Photo ops?
Joshua Sanders

As a disclaimer let me start off by saying that I believe the Electoral system needs to be reformed, not necessarily scrapped, but my opinion towards the Electoral College is still forming as I learn more about it.

Ok, now that that’s out of the way, I think something that is often forgotten in this debate is the fact that New York and California are not monoliths. Treating them as such ignores the will of many individuals in any state that is deemed safely blue/red state.

I am a lifelong New Yorker-I grew up outside of New York City, and later lived in the city for four years. Life in upstate NY is vastly different than life in the city, however NYC is often used to represent the state as a whole. This can create animosity between upstate New Yorkers (who more often than not vote Republican) and downstate residents (who are more likely to vote Democrat.) There’s often a feeling that the needs of upstate New Yorkers are completely ignored. From what I’ve heard, this sentiment exists in California as well, and I wouldn’t be surprised if this is also the case in red states like Texas where the cities are becoming increasingly blue.

Now my question is this: should we “ignore” or discount a citizen’s vote in a national election due to geography and where they happen to live? In the current system, New York is considered so blue that Republicans rarely (if ever) campaign there, meaning it’s even rarer for them to visit upstate New York. From what I’ve seen most GOP candidates really don’t know/care about Upstate needs (“New York Values” statement comes to mind), unless it’s primary season, but even then they tend to focus on Orthodox Jews in Brooklyn (referring to infamous Kasich attempts), Staten Island, and Long Island (all downstate) over upstate farmers worried about the lack of government subsidies and loss of farmland, or blue collar workers who watched industries move out of state and overseas.

The concerns of many Upstate New Yorkers mirror the concerns of Americans in the Rustbelt and beyond, however their needs are rarely addressed. Mr. Trump called upstate NY a “war zone” (later a “death zone”) to smear Sec. Clinton’s record as senator (she was actually a very popular senator here) but I’ve never seen him offer any real solutions beyond “NAFTA is bad!!” And this is his home state!

This argument also goes the other way: in an increasingly urban society (where fewer people are farming, more jobs are in the city, very different country than the one the founders dealt with) should the votes of residents in NY & CA’s urban centers matter so little compared to voters in other states? Again, should a voter’s vote “value less” than another citizen’s vote due to geography/their state of residence?

Given the country’s current trajectory, I think now is a very appropriate time to ask these questions and come up with ways to reform our current election system to reflect the changing times and also respect the will of voters in less populous states. Naturally any change would result in a change in Presidential campaigning. If done right, reforms would finally bring the needs of states that are not considered “swing states” to the table. No, I don’t believe the promise of“photo ops” would be sufficient given the amount of “power”(so to speak) that smaller states would be giving up, but I do think that the current system blatantly ignores many voices, and not just the ones pundits typically point to.

Also, as an aside, I haven’t seen anything indicating Hillary Clinton “whining” about the electoral college this year. I know she made statements about it 16 years ago, but I would hardly call them whining. If you’re talking about her supporters, that is a very different story. Given the growing disparity I don’t think it’s wrong for her supporters to remind the PEOTUS that more than a million Americans did not agree with his agenda. Of course some are much more verbose than others, but Mr. Trump will have to be their POTUS as well, and dismissing them or their interests entirely will not help unify our country.