In theory, the votes of each state go towards the presidential candidate that won the popular vote in that state. The first candidate to gather 270 votes from the Electoral College wins the election. This is what my teacher was referring to when she said that people don’t choose the president directly, but at the same time, they kind of do.
Unfortunately, sometimes the people don’t choose the President at all. Through some weird fluke of math or the system that it is operating in, it is possible for a candidate to lose the popular vote but still win enough votes in the Electoral College to become President. This has actually happened a total of five times in the history of the United States and most recently with Donald Trump in 2016, where Hillary Clinton swept the popular vote by around three million votes and still lost. There was also a chance of this happening again in 2020, but luckily, it did not. As you can probably imagine, this apparent inconsistency in election results causes a lot of controversy among Americans. .Some people believe in the abolition of the Electoral College and others believe that its representation of low-density areas is necessary.
Now, this article is not about getting rid of the Electoral College. Frankly, I think the Electoral College does a lot of good. It makes sure that presidential candidates don’t just campaign in populated areas like California or New York. It gives a voice to the small states and smaller communities within high population states. Without the Electoral College, my Wisconsin vote would not have mattered to either candidate in this last election. Even so, there’s something weird about the Electoral College process that I think we need to fix.
It has to do with a phenomenon called “faithless electors."When a political party wins the popular vote in a state, that political party is allowed to select the individuals that will make up that state’s portion of the Electoral College. So, if the democrats won in Wisconsin, the democrats in Wisconsin would assign 10 people of their choosing to cast the 10 Wisconsin votes. Hypothetically, if you were chosen by the Wisconsin democrats to be in the Electoral College, then you would cast your vote for the Democratic candidate in the presidential election. However, there is nothing in the Constitution or any federal law that claims that voters have to vote for the party that their state has chosen by popular vote. So theoretically, someone chosen by the democrats of Wisconsin to vote for Joe Biden could vote for Donald Trump instead. That representative in the Electoral College would then be called a “faithless elector." Does this seem like a potential problem? Well, if it is, it’s not just a theoretical one.
There have been faithless electors in presidential elections as recently as four years ago. Now, just to calm everyone’s fears, these faithless votes did not sway the results of the election, nor have any faithless votes ever overturned the outcome of any presidential election in the past. But, just because something has never happened in the past, doesn’t mean that it can never happen in the future. That’s just not a good argument. Other supporters of the current system may point out that in July of 2020 the Supreme Court ruled that Electoral College voters were “not free agents." Unfortunately, while this language was used, the ruling itself didn’t completely stop faithless voting from happening. The Supreme Court only claimed that states were allowed to force voters into being faithful and voting for who they were supposed to. This doesn’t say, however, that states have to force the vote of their Electors. It only states that they can. That is not the same as a guarantee of faithful voting.
On the flip side of this, it is also worth pointing out that some states do indeed have laws where the Electors must automatically vote for the political party that received the popular vote. This is certainly a better way of handling this problem, but it still brings up this final question. If automatic and mandatory faithful voting is the best solution so far, why not just have the votes be automatically cast as well? In other words, why do we need to elect actual people to cast our votes if we’ve already decided who we want to vote for? Let’s just cut out the middleman. When a state finishes tallying its popular vote, the winner of that vote should automatically receive all of the Electoral votes from that state. This current system of actual people voting on behalf of other people is, frankly, just really weird when you think about it. It’s strangely archaic and leaves an unnecessary amount of room for dispute and error. Streamlining this process will undoubtedly save time and probably money as well. In conclusion, there are some people who say that the Electoral College is important, and I agree. There are others who say that it is broken, and I also agree. So, let’s make it better.
This is the opinion of Isaac Tackman, a junior screenwriting major from Jefferson, WI. Email comments to email@example.com. Follow and tweet comments to @LALoyolan on Twitter, and like the Loyolan on Facebook.