Constitution needs changes from time to time, and the Electoral College is one example of what needs changing today.
To change the US Constitution requires one of two methods:
In today's political climate, even getting something as popular as removing the Electoral College from the Constitution might be difficult. But, there is another way being proposed, one that's controversial but works, nonetheless.
There is no Constitutional provision requiring states to allocate their Electoral College votes to whomever wins the popular vote in their borders. This is yet another reason why getting rid of the Electoral College makes sense.
But, this flaw can be used another way, too: Rather than getting three-fourths of the states to approve of its removal, just get states representing 270 Electoral College votes to pledge to vote for whomever the national popular vote winner is.
Such a plan is already starting to take shape. The District of Columbia and 10 states have signed the National Popular Vote pact, meaning they have pledged to support the popular vote winner once the pact represents the required 270 votes.
They're currently at 165 electoral votes, about 61 percent of the total needed before the popular vote can officially take precedence over the archaic system in place now.
Until that time, however, these states will continue to allocate their electoral votes the way the rest of the nation does.
End the Electoral College before another disaster happens
Americans have always prided themselves on the growth of democracy throughout the nation's history. Expanding suffrage and voting rights throughout the years is something we like to brag about to other nations of the world.
Our process of choosing the executive leader of our government, however, isn't democratic. It relies on an archaic system of selecting electors who aren't representative of the population as it relates to the entire country.
It's time to eliminate the Electoral College once and for all.
Its demise is long past due.