We’ve been hearing a lot of allegations this election season about “rigged systems.” The accusations are being made both by victors and by runners-up, as well as by the most ardent supporters of both.
The gist of their righteous outrage is that how someone votes in a particular contest can be rendered meaningless by convoluted rules and regulations. Put even more bluntly, they believe that one of America’s most inviolable freedoms—the right to vote—is being hijacked by power brokers who do their level best to pre-select the winner that best suits their interests.
In his book “American Moment,” which I first wrote about in this same space in November 2015, author Michael J. Busman, a resident of Putnam Valley in Putnam County, proposes the United States should hold presidential elections by direct vote and eliminate the Electoral College.
Mr. Busman argues that the Electoral College has outlived its original function: It was created in 1787 to create proportional representation for the original southern states, whose population was sparser than northern states. If the rule of “one man, one vote” literally was followed in that era, it would have been nigh impossible for a southerner to be elected president. Hence, a weighting system was introduced (the Electoral College) to create a more level playing field across all states.
Author Busman argues that the tipping point in the Electoral College’s betrayal of “one man, one vote” was reached when Al Gore lost the presidency in the 2000 election by a decision of the Supreme Court. The high court’s decision ignored the stark fact that Mr. Gore won the popular vote by amassing one-half million ballots more than the court-appointed Commander-in-Chief, George W. Bush.
Whichever side of the argument someone favors, it is a compelling consideration in terms of both history and current affairs. That’s why our not-for-profit local charity, the Harrison Apar Field of Dreams Foundation, chose this topic as the subject for an essay we ask scholarship candidates to write when applying for our annual academic award.
The essay assignment read as follows: “Under America’s Electoral College system, a presidential candidate who receives more popular votes than his opponent still can lose the general election if the other candidate wins more electoral votes. Please explain your view on whether the United States should continue to elect presidents under this system or should it get rid of the Electoral College and only count popular votes?”
The recipient of the scholarship is Emma Mangione of Yorktown High School, who will study journalism at the University of Rhode Island. Here is her response to the essay question:
Overhauling the Electoral College
By Emma Mangione
The United States is a country built on the idea that people should be free to voice their opinions and have them count for something. The popular vote in our presidential elections is the perfect example of these ideals. American citizens are extremely proud of their right to choose their president, but they don’t really have the final say. There is another deciding factor in the election process and it is called the Electoral College.
The Electoral College is an elite group of representatives chosen by the people in each district of the states to represent and vote for them in the electoral vote. In today’s Electoral College, there is a system in place that is referred to as the winner-take-all system. This system works just as it sounds: After the popular vote is taken and counted, the candidate who received the most amount of popular votes in the state, even if a margin of a few hundred, will receive all of that state’s electoral votes. A candidate may win in one district but not receive a single vote from that state.
Some people may wonder how this could be. If the majority of people in a district voted for one candidate, why did that candidate not receive their votes? Also, isn’t it the sad truth that there is corruption within any type of government? Isn’t it true that the vote of a delegate in the Electoral College could theoretically be bought? That we do not actually have full control over who is elected within our own government is a scary thought to have, a government that is supposed to be the model form of democracy.
Still, the Electoral College is an important part of our country’s election process. It was originally put into place to protect the people of this country. The founders of this nation did not fully trust American citizens to make such an important decision on their own. Many people did not have a lot of information about politics and did not care to learn for only Election Day. While it is easier today for people to learn about the election and the candidates, I feel as though this still somewhat applies.
Some people know nothing about the candidates and still go out and vote, maybe even for just the first person they see on the ballot! While it’s good that these people are exercising their right to vote, they are possibly choosing an ill-equipped candidate. This is why the Electoral College is still an essential part of our election process, but one that certainly needs an update.
There are certain states, Maine and Nebraska, that use a different method of distribution. In these two states, the presidential candidate who wins the popular vote in a district will receive that district’s electoral vote. This happens in every district and the electoral votes for that state are distributed accordingly.
This system is much more effective when it comes to representation of how the people in each state are truly voting. It keeps the Electoral College in place, as it should be, but in a much more sensible way.
Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known as Bruce the Blog, is co-founding president of volunteer group Yorktown Organizations United. He is chief content officer of Pinpoint Marketing & Design, a certified Google Partner agency. Follow Bruce the Blog or Hudson Valley WXYZ on social media. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org or 914-275-6887.