The Electoral College: Statistical Neanderthal
So I’m sure all of you are familiar with the Electoral College. Most of you probably have a general idea of how it works. First off I’d like to start by saying that for 232 years and through 43 presidencies, the system has successfully transferred power from administration to administration without much debate. Secondly I’d like to say What the Fuck! I mean how we can call that success. Success would mean that the majority vote rules. As we all know we have had a problem understanding that in the past 200 years. Why can’t we all just come to our senses and use the “popular” vote which would correctly represent the will of the people.
So here’s how it works; the president must win at least 270 Electoral Votes. Flaw number one: there is always the possibility of a tie. We almost witnessed this in 2000 but we can thank our friends in Florida for taking care of that. Every state has a given amount of electoral votes that is determined by the number of representatives and senators in each state. So what’s the problem right? Bigger states should have more votes thus making the system fair right? Well not exactly. The Electoral Votes aren’t exactly proportional to a state’s population. For this reason a vote in New York holds half the weight of a vote in Wyoming! But enough numbers let’s get down to business.
Statistically the system is flawed simply because population cannot adequately be represented by a two-digit number. Not to mention the fact that population and voter turnout are two different things. Not only is there a serious round-off error, there is a significant bias toward rural states. Due to the fact that every state has two senators and at least one congressman every state must warrant at least 3 Electoral Votes. So for example Wyoming gets 3 votes even with a population to only really warrant one vote. So I found this rather odd and did some calculations. I found that a vote in California equals less than one-third of a vote in Wyoming. Now this is the most radical comparison I could find; California is the most populated and Wyoming is Wyoming.
Okay so we know the system is mathematically unsound but sure it has some common sense behind it right? Well not really. Perhaps the biggest argument against the system is that the winner of a state claims all the spoils. Sure this works in the animal Kingdom but not so much in Politics. Why should a candidate that wins a state by one percent claim all of its electoral votes? That means that if you happen to like a Republican in a blue state or vice versa you might as well stay home. Your vote is as good as the Seattle Mariners. Or maybe you can take a road trip to a swing state where you’re vote will actually decide something.
So why has this system stood the test of time for so long? Is it because it has been successful? Most likely it survives because it heavily favors a two party political frontier. Well in reality it has failed on previous occasions including the 2000 presidential election when Gore won the popular vote and lost. The objective of any election is to have the majority decide upon a leader. Ultimately this is the most disappointing flaw in the whole system. The notion that a candidate can have the most total votes and still lose undermines the very principle of democracy. I’m sure the founding fathers implemented this system for good reason. Maybe it was necessary to keep the system of checks and balances of a young nation working smoothly. Yet we are a nation of so much progress, why are we still blinded by a corrupt voting system. So I ask you today, What’s more important, protecting the integrity of our state borders or upholding a truly representational democracy?
If you enjoyed this essay, please consider making a tax-deductible contribution to This I Believe, Inc.