The presidential election of 2016 was one of the most controversial in recent history. While polls predicted that Hillary Clinton would win in a landslide, many Americans were unaware of how the electoral college system worked and believed that they were actually casting their vote for president. The electoral college has received a lot of criticism over the years for being undemocratic and outdated, and now seems to be the perfect opportunity for change. Whether you’re a diehard republican or a proud democrat, there’s probably some form of electoral college you’ve never liked and are eager to see it gone.
Why the Electoral College?
The electoral college is actually quite a simple system. There are three steps to choosing a president:
- First, you need to get votes. This is usually the most difficult part. To get votes, you have to visit each state and convince the residents that you are the best candidate to be their president. Each state is allotted a certain number of electors, which range from three to six (three for small states, four for medium states, and six for large states). As there are more than 300 million registered voters in the US, the odds of getting votes are quite high.
- Second, you need to win a majority of votes in the electoral college. Three quarters of the states have procedures in place to avoid any tie vote. In the event of a tie, the House of Representatives decides who won the election. This step is quite easy as long as you get votes in at least three quarters of the states. In fact, the chances of you winning in all the states are quite high. Just imagine if Donald Trump had won every state? He would have easily secured the necessary 270 electoral college votes to become the 45th president of the United States.
- Third, you need to get more than 50% of the vote in the electoral college. This last procedure is what makes the electoral college system quite unique. It forces candidates to campaign in all the states and allows every American to have an equal say in who will become the next president. While there are still some quirks in the electoral college, it has served as a great model of democracy for more than 200 years and has prevented the American political system from becoming overly centralized.
To see how the electoral college works, let’s look at some real-life examples. First, consider the case of John Quincy Adams. In 1824, John Quincy Adams was the democratic candidate for president. However, he had little chance of winning since he was from Massachusetts and most of the states had already cast their votes for Andrew Jackson. However, John Quincy Adams did something quite extraordinary. He decided to visit all the states in order to get their votes. He started in New York, the biggest state in the nation, and then he traveled to the smallest state, Rhode Island. In one of the most famous speeches in American history, Adams said:
“The government of the United States is not a democracy, as many people seem to believe. It is a republic, founded upon principles that are Catholic and American.”
He then went on to argue that America was founded upon the values of religious freedom and equal rights, which were the polar opposite of the tyrannical government that most people believed that Jackson’s government would become. Many people still believe that this speech changed the course of American history, and it is likely that it did. It is quite remarkable that John Quincy Adams was willing to put his own life on the line in order to convince people that they were wrong. This kind of conviction is exactly what the electoral college is looking for.
The Need for Change
The 2016 election was one of the most chaotic elections in recent history, and it seems that the entire world is still struggling to make sense of it. While it’s true that there were many ups and downs, it was certainly not the easiest election to predict. The outcome was quite surprising, and, for the first time in American history, the popular vote did not result in a president being elected. A record number of people voted, yet the popular vote did not result in a clear winner. This was largely because of a problem that the electoral college was designed to prevent: the possibility of having an election where the final result is in dispute. Most likely, this will lead to America continuing down a path towards chaos and disorder, which is the last thing that we need.
Since the election, the electoral college has received a lot of criticism, and now seems like the perfect opportunity for change. There are many different ways in which the electoral college could be reformed, yet it is quite difficult to choose just one option. The electoral college needs to be reformed from the ground up in order to prevent similar situations from recurring in the future. The first step is to get rid of the electoral college entirely and to replace it with a better alternative. Many people believe that the popular vote should be the deciding factor in presidential elections, yet there are still some quirks in the electoral college that could be preserved if the entire system is revised.
The Electoral College and the American Political System
Prior to the ratification of the 16th amendment to the Constitution in 1913, states determined how presidential elections would be conducted. The amendment gave the federal government the power to conduct federal elections, yet it preserved many of the quirks and details of the political system that existed in the 1800s. As a result, the Electoral College was born, which is an archaic body that consists of representatives of each state’s electoral votes. These electors meet in their respective state capitals, where they cast their vote for president. If it’s not clear how the electoral college works, here’s a quick guide:
Each state is allotted a certain number of electors. To determine these numbers, the founders of the electoral college decided that each state would be assigned three votes for the presidency, regardless of its size. As a result, the largest states – California, New York, and Texas – have the greatest impact on the outcome of the election. This has caused a great deal of discontent among the people who live in these states, which is exactly why many are in favor of changing the electoral college. In fact, the electoral college is quite possibly the most infamous example of the unjust and unequal political system that is still commonplace in America today.
The electoral college is quite an intricate part of the American political system, and it has been a thorn in the side of many a presidential candidate. It was not until 1968 that the electoral college was abolished, and even then it took nearly a century for the voting public’s distaste for this body to result in its demise. It seems that, finally, the time is right for change, and many people are urging for the electoral college to be done away with entirely.
How the Electoral College Has Influenced American Political History
The American political system has evolved over the years, and it has impacted American history more than once. The electoral college was originally modeled on the British electoral system and was designed to prevent the possibility of one-man rule in America. Until the 18th amendment was passed in 1920, alcohol was not allowed to be sold in Washington, DC, because Thomas Jefferson thought that it contributed to the formation of drinking societies and political parties. The amendment gave the District of Columbia the right to elect a mayor, and it also allowed the states to choose their own governors. This resulted in the federal government relinquishing its power to regulate alcohol and instead allowing each state to choose whether or not they wanted to become a drinking society. The power to choose governors was not reinstated until 1944, and the power to regulate alcohol was returned to the federal government until the 21st century.
The influence of the electoral college was not limited to 19th century America. It played a vital role in the election of Grover Cleveland in 1886, as he carried only one state, Tennessee, and there was a disputed election in New York, resulting in a legal battle that was decided in favor of Cleveland. The electoral college even had a hand in the election of William McKinley in 1895, as his victory in the electoral college was extremely narrow. Many people believe that, had it not been for the disputed vote in New York, McKinley would have become the first sitting president to be assassinated.
The electoral college was also influential in the election of Lincoln in 1860. The six states that joined the Confederacy (Arkansas, Tennessee, Louisiana, Georgia, North Carolina, and Virginia) voted for Lincoln, yet he lost the electoral college. Had the election been decided by a popular vote, Lincoln would have undoubtedly still become president. Yet it was the influence of the electoral college that ultimately caused the Civil War. Lincoln’s election was indeed decided by a very narrow margin, and this eventually resulted in the Civil War and the death of more than 700,000 Americans. This, in turn, led to the end of slavery and the birth of modern America.