Small states unfairly benefit from use of Electoral College

Ethan Elkins

Donald Trump will be the 45th president of the United States of America. With a projected 306 electoral votes outnumbering Hillary Clinton’s 232, he has a clear path to the White House. However, Clinton leads the popular voter by a margin of over one million votes. The electoral college system is gruelingly outdated, and it needs to be updated to better reflect the outcome of the popular election. 

History continues to repeat itself. In all but one election (2004) since 1988, the Democrats have won the plurality. Clinton’s margin is even smaller than that of Al Gore in the 2000 election. In both cases, the entire state of Florida contributed to each candidate’s defeat. With a 0.2 marginal difference, it is surprising that most of the electoral map is the color red. Still, the electoral college system has always operated on the same principle, and it continuously causes unrest each election for both major parties. 

The Electoral College was first proposed at the Constitutional Convention of 1787 and was ratified with minor changes. While constituents now directly elect electors and electoral votes have been added with the addition of states to the country, the basic principle of the College remains intact. In modern elections, presidential electors are often pledged to vote for the party that nominated them, which usually leaves no room for adjustments in set states. 

Only two states of the 50 allow their electors to divide their votes: Nebraska and Maine. The votes are divided based on the outcome of the popular vote. In this election, three of Maine’s votes went to Clinton and one was delegated to Trump. Though more complicated, this method allows for a more accurate representation of the voters and better reflection of the popular vote. Trump won the crucial state of Florida by just over a one-point margin, so it is ridiculous that all 29 votes went to him. While gerrymandering could make divided votes ineffective, the votes would still be more representative. 

“As Trump says, ‘The system is rigged.’ He’s right,” government professor Bryan Jones said. 

The Electoral College favors smaller states that Republicans tend to carry and gives an advantage to the party. It generates winners who are unable to carry the will of the nation. 

“Californias are worth nothing compared to the Wyomings or South Dakotas,” Jones said. He thinks the nation should follow the example of other notable democracies and just count the votes. 

Trump may have been onto something in 2012 when he called the electoral college “a disaster for democracy.” His sentiments have perhaps changed after the events of Tuesday evening. The winner-take-all methodology of the system is ineffective because it permits a candidate with less votes to become elected. Those who are upset with the results of the election or merely discontent with the Electoral College system must push for reform so that future presidential elections can be more representative.

Elkins is a journalism sophomore from Tyler. Follow him on Twitter @ethanerikelkins.