Electoral College Alternatives
The Presidency and the election surrounding the Presidency it is one of the most essential events in American politics. The office of the President is the highest office in the United States. Given this stated fact, there is always controversy surrounding the Presidency and how people are elected into the position. Looking at the United States at face value it would be assumed that during elections, the citizens are deciding who becomes President. Surprisingly, this is technically not the case. If we are to take a serious look at the way presidents are elected in the United States, the first thing that should come to mind is the Electoral College.
The Electoral College is a body of 538 people representing the states, who cast votes for the election of the president and by default vice president. According the United States Census Bureau the United States population was 325.7 million people in 2017. That means, with the Electoral College, 538 electors are deciding the fate of 325.7 million people. When the Electoral College was established, the population of the United States was smaller than it is today. It made more sense by then for electors to be the voice of the people than it does now. Life as Americans know it today is much different than it was when the United States was founded. It is fair to say that the political and social norms that surround society have changed considerably given the amount of time that has passed since the founding of the United States. It is safe to assume that finding an alternative to the Electoral College may be beneficial to the further development and sustainability of the United States. There are is a multitude of alternatives to the Electoral College, this essay aims to discuss only three options in hopes of getting the conversation going and evoking change in the current political system.
Election by Congress would be a great compromise for those who oppose ending the Electoral College and those who never want to see the Electoral College used again. Members of Congress in both houses are elected by direct popular vote. Senators are elected via a statewide vote and representatives by voters in each congressional district. This all means if everyone is going to the polls as they should be, the elected officials in Congress were all chosen by the people. Who better to choose our President than the officials we elected? Members of Congress should be well educated on political matters and should be able to make well informed decisions on who should lead our country. While this option is a simpler choice, it still poses the question is America still a democracy if there’s no need for the American people to vote after they vote for Congress? Election by Congress also has many of the problems that the Electoral College possess. There is room for corruption but overall it may be the better option than the current system we have.
Instant Runoff Elections would keep the need for the American to vote for President. Their voices and votes would be heard and they would still exist the need for potential candidates to campaign to the public instead of a small group of people which is what having Congress elect the President May turn into. Using a direct vote, voters would rank their preferences rather than marking only one candidate. Then, when the votes are counted, if no single candidate has a majority the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated. The ballots are then counted again, this time tallying the second choice votes from those ballots indicating the eliminated candidate as the first choice. The process is repeated until a candidate receives a majority. Instant runoff voting on a national scale has the potential to solve one of the major problems introduced by the Electoral College.
Instant Runoff Elections has the possibility to consistently produce a majority, nationwide winner that was chosen completely by the people. It will discourage negative campaigning among candidates because their is the looming possibility of candidates losing the second choice vote. Instead of feeling compelled to vote for ‘the lesser of two evils,” as in plurality voting, the American people can honestly vote for who they believe is the best candidate and their candidate will have a real chance at winning based on their vote. As with everything, there are some problems with instant runoff elections. There is the looming possibility that a majority winner will not be found. If enough voters do not give any votes to their lower choices, then there is possibility that no candidate will end up with a majority. The ballots and ballot counting will end up being more expensive than the current system that is in place. If the ballots are counted by hand, it will require a lot of labor that is open to many mistakes. If they not hand counted, a computer system of some sort would be needed which may be expensive. Overall with Instant Runoff Elections, voter turnout may increase and the American people may feel more involved in the election process. They may finally feel that their vote matters.
Direct vote may be the most practical alternative to the Electoral College. The United States calls itself a democracy which in many people’s minds means the United States is a direct democracy, when in actuality, it functions more as a republic. The United States must decide if she wants to be referred solely as a republic or solely as a democracy. If she decides to be referred to as solely a democracy then Direct vote is the best alternative to the Electoral College. Direct voting would terminate the Electoral College as well as require each person to cast one vote for the candidate of their choice. The candidate who receives the most votes nationwide would win the election. This method would more accurately reflect the will of the nation. There would be no recounting of votes like suggested with instant runoff elections. The candidate would just need to get more votes than any other candidate and they would be the President. Direct Voting encourages voter turnout as well as aligns well with Democratic principles. A major disadvantage to direct voting is that it would along for “regional candidates” meaning people that are popular in larger cities could theoretically become president without support in smaller states. Electing a president who does not have broad regional support could lead to a less unified government and country. If the United States is to align with its democratic principles then the advantages are worth the risk of the disadvantages.
There are multiple flaws with the Electoral College. The major flaw is the Electoral College system allows a chance that an unpopular potential president may become victorious in an election. A prime example would be the 2000 election between Bush and Al Gore. Gore won the popular vote but Bush won the electoral college which means he won the presidency. Te disadvantage mentioned is one that is shared by many of the alternatives mentioned but the difference is that in these alternatives, the votes of the American people actually matter whether they choose to use their power is up to them.
The Presidency is vital to our country. Americans should have more of a say in the election process of this office. It could be argued that the Electoral College was never useful if we are to believe the United State is a democracy. One thing is for certain, the Electoral College as it stands is no longer useful in the election process of President and needs to be changed. Although the electoral system may possess advantages, the disadvantages heavily outweigh the benefits. Therefore, modifications are needed to protect the democratic government of the United States. Without adjustments our country will continue to suffer.