The Winner Cannot Take All

​We are only about four months away from a Presidential election that will be pivotal in determining the future of our nation. As we cast our vote for this important election, we will do so without the certainty that our vote will make a difference. The Electoral College is the system that the United States has used to decide the winner of its Presidential elections since our nation was founded in 1776. This Constitution only requires there to be a balance of power in elections between Congress and qualified citizens, so the winner-take-all method of distributing votes was implemented by individual states. This system assigns a set number of electoral votes to each state, one vote for each Representative the state has and two extra votes which account for the state’s Senators. The way the system is designed now, the winning candidate of the popular vote in each state wins the vote of all of the state’s available electors. This winner-take-all method is used in every state except Maine and Nebraska, who distribute one elector to each Congressional District within the state, and the winner of each district gains a vote, with the state-wide winner winning the two Senator votes. The winner-take-all system allows Presidential candidates to win only a small number of important states, and lose the popular national vote while still being elected President. This lack of necessity to win every state leads to ignorance and a lack of campaigning by Presidential candidates in the majority of the country. Last, the winner-take-all method disenfranchises millions of people who vote for the opposite party that the state tends to favor, which results in lower voter turnout. Although the winner-take-all method has ruled in the United States for most of its history, this aspect of the Electoral College needs to be replaced by the same method that Maine and Nebraska use. This is the most feasible option that follows the Constitution while still allowing the American people to decide who is elected. The reason that this method has not expanded is because Maine and Nebraska are state-wide majority democrat and republican, and Congressional District voting does not create many significant results. The more noticeable results will come from swing states and states that are reasonably democratic or republican. The Congressional District method needs to start with Pennsylvania in order to gain traction and expand throughout the whole country. There must be a slight difference in Pennsylvania that Maine and Nebraska do not have, though. The districts need to be redrawn by nonpartisan commissions before being implemented in order to prevent gerrymandering and make the votes as fair as possible. If every state resorts to Congressional District voting, it will ensure that the popular vote winner would become president, that candidates will expand their campaigning into all over the country to fight for votes, and that the voter turnout will increase drastically — all while keeping a balance between the vote by Congress and by the American people.

. ​In our brief forty-four president history, our Electoral College’s winner-take-all system has already enabled three Presidents to be elected who lost the popular vote — Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush all lost the popular vote and went on to win the Presidency anyway because of the winner-take-all system which gave candidates more electoral votes than they deserved. These elections were not particularly close either. The closest was Benjamin Harrison, who lost by 95,713 votes and the largest margin was George W. Bush who became President even after losing in the popular vote to Al Gore by over half a million votes. Had the states been distributed their electoral votes according to Congressional District, however, Samuel J. Tilden and Al Gore would have been Presidents while Grover Cleveland would have been elected in a different era. It is hard for the American people to believe that they are a part of a true democracy when the candidate that the majority of them vote for does not become President.

​This unfair method of distributing electoral votes also practically decides the winner of the majority of the states before the election due to the lopsided ratio between democrats and republicans, making the result almost impossible to change. The Presidential candidates know this, and they write that state off as a win or a loss and do not bother to even campaign there. Hillary Clinton has released her major campaign stops through mid-September and every location on her list is in a swing state — Pennsylvania, Ohio, New York, Colorado, Virginia, and Michigan. Donald Trump only announces his events a few days in advance, but those events are in Colorado and Ohio, both of which are considered to be battleground states. Why would they want to waste their time trying to persuade people when they know they won’t get any votes out of it? Their time is better spent working on flipping the majority of votes in their favor in battleground states. Every politician does this, and it creates a limited campaign trail. Past election seasons have proved that this is overwhelmingly true. Obama and Romney combined to spend 96.4% of their campaign advertising in only eleven states, and in the previous election, over 90% went to fifteen states between Obama and McCain. Although this tactic is strategic for the winner-take-all system, it creates campaigning that only represents a small portion of the whole country. They introduce ideas and policies that will be beneficial to those select few states, but that do not necessarily benefit every state that they are neglecting to campaign in, which frustrates voters and causes them to not vote. If the system were based on Congressional Districts, though, candidates would have to broaden their campaigning geography to all parts of the country because there would be “Swing districts” rather than Swing states. Many districts would become a fight for the vote, and they would be forced to interact more directly with a higher amount of their voters, causing their ideas to better represent America as a whole and motivating voters to go to the voting both on a cold Tuesday morning in November. Although this would cause a need for higher campaign funds and possibly a longer election season, the people will be more content knowing that they are being tended to in addition to just states that help them win elections, which in the long run will create a fairer society and prevent major problems from beginning.

​. When a voter votes in opposition to a candidate that has essentially won a state before the election is even held, their vote really has no meaning. A vote for a democratic candidate in Texas and a vote for a republican candidate in California are essentially meaningless. Republicans have not won California in almost three decades, and a democrat has not won Texas in four decades. To put that into perspective, there has been over 420 million Americans vote republican in California since they last got an electoral vote to show for it, and Texas even more so, with 560 million. Americans know that this is the case, and it is evident when you look at voting percentages. Let’s take New York and Ohio for instance — New York inevitably votes overwhelmingly democratic and Ohio is always a battleground state. New York only draws about 30% of republicans and 58.7% of all registered voters to the booths. In Ohio, however, which is always a toss-up, over 50% from both parties vote, and they have a voter turnout of 70.53%. When a vote actually has meaning, there is much more of an incentive to go out and vote, thus a higher voter turnout. Congressional District voting will create many districts that will be a fight to win, and the motivation to cast a vote will be higher than ever, which will raise our average national voter turnout of 53% will increase significantly.

​This is a reform that is very feasible — it does not require any changes to the Constitution like a popular vote system would. It will, however, be a lengthy process that will start with one battleground state proving that it works. Pennsylvania is a great place to start. A law must be passed in order to implement Congressional District voting, and Pennsylvania, with a republican legislature in a state that has not voted republican since 1988, should have no problem passing this law. Once this law is put into place and the results are noticed by other states, those states will soon follow with the same action — some legislatures will believe this method is the best for their state and pass this law, while others will want to resist change but be pressured to resort to this law in order to keep their job. http://www.fairvote.org/maine_nebraska, an article written by a non-partisan Electoral Reform Organization and http://law.marquette.edu/facultyblog/2010/02/28/a-different-way-to-run-the-electoral-college/, an article written by J. Gordon Hylton, a former Professor and Law School faculty member at Marquette University, offer great insight into the Congressional District voting method and will help you become knowledgeable on this effective proposal. This system will not be perfect for decades, but each state that implements this system makes the Electoral College System stronger.

​​If we continue to allow the winner-take-all system to dominate the Electoral College system, then we will continue to risk electing presidents into office that the majority of the people do not want, allow presidential candidates to ignore the majority of the American people, and diminish the value of the vote of millions of Americans. While we are facing a historical election, these detrimental effects of the winner-take-all system have potential to create larger issues than ever before. We should not wander from the Constitution and completely overthrow the Electoral College, because Congress is still necessary in this process, and it would also create huge division in our nation to change the Constitution this severely. Our founding fathers knew that we must avoid direct election of the President of the United States. We must ensure, however, that the electoral votes elect a President that the American people want it office. A country “Of, by and for the people” must at the very least give the American people a voice. The Congressional District method will be a long process that may take decades to reach every state, but if a battleground state like Pennsylvania can give this law momentum, it will eventually become the method used nationwide.

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