The problem with “one man, one vote” as we call it in the United States is that it is not true. This is the case for a multitude of reasons, and is exemplified in our collective demeanor with respect to the presidential election. Namely, it is exemplified by our Electoral College system, and how it is not something that should still exist in our democracy as it stands today.
Anyone who wants to defend the Electoral College system points out that it has only resulted in a president who did not win the popular vote in three cases: 1876, 1888, and 2000. Well, if the popular vote was taken into consideration rather than the electoral vote then, even in these three cases, the will of the people would have reigned supreme. Isn’t that more important than defending a system that is largely outdated by saying that it has worked a significant portion of the time?
I came to this conclusion after talking to a friend of mine who just registered to vote in Texas and then expressed pride in the ability to vote for Barack Obama in the 2012 presidential election. I looked at this first-time voter almost in pity, as I thought “I’m so sorry, but that won’t really matter.” I felt angry that that is the reality of our electoral process, but it is. Obama voters in Texas are about as influential on this election as Romney voters in New York.
That brings me to my first point: the Electoral College disenfranchises the minority of voters in each state in the national arena. No matter who wins Florida and its 25 electoral votes in this election, it’s set to be a relatively close race. The winner will likely win by a small margin. All 25 of Florida’s electoral votes will go to whomever the majority votes for, and the minority’s votes are essentially cast aside.
In the 2000 election, the final (albeit controversial) tally was 2,912,790 votes for George W. Bush and 2,912,253 votes for Al Gore. Even if we are to step aside from the controversy of this election, is it fair that Bush received all 25 of Florida’s electoral votes, given that Gore won essentially half of the state? I wouldn’t think so, and I would further argue that this leads to over 2.9 million people whose votes essentially were deemed irrelevant in the overall election.
Also, majority voters become largely irrelevant in the broad scheme of voting in the Electoral College system. A Romney supporter in Alabama essentially doesn’t matter, since Romney doesn’t gain any additional votes for having won by a 40 point or 1 point margin. It’s all the same. Governor Romney gains nothing by trying to convince an Alabama undecided voter to vote for him, whereas he might if he tries to convince an Ohio or Florida undecided voter to vote for him.
This leads to a focus on the swing states. In the upcoming election, the focus is on a very small number of states. That is where money is being sent and where candidates are spending most of their time. This carries into office as well. Incumbent presidents want to do the best for the people of swing states so that they may get re-elected. What impetus has President Obama had to improve New York, where he will likely get re-elected anyway? Or even Georgia, where he will likely never win? Not to say that he has ignored those states as president, but he doesn’t necessarily need to impress those states to get re-elected.
A smaller issue is faithless electors. When a state votes for a candidate, it is voting for an elector pledged to vote for that candidate. Georgia will likely vote for Mitt Romney for president, so 16 Romney-pledged electors will be sent to the Electoral College to cast their votes for him. Although, sometimes, electors can vote for a candidate that is not theirs. There are state laws that criminalize this, but that does not mean it cannot happen. It has not been a problem as of yet, but it could very easily be one day.
So, I argue that the Electoral College system should be replaced. But if one needs more evidence of this, I point again to the 2000 election. Would it have mattered that Florida had controversy in the broad scheme of things if the popular vote had counted rather than the electoral vote? Gore won the popular vote by over 500,000 votes nationally. No amount of vote changes in Florida would realistically have put a dent in this. Furthermore, would anyone be tempted to cheat in a swing state if swing states didn’t decide elections anymore? If we moved to a truly one-man-one-vote system? I would say no. If a vote in Florida is just one vote, rather than a potential deciding factor for 25 electoral votes, the benefits of election-rigging and controversial actions are null.
Two states recognize this. Nebraska and Maine divide their electoral vote by congressional district. This allowed President Obama to get one of Nebraska’s electoral votes in 2008. It’s still not very equitable, but it is slightly better, because it allows for different demographics in geographical areas to matter a little more than just the whole state’s tally mattering.
However, to allow for a fair, equitable, one-man-one-vote electoral system, I argue in favor of a constitutional amendment abolishing the Electoral College system and allowing the president to be elected by direct popular vote. Failing this, however, I advocate for another avenue toward a national popular vote: the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC). It is essentially a compact between states that their electoral votes will go toward whoever wins the national popular vote, even if that person loses their state. Once a number of states carrying a total of 270 electoral votes sign this compact, it will become law in all of those states, and a national popular vote will be established indirectly (as the winner of the national popular vote would win 270 electoral votes, and thus the presidency). Currently, 132 electoral votes worth of states have signed it into law, and I hope that it will be made law in the rest that it requires to pass. A national popular vote is not only something that would make elections more fair, but it would also fix many of the problems inherent in our electoral system, such as the lack of focus on non-swing states, the potential for faithless electors, and the potential of rigging in swing states.
Vijay Reddy is a College senior from Fayetteville, Ga.