Electoral College and popular vote both have issues

Editorials featured in the Forum section are solely the opinions of their individual authors.

This Election Day, millions of people across the nation will go to the polls and cast their ballots for the President of the U.S. Unfortunately for many of these voters, their votes will not actually have an impact on the election. Due to our current Electoral College system, the political fate of the country rests in the hands of the voters in a few undecided states. This massive disconnect between the popular vote and the election of our nation’s leader needs to be corrected if we are to continue to claim that each vote matters.

The Electoral College was initially established in the Constitution as a compromise between the populace directly electing the president and Congress independently voting for the President and Vice President. Today, each state selects electors equal to its representation in Congress (one for each Representative and Senator). Those electors vote for the President and Vice President based on a winner-take-all vote by the state’s population.

The solution that immediately comes to mind is to abolish the electorate system, similar to what the 17th Amendment did for electing Senators. However, this fundamentally redefines our governmental system and poses many problems. The first issue of this proposal would be recounts. When the popular vote is won by 0.5 percent or less, each state recounts ballots by hand. While this is already time consuming in large states — like Florida during the 2000 election — the possibility of hand-recounting the over 120 million votes cast for a presidential election is an unfathomable task that would require much time and manpower.

Having only a popular vote would also mean a candidate could receive significantly less than a majority of the vote due to third parties drawing away votes. A two-round system — where a second round of voting would occur for the two most popular candidates of a larger pool of initial candidates — would partially prevent this issue. However, it would still allow a candidate whom less than 50 percent of America initially wanted as their top choice to win.

A more reasonable solution would be to change the current format of the Electoral College to a representative sample of the states’ political preferences. Maine and Nebraska both currently split their electors on a proportional basis and serve as implementation examples. They both treat each Congressional Representative district as having one elector, with that elector voting for whoever gains a majority in that district. Their two remaining senator-based electors are then given to whoever wins the full state popular vote.

This proposal would dramatically change the way campaigns are currently run. For example, voters in more Democratic-leaning districts in highly Republican states would not have their votes drowned out by the rest of the state. This change would move the focus of campaigns from toss-up states to toss-up districts, and would prevent candidates from completely ignoring the vast majority of states in the run up to the election. This setup would also open the door for third parties to begin gaining footholds by earning one or two electors in districts across the country.

The current election system disenfranchises many voters in solid left-leaning or right-swaying states. The move to a proportional Electoral College would bring us one step closer to the ultimate ideal of “one citizen, one vote” without many of the logistical nightmares that would accompany it.