The Electoral College Needs Reform

In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote, but George W. Bush took office. Republicans won in 2004 and Bush was sworn back in. Then Barack Obama won twice. Now, Hillary Clinton has won the popular vote, but Donald Trump is taking office. And so, for the second time since 2000, the winner of the popular vote is not the winner of the election due to the electoral college.

Naturally, my Republican friends are rising up to the defense of the electoral college almost as quickly as my Democratic friends are calling for its repeal.

Those on the right see the electoral college as a protection against mob rule. It compensates for the population density of urban areas to give voice to lower and middle class people. It makes sure that cities don’t overwhelm and silence the rural areas. This deserves consideration.

A republican system of governance, through representative rather than a direct democracy, has its merits. But because a system is republican doesn’t mean the electoral college is invulnerable to corruption. The winner of the popular vote has lost due to the electoral college only four times in our nation’s history. Two of those times were since 2000 (tellingly, the other two were during the Gilded Age).

Imagine that Republicans had won four out of the last five elections, but held office only twice. Republicans would be rightly outraged. That is the reality Democrats are facing.

Democrats have won four out of the last five elections, but held office only twice.

Republicans have won only one election, but taken office three times.

This doesn’t look like a Democracy, but it isn’t a Republic either. This is a dysfunctional government.

State legislatures by and large get to draw the districts. This has to change. The electoral college can be reformed without resulting in mob rule. An independent organization can redraw electoral districts without bias. Congress will tell us that it’s not necessary, that no organization can ever be unbiased.

But what does Congress’s current system get us?

46% of Americans have so little confidence in the election process that they didn’t even bother to vote.

Congress can no longer be trusted to draw its own districts.

As it works now, the electoral college helps you, but will you sell your soul for a political win? What do you lose if you’re complicit in a lie because you benefit from it?

Now consider the other side, who have had two of the past five elections stolen from them. How long will they keep playing this game?

Two of our last five elections do not reflect the will of the people. As a result, repeal of the electoral college is gaining momentum on the left. The only real longterm option other than repeal is reform.

It would take moral courage to demand reform for a defect that has fallen in your favor, but also shows confidence in the merits of your ideas. The fact that this broken system has benefitted you should not overwhelm your sense of justice.

You have an opportunity to clean up our government. For the sake of our ability to self-govern, the electoral college needs to be reformed.