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Redesigning Presidential Elections

Big Picture


In U.S. presidential elections, winners are not decided by a majority vote from citizens, but rather by an Electoral College, which has repeatedly been shown to be outdated and convoluted. For two of the past six elections, presidential candidates have won the Electoral College, despite losing the national popular vote. There has since been some debate about the democratic legitimacy of the system and uproar over the racist origins of the Electoral College, which continue to minimize the political power of voters of color. Additionally, the complications the Electoral College poses in our political system expand beyond the issue of the popular vote, with problems such as unequal voting power, unequal distributions of campaign powers, unbound electors and the enforcement of a two-party system


Gerrymandering exacerbates many of these effects. It heavily influences Congressional seat holders, but can also play a role in Presidential elections. To be clear, this issue exists across parties, with both Democrats and Republicans being litigated against for gerrymandering practices. In 2016, only 24 of 435 congressional districts were considered competitive, and if you voted in any non-competitive district, your vote was as good as void. The Electoral College is just one part of the problem—voting inconsistencies exist across all aspects of government and need reform.


Abolishing the Electoral College would require a constitutional amendment, which doesn’t seem feasible currently. We need a more attainable solution. We should reform the Electoral College, rather than vainly attempting to abandon it. 


Operative Definitions


  1. Electoral College: In the United States, the Electoral College is the group of presidential electors required by the Constitution to form every four years for the sole purpose of appointing the president and vice president. Each of the 50 states is allocated presidential electors equal to the number of its representatives and senators.

  2. Popular Vote: A democratic vote that has been put to an entire electorate; a decision made by voters reflected in the share of votes won by a particular candidate, party or option in a referendum. 

  3. Gerrymandering: In representative democracies, gerrymandering is the political manipulation of electoral district boundaries with the intent to create an undue advantage for a party, group or socioeconomic class within the constituency. The manipulation may involve "cracking" or "packing."

  4. National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV): an agreement among a group of U.S. states and the District of Columbia to award all their electoral votes to whichever presidential ticket wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia.


Important Facts and Statistics


  • By about two to one, Americans want the popular vote, not the Electoral College, to decide who is president.

  • In both the 2000 and 2016 elections, the winner of the popular vote did not secure enough Electoral College votes to win the presidency. These elections were won by George W. Bush and Donald Trump, respectively. 

  • Highly politically engaged Republicans are least likely to support moving to a popular vote for President, while Republicans with a moderate level of engagement are more divided, with 48% wanting to change the system. 


Three-Point Plan


(1) Gather international voter support for the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPV).

By gathering state and voter approval for the NPV, the action towards further adoption of the NPV can become a reality. 


(2) Get NPV adopted by states that control at least 270 electoral votes, allowing it to take effect.

With 270 electoral votes committed to the NPV, the popular vote would hold the most weight in determining the president.


(3) Participating states must commit to awarding their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote.

By making this commitment, the national popular vote would be reinstated as the deciding factor for presidential elections, as Presidential electors must uphold the candidate decided by American citizens. 


Why this Initiative is Important


Committing states to the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would resolve much of our broken system. Currently, with the votes awarded in the Electoral College model, citizen votes are not weighed evenly. For example, a 2022 comparison between Texas—40 electoral votes and 30,029,572 citizens—and Alaska—three electoral votes and 733,583 citizens—shows a ratio of 233,246 Alaskans per vote compared to 750,739 Texans per vote. These ratios are not only imbalanced but show a discriminatory practice within the system that disenfranchises voter’s power. This new reliance on the popular vote would also allow Presidential campaigns to focus on the greater U.S., rather than a sub-group of swing states. 


Of course, there are still those who are in support of the Electoral College, claiming that the Founding Fathers always intended that the states be the ones to elect the president. Under the current system, the highest-ranking U.S. officials elected by direct popular vote of the people are the governors of the states. But we should note that during the creation of the Constitution, the founders likely did not credit the American public with the political awareness needed to select the president. We have come far since then, with 89.3% of Americans over 25 holding a high school diploma or higher in 2021. The American public deserves a more honest election.


By redesigning the electoral college, or even adopting a new system for the presidential election altogether, we give a voice back to voters who have been long ignored.


The opinions expressed in this article are those of the individual author.


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