The “Mystery” of the Electoral College

If you could solve one of history’s greatest mysteries, what would it be and why?

Growing up a vegetarian with hippy parents, reading feminist and pacifist literature, and listening to Jimi Hendrix and the Beatles has shaped me into a very politically charged person. Thus, while I admit that the Great Pyramids are amazing and Sir Walter Raleigh’s Lost Colony is intriguing, the mystery I would most like to solve is “Why, throughout all American history, have we not abolished the outdated system of the Electoral College?” In our nation’s turbulent political beginning, the question of how to elect a President was difficult to answer. Alexander Hamilton proposed a plan that was drafted into the Constitution, known as the Electoral College. The plan was enacted to prevent the election of a President by popular vote. Hamilton, and others, thought that this decision was too important to be decided by an uneducated people. Therefore, a system was implemented in which “electors” from each state cast votes on behalf of their respective states. The candidate with the largest number of electoral votes becomes President. This system creates serious flaws in our election process. Four times in the history of the Electoral College has a President been elected who did not receive the plurality of votes cast by the American people; the most recent being George W. Bush in the 2000 election. One cause of these mistakes in history is the “all-or-nothing” method of counting electoral votes. If a state’s electors vote for Candidate A, all of the state’s electoral votes go to that candidate. This means that the votes of all the people of that state who voted for Candidate B are effectively ignored. Therefore, a Republican in a solidly Democratic state would feel little reason to cast their vote at the polls, knowing that their vote will be discarded. Another cause for the discrepancies in our election process is that the electors from each state can decide to vote for whichever candidate they desire, regardless of the popular vote cast by their state. Therefore, technically, even if every citizen of a state votes for a certain candidate, the electors can turn around and cast their vote for another candidate, effectively ignoring an entire state’s worth of vote-casting.The wasted votes in every election are devastating to our image as a strictly Democratic nation. In a true Democracy, a pure popular vote would decide the leader of our nation. Perhaps in Hamilton’s time, with limited communications and an uneducated population, it was daunting to consider allowing the people to decide the leader of our fledgling nation. However, today it seems ludicrous that we have an election process that favors the vote of one person over the collective decision of others. For these reasons, the continued use of the Electoral College system is a mystery to me. In the midst of the bipartisanship that is dividing our country, it seems that we should be able to come together to preserve the most basic and necessary of Democratic ideals that define our nation.

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