Campaign II: Electoral College Reform

 
Electoral College Map.jpg

The Electoral College - not what democracy looks like.

Image Source: Kathleen McCleary, “Does Your Vote Count? A Look into the Electoral College,” parade.com, Apr. 21, 2016

The electoral college is an antequated system through which we elect our president. It was written into the constitution largely as a compromise between founders that favored the popular vote and those that favored a congressional vote for president. This system skews voting power away from the traditional egalitarian concept of "one person, one vote" based upon the arbitrary lines of state borders. The result is to dilute the collective will of the people, such that certain citizens' votes effectively count for more than others.

 

Our problems with the electoral college:

1.

DISPROPORTIONATE REPRESENTATION - Because (i) all states are awarded a minimum of 3 electoral votes regardless of population and (ii) the electoral college is only updated with the census every 10 years, voters in each state inherently impact election results to a greater or lesser degree. For example, based upon U.S. Census Bureau population estimates as of July 2016, the state of Texas has roughly 733,000 citizens per each electoral vote, while the state of Wyoming has only about 195,000 citizens per electoral vote. That means a Texan's vote is only worth about 1/4th what a Wyoming citizen's vote is worth in terms of power to influence the election. In fact, there are 13 states whose citizens' votes are at least twice as influential as a Texan's vote and 3 states whose votes are at least three times as influential.

3.76

How many times more influential a vote in Wyoming is than a vote in Texas

13

Number of states whose individual votes are at least twice as influential as the vote of a Texan

11

Number of states that could elect the president alone if they collectively voted for the same candidate (last occurred in 1984)

2.

REDUCED VOTER TURNOUT - Under the electoral college, it is easy to feel your vote may not matter. We have heard from many voters in traditional blue or red states that do not feel compelled to vote because they feel the outcome of their states' vote is all but predetermined. Don't believe us? Just look at the numbers. In the 2016 presidential election, estimated nationwide voter turnout was approximately 61%. Voter turnout in the 5 largest traditional "non-contested" states (California, Texas, New York, Illinois and Georgia) was collectively 57% - 4% lower than the national average. Voter turnout in the 5 largest traditional "swing" states (Florida, Pennsylvania, Ohio, North Carolina and Virginia) was collectively 65% - 4% higher than the national average.

57%

Average voter turnout in 5 largest non-contested states

61%

National average voter turnout

65%

Average voter turnout in 5 largest swing states

 

3.

I'M NOT EVEN VOTING FOR THE PRESIDENT? - No, you are not. Under the electoral college system, you vote for an elector associated with a particular candidate in the hope that that individual will vote for the associated candidate. But they do not have to do this. 21 states do not have any laws penalizing so-called "faithless" electors, while 29 states do have such laws. As of the 2016 presidential election, there have been 179 instances of electors abstaining or voting against their "pledge" and as recently as the 2016 election, 10 electors attempted to vote against their pledged candidates, 7 of which successfully did so without penalty. When electors represent hundreds of thousands of voters, why should they have the right to effectively alter the votes of hundreds of thousands of us who carefully contemplate our decisions before stepping into the ballot box? 

 

So What Can You Do?

Ok, ok. But it's in the constitution. How are we going to change the electoral college? - The only way to completely remove the electoral college in favor of another system (e.g., national popular vote or national ranked popular vote) is to amend the constitution. If you think this sounds difficult, we must say we completely agree. However, "difficult" and "impossible" are two very different thresholds, and this is far from impossible. We must pressure our lawmakers (state and federal) on both sides of the aisle to push for this change. 

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