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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The Electoral College Over-Represents Wyoming. And That’s a Good Thing.

A recent social media video was describing how a state like New York or California is underrepresented in the electoral college, which proves that the electoral college system is not fair and should be discarded.

The video was correct in one aspect. Populated states like California are underrepresented in the electoral college, but, contrary to the wise conclusion they made in the video, it’s a good thing. A very good thing.

So what’s really going on?

The electoral college system is wrongly accused of not choosing the president by popular vote, and critics point to the 2000 election as proof that the system is flawed. However, the system is working just fine and for a good purpose. And, by the way, the results are based upon population, not nationally, but on the state level.

Here’s how it works in case you need a refresher course. Each state is allotted a certain number of electoral votes based upon their population. Those numbers can change every ten years after a census, but the total number of electoral votes always remains 538. Therefore, if a state loses a lot of people, they may lose one vote in the electoral college. The votes correspond to how many senators a state has (always 2) and how many representatives they have in the House of Representatives. Each state has one congressional district for every representative they have in the house. In the case of Wyoming, the least populous state in the union, that is exactly 1. So Wyoming, in the electoral college, has three votes – 1 for their rep, and 2 for their senator.

However, since Wyoming has so few people, they end up being over-represented. If it was truly based  on population, they would lose some of their representation in the electoral college and that vote would go to a more populous state such as California.

So yes, California should have more votes, but they don’t.

So why is that good?

Because the United States wasn’t founded as a unitary nation where all the power is concentrated in the central government. The united states was founded as a federal nation, where the thirteen original states voluntarily joined together, but in doing so, they worked hard to preserve the identity and powers which the states had to themselves. Founders such as Thomas Jefferson were adamant that the states hold onto much power, thus limiting the federal government which he viewed with suspicion. And with good reason. They had just fought a war against a government (King George) who wielded too much power and didn’t listen to the individual concerns of his colonies. The electoral  college ensured that each state would continue to have a voice, regardless of how many people lived there. The electoral college acknowledges how America was founded and designed. It hearkens to the 10th Amendment  in the Bill of Rights which says that whatever power is not delegated to the federal government is reserved for the states. The power of having a voice of who elects the president is one of those powers. It’s an important power.

In addition, the electoral college insures that more rural states still have an important and viable voice in American politics. Without the electoral college, the election would be decided by a handful of urbanized areas with little regard for the hard-working folks living in the hinterlands.

What happened in 2000 is meaningless. We are a nation of states. Therefore, the electoral college is the best system for preserving the individual states rights and giving a voice to everyone, not just the urban elites.