Whatever the outcome of this riveting, and perhaps dismal Unites States Presidential Election, one thing (perhaps the only thing) can be said with certainty: America desperately needs major electoral reform, and fast.
I’m talking specifically about the electoral college system. The system of electing a President via this process is outdated, a serious hindrance on democracy, and frankly, laughable in this day in age.
After all, isn’t America supposed to be a glowing paragon of freedom and democracy? The very origins of the system are rooted in antipathy towards the idea of popular rule. The process of the electorate voting not directly for their preferred president candidate, but for state representatives to ballot on their behalf, was in itself a compromise based on hostility to the idea of full democracy.
What this has evolved into has become a direct, irrefutable hindrance on full democratic practice. Need we even bring up the shambolic affair surrounding the 2000 Presidential election, which transpired because of an outdated system of voting which allowed a popular majority of half a million votes to be dismissed in favour of a method of selection born in the 18th Century?
How can a supposedly democratic constitutional society, in the 21st century, allow an old, convoluted system of voting to outlaw the will of the people? Of course, as in 2000, it is the role of the Supreme Court to uphold constitutional ruling without being motivated by any political agenda. Therefore, whilst the constitution includes the electoral college system, there is always the serious threat of the will of the people being overridden by a higher power. In a modern democracy, this is totally and perniciously counterproductive.
Indeed, it was Abraham Lincoln himself who propagated the renowned phrase setting out the virtues of representative democracy: “of the people, by the people, for the people.” The US Declaration of Independence asserted in an ‘immortal declaration’ that ‘All men are created equal.’, and that all men have irrevocable rights of Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. These are flawless, fundamental principles of freedom; of democracy; of civil society.
However, there are serious incompatibilities with the upholding of these cardinal principles and the continuing system of the electoral college. Within the electoral process, in order for the principle of equality between men to be properly implemented, it is imperative that this is accommodated by a system in which each vote is of equal value. This is simply not achievable with the electoral college.
A prime example of this is the lack of consistency with electoral college vote allocation being in accordance with population of a given state, spectacularly demonstrated when contrasting the number of people each electoral college vote constitutes in California, compared to the same process in Wyoming. California, with 55 electoral college votes – an allocation reached by combining the number of Senators with that state’s number of Members of the House of Representatives – has a population of around 39 million.
This means, proportionally, the number of people each electoral college vote speaks on behalf of is over 700,000. Compare this with the mid-west state of Wyoming, which has a population of 584,000. Their electoral college votes number at three, meaning each vote represents approximately 195,000. A country whose fundamental founding principles are that of liberty and equality, can this really be legitimately sustained?
America needs electoral reform, and it needs it post-haste. With Clinton vs Trump being a tantalisingly close election to call, the risk of a situation whereby the popular vote may well be overridden by the rules of the voting system, the survival of democracy in America becomes a far more realistic prospect with the abolition of the electoral college.
Maria is Conservatives for Liberty’s events co-ordinator. Follow her on Twitter: @avemariarebecca