No, The Presidential Election Process Does Not Have a Legitimacy Crisis

Ms. Katy Collin in an article in the Washington Post goes on to state how the electoral college is not fair and disenfranchises millions because it gives certain voters a disproportionate amount of say in the process of choosing a president while the voice of other voters are given much less weight.

One of the most poignant examples she cites (correctly, might I add) is Wyoming, which has less than 600,000 people but has three electoral votes as laid out in the constitution. She states that a vote cast in Wyoming is actually weighted 3.6 times heavier in the election than a voter in California because of the huge population discrepancy. A state cannot have less than three electoral votes, regardless of the size of the population.

She also goes on to state that other overseas territories of the U.S. (Puerto Rico, Guam – for example) have no say in choosing the presidency. So because of these reasons, according to Ms. Collin, the electoral college should be scraped or revamped to better represent an urbanized, modern society.

Her arguments are fine and her conclusion is solid except that the system she is describing does not describe the federal system enshrined in the constitution. She starts her argument from the standpoint that we are one nation, so therefore every vote should count the same. But we are not a nation of provinces under a unitary system. We are a federal system. We are a nation of states. These states have reserved powers granted to them in the 10th amendment to the constitution. This is the way the founding fathers wanted it. The electoral college system, while not flawless, gives a strong voice to the 50 different constituencies in the United States –  those of each state. You think the people of LA are the same as the people of Wyoming? Of course not. California still has an overwhelming say in the running of the country due to the fact of its economic power and population. But Wyoming is also a state. It has two senators. It has 1 representative. It has its own constituency, and it deserves its voice in Congress and in the presidential election.

Each vote in California counts in choosing who California wants to be the president. In that way, each vote is fair and each vote in California is the same. If a Californian wants to see that their vote has “more impact” in the election, there is an easy way for them to achieve that: move to Wyoming. And if the population of Wyoming ever gets too big, the census bureau will re-apportion those votes more evenly.

In regards to the overseas territories. Puerto Rico certainly has an opportunity to have a say in the presidential election. They could have become a state and thus qualified for being part of the electoral college, but they have chosen not to do so. Is it fair? Maybe not. Perhaps these territories could also be granted some say in the electoral college like DC was back in the 1960s.

This is the system we have. For the most part it works.  It only seems to not work when we start with the fallacy that every vote across the nation should count the same. It should count the same but only within the state.  Every vote in California should count the same as every other vote in California. Likewise in Wyoming and everywhere else.

Remember, it’s not a popularity contest. It never has been. And that’s the way the founders wanted it. Power is supposed to be distributed on a geographical basis. We should be happy that it is.

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