America’s Founding Fathers have proven to be among the most influential people to have ever walked Earth. Several of the ideas and philosophical concepts that helped build this country more than 200 years ago remain applicable today. However, as visionary as they might have been, not all parts of their original design stand the test of time. Like the Founding Fathers, the Electoral College needs to become a part of America’s history, not its reality.
The phrase goes, “If ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” But the Electoral College is broken. In today’s times, the Electoral College simply doesn’t fit. The problems with the Electoral College are readily apparent, and a majority of Americans believe it needs to be eradicated. The problem is Americans only show their spirits for change toward the Electoral College when elections roll around.
Some political “experts” may argue that many Americans aren’t in favor of the Electoral College because they don’t understand it. This is an example of having two true statements with the wrong conclusion. It’s not that Americans disfavor the Electoral College because it’s confusing: Americans disfavor the Electoral College, AND it’s confusing. The average American should not have to possess a nuanced understanding of delegates, superdelegates, primaries, caucuses and how they all tie together. There’s an easier way. The winner of an election should be the winner of the popular vote.
To understand why the Electoral College is esoteric, the origins of the system must be understood. The leaders of the U.S. government in the early 1800s did not have the resources to feasibly collect votes from every American.
There were no computers, telephones or other mediums of communication that make modern elections possible. Because a large part of the population lived in rural areas, not all Americans even knew there was an election taking place. The same cannot be said about today. Whether people like it or not, elections can no longer go unnoticed.
A recent problem originating from the Electoral College was the close race between Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in Iowa last week. In fact, the race was so close that six coin-toss tiebreakers were used to distribute delegates. Yes, flipping a coin. As NPR puts it: “Let’s say five delegates are set to be awarded in Precinct 1. There are 30 people for Clinton and 30 people for Sanders — and no one on either side can be swayed. The result: Clinton and Sanders get two delegates apiece. What happens to the final delegate? The caucuses revert to, you guessed it, a coin toss.” Although there is controversy over whether Hillary Clinton actually won all six coin tosses, the bottom line is there wouldn’t be a need for a quarter to decide election results if the U.S. decided elections by the popular vote.
The majority sees the Electoral College as a political process that needs to change. According to a Gallup Poll in January 2013, more than 60 percent of Americans support abolishing the Electoral College. This data may seem outdated, but it is the last time a legitimate poll was taken on the Electoral College, as it was the last time the U.S. was in election season. There will probably be another poll taken within the next 12 months that will also be forgotten about once this election race is over.
The idea of “one person, one vote” is a fundamental democratic principle that ought to hold true through the passage of time. The Electoral College tarnishes this principle when candidates are enticed to win states, not votes, and the choice of Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders becomes a choice of heads or tails.
Americans should hold a strong and consistent debate about abolishing the Electoral College. Unlike other election issues such as campaign financing, the Electoral College doesn’t draw party lines. The current process harms and benefits both sides of the aisle. Therefore, members of Congress will only forget about the idea of amending the Constitution to reform the Electoral College if constituents do.
As Americans wait for the blessed day when Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, and Donald Trump are no longer part of their lives, they cannot forget the idea of reforming the election process.
While having to listen to candidates like Trump may be a burden, having an equal vote and say regarding this country’s leaders is a foundational right.
Joshua Udvardy is a UF chemical engineering freshman. His column usually appears on Wednesdays.