Opinion by Katharine Stirber
Photo: Electoral College results map, 2020
When citizens of the United States cast their ballots for President in the popular vote, they elect a slate of electors called the United States Electoral College. The Electoral College consists of 538 presidential electors who come together every four years after election day to cast their official votes for President and Vice President of the United States. The ticket that wins a minimum of 270 electoral votes wins the election. The discussion of whether or not the Electoral College should be abolished is an ongoing argument among American citizens. The Electoral College should be abolished because it gives both people and states unequal representation in our democracy.
Slavery in the South played a big role in the creation of the Electoral College. The South had a lack of representation in votes because a large portion of the population were slaves who did not have the right to vote. However, the creation of the Electoral College allowed states to count slaves due to the Three-Fifths Clause: a compromise where three-fifths of the slave population would be counted for determining taxation and representation in Congress (Encyclopædia Britannica 2022). Wilfred Codrington III, a professor at Brooklyn Law School, stated in an article for The Atlantic that a consequence of the Three-fifths Compromise is that the South had an inside track in presidential elections; it gave states 33% more representatives and 33% more electoral votes (2019). Hence, the South won a disproportionate amount of the Electoral College votes compared to its eligible voting population, which gave them more say in presidential elections. It is 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 it had a large slave population which inflated its electoral vote count. With this being said, the Electoral College should be abolished because it was made to empower Southern white voters and continues to do so (Codrington 2019). Today, Southern states have high concentrations of Black voters who vote Democratic. In 2008, eighty-three percent of African-American voters in the South identified with the Democratic Party (Mckee 2012). However, the Republican Party began its gradual rise in the South starting with presidential elections in the 1950s; Southern electors now vote overwhelmingly Republican (Mckee 2012). In the South, the Republican Party currently receives the majority of popular vote more often than the Democratic Party; this trend sways the way the Electoral College votes.
If the US is eager to see racial justice within society, there needs to be a change in the men and women chosen to lead the United States. For years, people of color have faced unfair and cruel treatment from authorities, and it is becoming more evident in our government and nationwide elections. The people of the United States have witnessed the impact of the Black Lives Matter movement, which started in July, 2013. It began with the use of the hashtag #BlackLivesMatter on social media platforms, which became very popular after the exoneration of George Zimmerman. Zimmerman fatally shot and killed an African-American teen named Trayvon Martin seventeen months earlier in February, 2012 (Isabella Mercado). Since then, there have been many violent murders of African-Americans that have yet to receive justice. Black Lives Matter became a wide-spread national and international movement in 2020 after the death of George Floyd. Derek Chauvin, a former Minneapolis police officer, was charged with second-degree murder after a video circulated that showed him kneeling on Floyd’s neck for nearly nine minutes while Floyd begged for his life. Such incidents motivate people to look for change, especially in presidential politics. A person’s race affects how they vote because there are long-standing racial and ethnic differences in partisan affiliation (Pew Research Center 2018). The Electoral College is a result of racism dating back to the founding of our nation. Abolishing it will allow the progressive movement of Black Lives Matter, along with other issues involving inequality, to become more influential on our citizens and the policies we live by. People want to be heard, and adopting a popular vote system for selecting presidents is a way to accomplish just that. The ongoing Black Lives Matter movement has made it clear that many people of color are unhappy with the representation they receive from the government. The Electoral College was made to be used against people of color and should be abolished to better represent all people of our country.
The Electoral College should be abolished because it also gives states less equal representation. Deep red and deep blue states are often ignored by presidential candidates who focus their attention on swing states. Swing states have populations that are closely divided politically. Candidates focus on these “battleground states” with campaign visits, advertising, and staffing to persuade citizens for their vote (U.S. Embassy, Consulate in Thailand 2020). Time Magazine found that presidential tickets spent 53% of their last two months of the 2016 election on the trail in Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Ohio. As a result, presidential and vice-presidential candidates entirely ignored 27 states throughout the general election (Time 2016). Not only are more than half of the states completely ignored throughout the election, but less-populated states also weigh in disproportionately. By giving small states a guaranteed minimum of three Electoral College votes, some of the less-populated states are overrepresented and have more power when choosing the president.
The Electoral College is an outdated, undemocratic system which should be abolished. According to NPR, in the 2020 election, 16% of eligible Americans didn’t cast a ballot because they felt it wouldn’t make a difference (Montanaro 2020). Many eligible voters feel as though their vote isn’t worth much, so they ignore politics altogether and waste their vote. America praises the virtues of democracy and just representation, yet the Electoral College opposes those ideals. The Electoral College gives unequal representation to both people and states, making it seem less important to vote. Abolishing the Electoral College will honor the people of the United States and remind them that their vote counts just as much as that of their neighbors, giving a voice to all.
Katharine Stirber is a freshman from Mastic, NY, on the south shore of Long Island. She’s an environmental studies major with a concentration in sustainable systems. She plans on attending graduate school to complete a master’s degree in Public Administration, and she may continue on to study environmental law. Katharine developed writing techniques based on eco-friendly laws and policies while involved in Students 4 Climate Action in high school, a student-based organization that teaches about lobbying. Katharine plays in Binghamton’s Wind Symphony and is involved in spirit squads and the outdoors club. Katharine hopes to educate others on enduring political issues and create change through her writing.
Codrington III, Wilfred. 2020. “The Electoral College’s Racist Origins.” The Atlantic, June 16. www.theatlantic.com/ideas/archive/2019/11/electoral-college-racist-origins/601918/.
“Three-Fifths Compromise.” 2022. Encyclopædia Britannica, February 7. www.britannica.com/topic/three-fifths-compromise.
Mckee, Seth. (2012). “The Past, Present, and Future of Southern Politics.” Southern Cultures, 18(3) 95-117. 10.1353/scu.2012.0027.
Montanaro, Domenico. 2020. “Poll: Despite Record Turnout, 80 Million Americans Didn’t Vote. Here’s Why.” NPR, December 15. www.npr.org/2020/12/15/945031391/poll-despite-record-turnout-80-million-americans-didnt-vote-heres-why.
“These 3 Common Arguments For Preserving the Electoral College Are Wrong.” 2016. Time, November 15. www.time.com/4571626/electoral-college-wrong-arguments/.
Isabella Mercado. “The Black Lives Matter Movement: An Origin Story.” 2020. Underground Railroad Education Center, August 6. www.undergroundrailroadhistory.org/the-black-lives-matter-movement-an-origin-story/.
“What Swing States Are and Why They’re Important.” 2020. U.S. Embassy, Consulate in Thailand, August 18. th.usembassy.gov/swing-states-importance/.
“Trends in Party Affiliation among Demographic Groups.” 2020. Pew Research Center, August 28. www.pewresearch.org/politics/2018/03/20/1-trends-in-party-affiliation-among-demographic-groups/.