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Stop blaming the Electoral College

| Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Going into the election, many people derided Donald Trump for asserting that the election was “rigged.” The news media put Mr. Trump on blast. Late night comedians had a field day. Your Facebook friends, who are certainly experts on American politics, wrote full-length posts detailing why Donald Trump was wrong. People across the country mocked Donald Trump and affirmed the integrity and sanctity of the American electoral system.

This all changed Nov. 9. Suddenly, a day after Donald Trump was elected president, the system was rigged. The same people who had scoffed at Donald Trump’s assertion of a rigged election, now circulated petitions online, marched in the streets, and, once again, took their ever-desired and expert opinions to the News Feed of Facebook. The common mantra of all these people could be summed up in a single phrase: “Down with the Electoral College!”

Opposition to the Electoral College is not a new phenomenon, nor is it all that surprising. At surface level, the Electoral College does seem like a bizarre and rather unfair way of electing a leader. And in elections such as this one, where the popular vote is at odds with Electoral College votes, the unfairness seems ever more apparent. However, a deeper study into the Electoral College reveals that it is not, as many argue, an arbitrary or outdated method of election. Rather, the Electoral College is a visionary institution implemented into our Constitution in order to foster the ideals of republicanism and representative government.

The Electoral College is a completely original construction, not observed in any other nation. The system is certainly very strange. However, such a system is necessitated because the United States is inherently strange. The United States expands over a large area and possesses vastly different demographics, cultures and concerns in different regions. The degree to which the interests and concerns of different states within the nation vary differentiates America from nearly every other country on earth. Realizing this uniqueness of the United States and in order to protect such varying interests, the Founders created the Electoral College.

The Electoral College preserves the sovereignty and importance of individual states. If not for the Electoral College, the president could easily be elected from a select few regions in the country, representing the interests of one particular demographic or faction in the nation. In today’s age, this would mean the president would likely be selected largely from California and the Northeast, representing the interests of very large cities. The Electoral College, however, prevents this and forces presidential candidates to form broad coalitions and transcend regionalism.

Many people argue that the Electoral College destroys the concept of “one person, one vote.” In a sense, such people are correct. If we resorted to a strictly popular vote, the notion of “one person, one vote” would be more closely adhered to. However, our government is fundamentally constituted on the notion of respecting the sovereignty of states and representing the interests of all citizens of the nation, whether that be the interests of those in Los Angeles, California or Helena, Montana. This notion of balanced representation is the reason why we have the Senate. While the House of Representatives determines the number of a state’s seats in the House based on population size, the Senate allots two seats in Congress regardless of the number of citizens in the state.

If one were to be opposed to the Electoral College, I would expect them to also be opposed to the institution of the Senate. After all, the Senate gives low-populated states the same amount of power as high-populated states.

It is obvious that our Constitution was written with the aim to protect the interests of the individual states within our nation. Such an objective is aspired for in the formulation of our legislative branch, the 10th Amendment and the Electoral College. A protection of state interests is absolutely fundamental to the United States. In essence, to be opposed to the Electoral College is to be opposed to the Founders’ construction of our government and vision for America as a federation of sovereign states.

I understand that this election cycle was emotionally tolling, filled with vitriolic rhetoric and personal attacks. Many people are unhappy with the results of the election, and I acknowledge that. However, to suddenly, after the results of the election, come to the conclusion that the Electoral College is an abomination seems a bit too convenient and very irresponsible. Simply put, if your candidate did not win, please do not blame the Electoral College.

The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.

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About Eddie Damstra

Eddie is a junior from Orland Park, Illinois. He is majoring in Economics and Political Science with a minor in Constitutional Studies and plans on pursuing law school after his time as an undergraduate at the University of Notre Dame.

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  • bradastan

    There will always be someone who feels disenfranchised, however, non so bad as a minority pushing down it’s political will onto a majority opposition. I think it’s also pertinent to consider the reasons for the electoral college in the first place, which were not so lofty and really more a matter of keeping the election process under control.

  • João Pedro Santos

    Apparently your president-elect doesn’t agree with you:

  • João Pedro Santos

    When so many Americans are unwilling to change something that is clearly undemocratic, then it either shows that the US is not a democracy at all or that people are afraid of changes, even though when changes need to be made. And this isn’t just from now. The same thing happened 16 years ago when a politician who wanted to fight global warming won the popular vote but in the end a future war criminal was elected.

    • Gunnar Anderson

      No, it shows they don’t want to change it.

    • Jim

      The US is a constitutional republic – not a democracy.

  • João Pedro Santos

    “If one were to be opposed to the Electoral College, I would expect them to also be opposed to the institution of the Senate. After all, the Senate gives low-populated states the same amount of power as high-populated states.”
    Actually I am against the Senate for that same reason. It should either be abolished or reformed.

  • MG

    As almost every commentator has mentioned, this would have been a different campaign season if the method of election had been by popular vote. The focus would have been on major population centers because that’s where the most votes are.

    I think part of the genius of the founding principles of our nation is that our states have to be considered. I’m glad that the government and policies of the United States are not subject to the concerns only of major urban areas. The concerns of New York, Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia, Boston, San Francisco, etc. are not always aligned with those of Des Moines, Wichita, Salt Lake City, and other small to medium sized areas. Both should be considered, and merely having a larger population should not mean that your concerns are paramount.

    Whether Trump hated and now likes the Electoral College means nothing. The Electoral College should be considered on its own merits, of which there are plenty.

    • João Pedro Santos

      You’re kidding right? With the electoral college you end up ignoring most of the country. This wasn’t the election for the president of the USA. If was the election for the president of Florida, New Hampshire, Pennsylvania, Michigan, Wisconsin, Colorado and Minnesota. These seven states combined have 60 million people. Way to ignore 260 million cities. But what else to expect from someone who supports a fascist?

      • MG

        Perhaps you should take another look at the map and see how many states voted for Trump. But what else can you expect from someone who can’t do math?

        • João Pedro Santos

          Do you realize that not all states have the same population, right? Last time I checked it was “one person, one vote” and not “one state, one vote”.

          • MG

            It’s each state and electors proportionate to their senators and congressmen…the genius of our system.

        • João Pedro Santos

          “someone who can’t do math”
          Says the guy who doesn’t know that 62,624,373 is bigger than 61,361,936.

          • MG

            But those aren’t the numbers by which the election is decided.

          • João Pedro Santos

            I didn’t say they were. I said that’s how it would be decided if the electoral system was fair like in many other countries.

          • MG

            Fair in your view. I guess the definition of fair depends on whose ox is being gored. Would you have the same complaint if Trump won the popular vote and Clinton the electoral college? I suspect not.

  • Gunnar Anderson

    The time to object to the Electoral College is BEFORE an election, not afer. Would the same people who are objecting to it now have objected had Hillary won? I doubt it. So if you would have been fine with it had she won, you need to be fine with it now.

  • palsgraf

    The Electoral College was designed to protect the slave states. Now it’s being used, once again, to promote blatantly racist policies. Whether or not the people who voted for Trump are racist is irrelevant. Whether or not the people who voted for Trump view themselves as racist is irrelevant. The people who voted for Trump voted, in part, for blatantly racist policies – policies that will have very real negative effects on various people of color: African Americans (court ruled unconstitutional stop and frisk laws); Latinos (ripping a part Latino families); Muslims (unconstitutional religious tests). These policies were accepted and approved by white voters – the only voting block that Ttump carried.

    Electoral College and Slavery:

    “In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn’t vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount (the three-fifths clause), and that’s what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections. And thus it’s no surprise that eight of the first nine presidential races were won by a Virginian. (Virginia was the most populous state at the time, and had a massive slave population that boosted its electoral vote count.)

    This pro-slavery compromise was not clear to everyone when the Constitution was adopted, but it was clearly evident to everyone when the Electoral College was amended after the Jefferson-Adams contest of 1796 and 1800.”

    Akhil Reed Amar
    Yale Law Professor and one of the world’s expert on Costituional Law.