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The necessity of the Electoral College

The necessity of the Electoral College

Bradley Stewart

Bradley Stewart

The necessity of the Electoral College

Bradley Stewart, Staff Writer

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Every four years in the United States, a President is either elected or re-elected.  The process, called the Electoral College, is unique to America and is widely debated.  According to Amendment XII of the United States Constitution, state electors, who combine to make up the Electoral College, vote on who should be the next president and vice president.  If a candidate receives a majority of the vote, they will hold that office.  The number of electors a specific state receives is the sum of the number of senators and the number of representatives a state is given.  Typically, electors of a state will vote for whoever won the popular vote in their state.  Despite the typical winner-take-all format for state electors, there is an effort to have state electors vote based on the national popular vote.  This endeavor, officially called the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, would go into effect when enough states have joined that would make their total sum of electors greater than the required majority.  Because the Electoral College provides a clear winner and ensures that the president is elected by the whole country, it should remain the way that the president of the United States is elected.  


A popular vote system would make it incredibly difficult to get a clear and definite winner of the election, a problem that the Electoral College does not have.  It is much easier for candidates to earn a majority of electoral votes as opposed to popular votes.  For example, in 1992, President Bill Clinton received approximately 43% of the popular vote, but handily won the Electoral College by 202 votes, 370-168.  As a result, it is more difficult to challenge the results of the Electoral College than it would be to challenge the results of the popular vote, creating certainty in the elected candidate.  The increasing presence of third-party candidates means that it is even harder to gain a majority of the national vote. However they very rarely make a difference in the voting of Electoral College, making those votes easier to attain and the election more certain.  The 2000 recount controversy in Florida between President George W. Bush and Al Gore lasted several weeks and the next four years in American history were unknown. This dispute occurred in only one state thanks to the Electoral College, but should an election by popular vote be close enough to warrant any sort of recount, a highly disputed one could take place in any number states where a candidate thinks it could be beneficial.  A nationwide recount would undoubtedly be cause for a high level of uncertainty and controversy, and ultimately make Bush v. Gore look like a walk in the park.  The United States prides itself on the smooth transition of power and in order for that to happen, the election results need to be certain, something the Electoral College ensures.


The Electoral College also assures that the president will be elected by states all over America, not individual cities.  It is undeniable that candidates will campaign in locations that will yield a larger turnout and more voters, and this past election was no different. Campaign statistics from the 2016 Presidential Election showed that 72% of President Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton’s visits to Pennsylvania were to either Pittsburgh or Philadelphia, the two largest urban areas in the state.  The Founding Fathers implemented the Electoral College to make sure that smaller states and rural areas would not be overlooked in the election process.  Despite the initial premise, it is obvious from the statistic above that rural areas are largely ignored in current presidential campaigns, but these areas would be totally forgotten if there was a popular vote as the votes they yield would be insignificant to the outcome of the election.  The Electoral College also ensures that candidates must receive a significant amount of votes from more than just a single state to win the presidency.  For example, if the entire state of California, Texas, and Florida were to vote for one candidate, they would not win the election via the Electoral College, but most likely would win the popular vote.  The Electoral College, unlike a national popular vote, does not give a single state the power to single-handedly elect the president.  An interesting and important characteristic of the Electoral College is that it does not give a specific region enough votes to elect the president.  In order to win the presidency, a candidate must campaign in and win states all over the country, preventing a region, such as the Southeast, from deciding who the leader of the country will be.  Without the Electoral College, individual states and cities would dominate elections leading to candidates ignoring the ‘unimportant’ ones.  


Opposition to the Electoral College stems from the belief that, with the system, a large percentage of  American voters are ignored.  It might seem that smaller states are benefiting more in the Electoral College system than larger states, as a vote in Wyoming is worth 3.6 times more than a vote in California, and thus are more important.  History, on the other hand, seems to point in the exact opposite direction.  It is typically the mid-to-large sized states that are where elections are won, despite the individual votes being “worth” less in those states.  George W. Bush was elected president in 2000 and 2004 because he won Florida’s 25 electoral votes by the slimmest of margins.  In the 2016 election, Trump won because he flourished in the Rust Belt, winning Wisconsin, Michigan, Ohio, and Pennsylvania, and their 10, 16, 18, and 20 respective electoral votes.  Individual voters in these states may not have a greater chance at being the deciding vote for that state, but that state has a much greater chance at being the deciding vote for the election.  Candidates in the past election campaigned in only twenty-three of the fifty states, perpetuating the belief that campaigns will only travel to the swing states.  While it is true that most of a candidate’s time is consumed by the swing states, it is solely because those states have a greater chance at being the deciding force in the election.  If there was a national popular vote, the same candidates would ignore the rural and smaller states completely, due to the lack of voters in those areas.  Instead, candidates would travel primarily to a few urban cities.  The Founding Fathers knew that cities like New York City and Boston had the potential to single-handedly decide elections, so they implemented a system to discourage that from happening, the Electoral College.  Candidates may campaign in a limited number of states, but that is a lot better than campaigning in an even more limited number of cities.

Students at Green Hope have differing views on the Electoral College. Senior Kennedy Ubinger sees the Electoral College as imperfect, but necessary, saying, “It does not necessarily portray what the American people want, but there is no other way to do it.”  Senior Isabel Impink sees the election process as outdated saying, “It was justified at first, but not in today’s politics.”  


The Electoral College is necessary for the continuation of competitive, fair, and certain elections in the United States.  Without the Electoral College, a clear and definite winner would be extremely hard to determine, as it is significantly easier to win more than half of the electoral votes than it is to win half of the popular votes, primarily due to the increasing competitiveness of third-party candidates.  In order for a candidate to win the Electoral College, he or she has to win states from all over the country, on account of the impossibility to achieve a majority of electoral votes from a particular region of the country.  This does not allow a certain region to dictate the result of an election for the entire country.  To demonstrate your support for the continuation of the use of the Electoral College, write a letter to your state legislatures expressing your approval of the system.  

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The Electoral College is Essential