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Fecteau: Abolish the Electoral College

Thursday, December 01, 2016


Isn’t it about time we abolish the electoral college? This last election is more proof than ever that it serves no purpose, but to create an unnecessary, convoluted layer to an already hard to understand voting system, and disenfranchises voters. 

The electoral college is indeed complicated. There are approximately 538 electors; the number of electors in each state is the same as the number of federal delegates of each respective state in Congress. This past November’s presidential election was a vote for whom the electorate will vote, not a direct vote for president. Confused yet? To win the presidency, a candidate must reach 270 electoral votes. If the threshold is not met, the decision goes to the House of Representatives. 

Coming this December 19th 2016, the electors will record their votes in each state. A majority will decide to elect Mr. Donald Trump the next president. If this sounds odd to you, it is. There is a small group of people that decide for millions of voters who will be the next commander-in-chief. According to some state laws and historical norms, the electors vote for whomever won their respective state. So technically speaking, the election isn’t over just yet for the electors have not yet voted, and are forced to vote for the winners of their individual state. 

Originally, it was designed this way for a reason. The college was meant to be a buffer to ensure that an educated class of people would be able to prevent a manipulative haranguer from taking power. This is no longer the case. Because of the aforementioned state laws and historical norms introduced gradually overtime, electors vote for the candidate that won in each state with few exceptions. 

Some have argued against abolishing the electoral college because some states would have their influence diluted. Since its inception, the electoral college was always a compromise ensuring smaller states had more influence on the national stage. A direct vote would give disproportionate influence to the states that have the highest concentration of people, so the critics contend. However, does it matter? If a candidate receives the highest number of votes regardless of the state, who cares? It is the people will; geographically irrelevant. 

While Mr. Donald Trump won the electoral college vote, Mrs. Hillary Clinton has a significant lead among the popular vote. At the time of this writing, Clinton is approximately just over two million votes leading Trump, and the count continues to rise. If the election were determined by popular vote, Clinton would be our next president. 

Some electors are causing trouble. Thus far, a number of electors are abandoning Trump. They are attempting to persuade other electors to do the same, and in some cases, disobey the state law. This seems like a futile move. If Trump’s electoral vote count drops below 270, the GOP-controlled House of Representatives will pick the next president, expectedly Trump. 

This time, the electoral college failed on a grand scale. Trump is categorically the most unfit, and unqualified individual to win the presidency. He is simply a reality television star with a sketchy business backroom and a couple of catchy phrases. The electors were meant to prevent individuals like Trump from gaining power. 

This is the second time in contemporary history the electoral college failed to represent the will of the people. In 2000, then United States Vice President Al Gore won the popular vote for president, but then Governor George W. Bush won the electoral college vote. With such a hideous track record, perhaps it is time to consider other options. 

The electoral college is enshrined in our Constitution so it will likely require an amendment to repeal, but we should at least entertain the notion. The college seems to be an antiquated system that fails to represent the people. Many believe their vote merely doesn’t count because they are voting for electors. If we had a direct election system, this could inspire more people to vote because their vote would sincerely be counted. 

We should abolish the electoral college. We do not live in the 18th century anymore, and the president should be elected by the people, not a small group of elitists. This is an insult to democracy, and an affront to a much more sophisticated society than that of yesteryear.   


Matt Fecteau ([email protected]) of Pawtucket, Rhode Island was a Democratic candidate for office in 2014 and 2016. He is a former White House national security intern and Iraq war veteran.


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