The Electoral College isn’t an institution of higher learning, but rather the method by which we Americans elect our president and vice president. Yet is is so often misunderstood that you’d think you needed four years of college to comprehend how it works and why it is necessary.
Currently, the United States vote for president (and vice president) in two ways- by the winner-take-all method or through congressional districting. (Only Maine and Nebraska utilize the congressional districting method). Neither method comes close to accurately representing the “will of all the people.” For California (currently winer-take-all) we advocate a new, more fair and democratic method- proportional allocation.
When we go to the polls on election day to cast our vote for president, we’re not actually voting directly for the candidate of our choice. Instead, we are voting for electors to make our selection for us. Electors (at least in California) are chosen by the leadership of the Democrat and Republican parties. So in essence, we are actually voting for party loyalists to represent their vote at a meeting of electors held the December after the November presidential election.
The number of electors in a given state is exactly equal to the number of congressional districts in that state, plus the number of U.S. senators from that state (like all states, CA has 2 U.S. senators). So in California, there are 53 congressional districts plus our two senators- for a total of 55 Electoral College votes.
Each political party (Democrat and Republican) chooses their own 55 electors. According to the federal archives, “Electors generally hold a leadership position in their party or were chosen to recognize years of loyal service to the party. Throughout our history as a nation, more than 99 percent of Electors have voted as pledged.” Third parties may select electors, but under our existing winner-take-all system, third party candidates have no shot at gaining any Electoral College votes in California. Therefore, the “system” deems them, and their voters, irrelevant.
After the election, the state’s governor prepares a “Certificate of Ascertainment” declaring the winner of that state’s popular vote; thus ALL of the winning party’s electors will cast their electoral vote for that candidate. So in California, even if a candidate only wins 50.1% of the state popular vote, 100% of our 55 Electoral College votes will be awarded to that candidate. Our winner-take-all method means that millions of Californian’s do not have their vote represented by electors since the electors vote only along their party line.
That means electors are purely partisan, and are usually chosen from their “good ‘ol boy (or gal) party network- cronyism for sure. They don’t represent all Californians- they represent their PARTY. Consequently, NOT EVEN ONE elector will cast a vote for the other candidate, even though the other candidate earned millions of California votes.
With such inequity, why is the Electoral College necessary, or even fair?
Our Founding Fathers established this electoral system to strike a compromise between the election of a president by the U.S. Congress and the election of a president by popular vote of the “qualified citizens” of the United States. The goal was to also balance the interests of smaller states with larger states, less populous rural areas with densely populated urban areas- the Electoral College system intends voting equity for all citizens, regardless of where they live in our country.
This is fundamentally different than the national popular vote- a method many people think would be the most equitable way to elect a president. However, the biggest flaw with the popular vote is that it is erases the votes of millions of voters, just like our winner-take-all system. If the popular vote were used nationwide to determine our next president, the outcome of the election would be decided by the most highly populated areas in our country- in the largest cities like New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, etc…
The most populated urban areas also account for the greatest concentration of wealth- money that is often funneled to political campaigns. So instead of our existing, imperfect “battleground” states deciding an election, the election for president would be whittled down to “battleground” cities- cities that could buy the presidency. This is surely not equitable; it is decidedly unfair and undemocratic.
The popular vote would discriminate against the less populated (by square mile) rural areas, even though the vast majority of our overall population lives far and wide across our country, not huddled together in urban metropolises. The needs of city dwellers are often vastly different than those in rural areas. Thus, the popular vote would not strike the necessary balance to address those needs pragmatically.
This brings us to proportional allocation. Proportional allocation is the best combination of the Electoral College and the popular vote. It protects the integrity of the Electoral College while honoring the popular vote and will of the people. Whereas the popular vote by itself can exclude or negate the votes of nearly half of the entire voting population, proportional allocation allows for all votes to be counted equally, and thus awards our Electoral College votes proportionally based on the percentage of the popular vote earned by the candidates. It is so simple and nearly perfect that it’s hard to imagine we haven’t made this change to our electoral system already.
Now is the time. Vote to make your vote count! Turn California into a battleground state. Vote for the Make Our Vote Count initiative!