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By Claire Hoffman

Junior, GW

On November 4, 2020, Former Vice President Joe Biden surpassed the popular vote record of 69,498,516 set in 2008 by President Barack Obama. Despite this monumental feat, it took until November 7 for Joe Biden to be declared president-elect. Although President Donald Trump currently trails Joe Biden by over six million votes, the election was ultimately decided by Biden’s 73,300 vote lead in Georgia, Arizona, and Pennsylvania. Had those states voted red by that margin, Donald Trump would be preparing for his second term and Joe Biden would have still won the popular vote. The United States is at a crossroads. Maintaining the Electoral College would not only be undemocratic, doing so would prolong a racist, classist system.

As the Framers drafted the Constitution, they argued over how to allocate the power of elected officials in addition to the power of the voter. The delegates present at the Constitutional Convention represented the ruling class at the time. These wealthy, educated, white men scrambled to implement a quasi-democratic, anti-majoritarian electoral method that would ultimately put power in the hands of the most privileged. Having electors cast the final ballots eliminated the voting power of average Americans. These electors are chosen by the state, and the appointment method lacks uniformity. In most states, electors are not required to vote for the candidate who won the state’s popular vote. 157 electors have voted against their state’s winner throughout American history. These “faithless electors” highlight the truly undemocratic nature of the Electoral College.

The early Electoral College was established as a compromise to appease delegates from smaller states who feared that the larger, northern states would dominate the early American political landscape. The number of electors per state is determined by the number of representatives assigned to each state in the House of Representatives plus the two Senators allocated to each state. At the Constitutional Convention, rural southern states feared that their free population would be eclipsed by that of their industrial, northern counterparts. Thus, the Three-fifths Compromise counted each enslaved person as three-fifths of a free person. The Electoral College made this rule possible, and it ultimately allowed southern states to prolong the institution of slavery. 

Today, the Electoral College remains divisive and antiquated. This system shifts the focus of the election to a handful of “swing states” rather than the population at large. The purpose of a democracy is to grant every eligible voter an equal amount of influence in how we elect our leaders. The Electoral College stands in direct opposition to that. Throughout American history, the Electoral College has caused contested elections, electoral ties, and has contradicted the popular vote. The failures of the Electoral College to accurately represent the will of the American people during presidential elections proves that the United States is more democratic without the Electoral College.

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