HARTZOG: Electoral College ensures check on the majority, strengthens the two-party system

By Victoria Hartzog on November 2nd, 2012

My vote doesn’t count. 

This is a phrase used to justify not voting or to state that one doesn’t support the Electoral College. The fact of the matter is, not many people take the time to step back to take a look and to gather the facts necessary about our political system. The Electoral College plays a major part in our election, so shouldn’t it be worthwhile to delve into the facts?

I support the Electoral College. Yes, it has its flaws like any other voting system, but in the grand scheme of things it’s the system that works best. The College was created with the right intentions when the Constitution was written and communication was difficult because of the long distances. It makes sense that the Founding Fathers put a system into place where the will of the people would be reflected by others who had the knowledge and were well-informed. The Founding Fathers didn’t intend the Electoral College to be democratic, but it does preserve principles of federalism, which the American political system was founded on.

These thoughts still resonate today. According to The American Presidency Project, only a little more than 50 percent of the voting population actually votes in the presidential election. If you tack on the idea that some of these people may be low-information voters, this becomes a problem. So shouldn’t we trust those people selected who know the issues and know the policies?

I’ll admit there are advantages and drawbacks to the Electoral College. The Electoral College promotes a healthy and stable two-party system. Even though this may make it difficult for third-party candidates to be successful, it allows the larger two political parties to adopt some of the third-party movements to cater to a wider majority. This leads to two large, pragmatic political parties that tend to the center of public opinion rather than several, or even dozens, of smaller political parties that only cater to divergent and even sometimes extremist views. This allows political coalitions to occur within parties instead of government.

Another advantage of the Electoral College is that it also institutionalizes a check on the majority. While candidates might be able to attract voters, they are not guaranteed office unless they win states. This prevents candidates from winning an election based on support from a few highly populated regions. The Electoral College also enhances the status of minority groups because the smaller minorities in a state can make the difference between winning all or none of a state’s electoral votes.

A disadvantage is that the Electoral College violates political equality and can possibly violate majority rule. But, this system of the Electoral College has worked in the past and there have only been a few instances where a candidate who received the majority of the popular vote did not become president.

There have been a total of four presidential elections where presidents won an election with fewer popular votes than their opponent, but more electoral votes. These occurred in 1824, 1876, 1888 and of course, the one we all remember, 2000. However, in the 1824 election neither candidate won the majority of the electoral votes and it was taken to the House of Representatives in conjunction with the 12th Amendment. Looking at these examples, the Electoral College may have its flaws, but is it really that terrible of a system when only four out of the 56 presidential elections have had a disparity between popular and electoral votes?

Even though direct popular vote might seem like the best option and the most democratic way to elect the president and other government officials, there are flaws with that system as well. There would be the incentive for many minor parties to form in an attempt to prevent the majority that would be necessary to elect a president, whatever that majority may be. The candidates would then be forced to take on the regionalist or extremist views represented by those minor parties in an attempt to win the run-off election.

The Electoral College also contributes to the political stability of our nation. If the election was chosen strictly by direct popular vote, candidates would focus mainly on highly populated areas like the East Coast, California, Texas and Florida. This would leave a lot of central states ignored because, essentially, the candidates could receive a majority of votes without them.

There could be the potential for reforming the system, but now is not the time because no better alternative has been proposed. The alternatives and reforms that have been put forward in Congress have failed because those alternatives seem to be more problematic than the College itself.

There are two potential reform plans. The first, being the proportional plan, maintains that electors would be selected in proportion to the votes cast for their candidate or party. The second, being the congressional district plan, maintains that the electoral votes are distributed based on the popular vote winner within each of the state’s congressional districts. Also, the statewide popular vote winner receives two additional electoral votes.

These seem like good ideas for reform, but the proportional plan would just add more complication to the voting process. Imagine a state with four electoral votes trying to split the vote with a 65 to 35 percent split. Who gets the fourth vote? There is also room for the chance that electors could be “faithless” more so with states being divided in votes.

The district plan would just be another version of the Electoral College, but instead there would be many swing districts instead of swing states. Someone’s blue vote in a traditionally red district would still be nullified.

I do support the Electoral College, but reforms need to be made. However, we should wait for the right kind of reform and not one that would be inadequate. It may take some time, but there will eventually be a reform that will make the Electoral College more democratic and it will gain more support.

However, when you vote in the election on Tuesday, know that you do have a voice and that every vote matters, no matter where you are casting it.

Victoria Hartzog is a Junior English Major. Reach her at opinion@

dailynebraskan.com and follow her on Twitter

@VictoriaHartzog

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