Electoral College proves outdated

December 2, 2008 — by Brian Kim and Tim Tsai

Following the debacle of Florida in the 2000 presidential election and the close call in Ohio in 2004, many were relieved to see Barack Obama elected without controversy. The fact is that the Electoral College has continually caused problems for voters and the recent elections only further show that voting reform is necessary.

The Electoral College started in the late 1700s, a period when most of the world still relied on monarchies. The Federalists, most notably Alexander Hamilton and James Madison, did not trust common Americans with the vote. To them, there were too many illiterate and uneducated people in the country to elect a suitable leader.

Although the problem of uneducated voters persists today, it’s on a much smaller scale than during the 18th and 19th centuries. Most Americans are literate and the media have become a tremendously influential part of Americans’ lives; it was impossible to escape the names “Obama” and “McCain” these past few months. It’s true that there still remains a vast number of voters who have little idea of what their candidate stands for, but at least today, the resources are available for voters to adequately research the candidates, formulate their own opinions and make well-informed votes.

Furthermore, the Electoral College does not give candidates an incentive to campaign equally in all the states. Case and point: California. Obama and McCain made few appearances to here to see its 17.3 million voters. Meanwhile, less populous states such as Missouri, South Carolina and Florida saw the candidates dozens of times.

Many people don’t realize that the electoral vote is the only vote that decides the President. The “race to 270” is the deciding factor in who wins the presidential election, where only one candidate can receive 270 or more electoral votes by selected individuals. The popular vote has no bearing on the eventual President; a candidate can win the popular vote but still lose the election if the opposing candidate receives 270 electoral votes.

Proponents of the Electoral College cite that it is a safeguard against voter fraud. Thus, if fraud is so outrageous (as it was during Florida in the 2000 election), an electoral voter can potentially vote against the state’s popular vote.

This is highly unlikely, however, because the elector who votes against his party lines is likely to be ostracized from his party. Furthermore, it would take a catastrophic election for the mere possibility of the Electoral College deciding the president while disregarding the popular vote. Fraud would have to be on such a high level that America’s voting system would face much greater problems that just the Electoral College.

The Electoral College was created to rid the uneducated votes, until today, where it has become practically useless to the presidential election. With a media that fills the airwaves with political ads and messages, voters now have a much higher level of understanding of political issues than those in the 18th century, rendering the Electoral College unnecessary and outdated. ◆

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