OPINION | This article contains political commentary which reflects the author's opinion.
According to CNN, Hillary Clinton says that she is an Electoral College elector for New York.
The Electoral College is an aspect of our election that is often misunderstood. Here’s how it works. The Electoral College gives equal representation across the entire country. It is comprised of 538 electors,
- One elector for every member of the House of Representatives (435), which represents the people based on population in each state.
- One for each member of the Senate (100), which represents the people with two Senators for each State.
- Three additional electors for the District of Columbia.
Each of the electors will cast a vote based on the votes cast by the citizens in their states.
If you look at a map of the United States, you will find that there are several very small areas that have incredibly dense populations, such as on the east and west coasts. While these specific locations contain a significant percentage of the United States population, these locations and the people who live there do not represent the interests or desires of citizens spread across the rest of the country. So, the founding fathers created the Electoral College, which would make sure that the entire country was represented and not just the extremely populated regions.
Think about this—approximately half of the population of the country lives in just 9 states:
- New York
Or how about this—there are 38 STATES that have smaller populations than New York CITY (just the city, not the entire state):
- New Mexico
- North Dakota
- South Dakota
- West Virginia
- South Carolina
- New Hampshire
- Rhode Island
This is why Hillary Clinton was able to win the popular vote while still losing the election in 2016. She overwhelmingly won New York and California and she did indeed have the popular vote. More individual voters cast their vote for Clinton. But she did not win the election because what mattered was the electoral votes in the Electoral College that represented the entire country, not the number of Californians and New Yorkers who voted for her. California and New York have a set number of electors based on their population, so she could only get the number of electoral votes that is allowed for those states. If our election system was based on popular vote, a candidate could tailor their platform to, and focus all their attention on campaigning in just New York and get as many popular votes as they would have gotten from the 38 states mentioned above. If they also campaigned in L.A., they could almost secure the popular majority for the entire country from just those two locations. But that leaves the rest of the states and their entire populations high and dry, as far as policies and presidential representation go. Would a platform tailored to be elected by New Yorkers also appeal to the people of Wyoming, Kansas, or Mississippi? For example, if a candidate pledged $1 billion to upgrade the subway system in New York, would people in Wyoming, Kansas, or Mississippi care about that? Well, it wouldn’t matter to the candidate whether they cared, because as long as the New Yorkers elected the candidate, they wouldn’t need the vote of the people form Wyoming, Kansas, or Mississippi. And that’s why we have the Electoral College. So that our presidential candidates have to represent the entire country, not just the people who live in a couple of densely populated cities.
This is also why it’s such a frightening thing that certain Democrats (including Hillary Clinton) are pushing to eliminate the Electoral College. They know that they don’t represent the best interests of huge areas of the United States. That makes it a little more difficult for them to win an election on the policies that they prefer. The Electoral College forces them to compromise and to find a way to represent more of the country. It forces them to consider all people across the country, not just those in Democrat cities. Without the Electoral College, the only votes that will matter are those in the massive cities with huge populations. That’s where the campaigns would be run. That’s who policies and plans would benefit. Because that’s who would be electing them.
It’s also frightening to consider that about 51% of voters have indicated they support the abolition of the Electoral College. And where do those 51% of voters live, do you think? Perhaps in the major cities that constituted the popular vote that supported Hillary Clinton in 2016? Of course they want to abolish it because that would mean that their votes are the only ones that matter.
So does YOUR vote matter? YES! While you are not directly casting your vote for the President, your vote clearly indicates to your representatives (the electors of the Electoral College) who you and the citizens of your state want to see elected as President. In the past, there have been a number of electors who cast their votes contrary to the voice of the people who they represent. They are called “faithless electors,” and the Supreme Court recently “rejected the idea that electors, who act on behalf of a state in the Electoral College vote that occurs weeks after voters go the polls, can exercise discretion in the candidate they back.” This means that the electors who represent you must cast their vote in the way that the people of the state dictate through their votes. But without the Electoral College, your vote will only matter if you happen to reside in one of the massive cities that would contribute to a popular majority for a candidate. For that reason, I hope we are all fighting to keep the Electoral College in place and to protect the voices of millions of Americans across the entire country and in elections for decades to come.