By Vincent M Santore, Opinion Writer
With Secretary of State Hilary Clinton earning over one million more votes (at the time of writing) than her opponent, many think she should be preparing her transition team to start leading the country. After all, she did win the majority right? Instead, we have President-Elect Donald J. Trump announcing the first of his cabinet positions, preparing to take the oath of office on January 20th. This makes perfect sense, under the Electoral College system.
Forged by the founding fathers themselves, it is an extension of the system we use for the two divisions of the legislative branch: The House of Representatives and the Senate. Under the Electoral College, each state gets electoral votes equal to the total number of representatives they have in Washington, with the minimum being three. Candidates take all of the electoral votes of their state (with the notable exceptions of Maine and Nebraska), and once they hit the magic number of 270, they become the President-Elect of the United States.
This system has come under scrutiny in recent days, especially by Democrats, who for the second time in the past five elections, have won the popular vote, but will ultimately lose the White House. In fact, outgoing Senator Barbara Boxer (D-CA), even announced legislation via her website shortly after the election to eliminate the Electoral College system entirely, replacing it with a purely popular vote system. But despite all this backlash, the Electoral College is here to stay, and for good reason.
I have been to New Hampshire, seeing the impact that their signature town hall meetings have on the votes when I worked on Governor Chris Christie’s presidential campaign. I’ve stood outside a polling place in Virginia, with people asking me about the policy positions of particular candidates. These are people who care deeply are about their role in the political process, and their influence would be diminished greatly if the system was switched to popular vote. These states wouldn’t get their chance in the limelight like they do now.
Under the current system, rural Ohio is a prime destination for potential presidents. Tiny New Hampshire and its four votes become a strategist’s biggest goals. In the 2000 election between, then Governor George W. Bush and Vice President Al Gore, Florida’s 27 electoral votes stand out in many people’s minds for handing the keys over to “Dubya”, but it would have been meaningless if not for turning West Virginia, a traditionally blue state, red. Its four electoral votes had just as much of an impact as Florida’s 27 in deciding the next president. The mountaineers’ voice was loudly heard around the nation.
Under a popular vote system, the biggest metropolitan areas would suddenly become the end all and be all of political campaigning. Gone would be the traditional trips to the Iowa State Fair, replaced by sellout crowds at Madison Square Garden and the Staples Center in Los Angeles. The Electoral College system forces candidates to try and be a president for all, spread out across the country. Under a popular vote system, future presidents would divert all of their focus to citzens living in metropolitan areas.
There is no doubt that the Electoral College system gives more power to those outside of the larger metros in the country. Since the population of states like Vermont and Rhode Island are so small, and have the bare minimum of 3 electoral votes, a single vote in those states counts proportionally for more than a vote in a larger state like New York. The founding fathers wanted to maintain a balance of power, and this is the ingenious solution that they came up with.
During the last days of the campaign, Trump focused on states such as Minnesota, West Virginia and Ohio, going as far to cancel events in the largest swing state of all, Florida, because of the Electoral College system. Ultimately, he used it to his advantage to win the presidency. The system was designed to give everyone a say, and make sure that none of the smaller states were forgotten. For over 200 years, it has done its job admirably, and it doesn’t seem to be going anywhere any time soon.
A version of this article appeared in the Tuesday, November 22nd print edition.
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