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Understand the value of the Electoral College

By: Frank Yunker

Date: 2016-11-14

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Before you sign a petition calling for the elimination of the Electoral College, you should first understand what it is and why the founding fathers created it. Our founding fathers were experimenting with the concept of self-rule, but they understood that democracies governed by popular vote are doomed to failure. Democracy is best described as "two wolves and a lamb voting on what's for dinner."

Instead the founding fathers created a constitutional republic and to do this they needed the support of both large and small states. There was, naturally, a concern on the part of the small, independent states that would be powerless in a Federal government ruled by popular vote. In fact, the Union would never have been established if popular vote had been the method of electing the president.

The Electoral College was created by giving each state the number of electors equal to the number of their members in the House of Representatives plus their number of senators. This does give a slightly weighed advantage to lightly populated states over large populous states. This was done by design.

The statesmen who created the constitution wanted to ensure that the president was elected by a broad range of the country. They didn't want one or two states dominating the election. They wanted the president's appeal to be beyond the cities where large vote totals would almost guarantee the city's choice as the victor.

Simply put, Hillary Clinton did not appeal to a broad enough segment of the country. That's why she lost. Arguments that she "won the popular vote" are meaningless because that is not how the game is played and she knew it. If popular vote had been the criteria, Trump (and Clinton) would have had other strategies. New York and California would have been inundated with election ads and campaign rallies instead of the "swing states."

Furthermore, the concept of the Electoral College works against voter fraud. A state like California that is so heavily Democrat-leaning that it has no incentive to secretly manufacture votes. The electoral votes were already a "lock" for Clinton. Additional fraudulent votes would not impact the outcome of the election. The fraud might tip the scales in one state, but not in the whole country.

The Constitutional Framers originally envisioned what Maine and Nebraska have today. Whoever wins the congressional district wins 1 vote and whoever wins the state total received the 2 additional votes. Most states adopted a rule that the state winner would get all the votes because they thought it would make the state's votes more powerful since they were voting as a bloc. A return to that would not give Trump all the Pennsylvania delegation since his vote total was barely above Clinton's number, but overall the outcome would not have been any different. In fact, if those rules had been adopted for 2012, Mitt Romney would have easily beaten Barack Obama.

Throughout the election process, pundits kept saying Trump's "path to victory" was narrow. Why? Clinton has a lock on 2 of the top 3 states (California and New York) which gives her over 30% of what she needs. Trump would need 60% of the remaining 454 electoral votes to win the presidency. The "Rust Belt" from Pennsylvania to Michigan, Wisconsin and Minnesota have been largely Democratic for a generation. Ohio tends to swing, but the other states were solid enough to not need much in terms of election resources. The "narrow path" for Trump required him to win Florida, North Carolina, Ohio and 1 other state that hadn't voted Republican in years. That's why predictions came in for a Clinton victory despite daily tracking polls that often showed Trump in the lead. National polls mean nothing in a country with an electoral college. Unfortunately for Hillary, who never even visited Wisconsin, national polls often reflect a trend that ends up shifting a state.

Lastly, to consider how a popular vote might work, consider Governor of New York. The race is, was, and always will be determined by downstate voters. Upstate voters have virtually no influence on the race. The same holds for Boston in Massachusetts and Philadelphia in Pennsylvania. The politics of the state are at the mercy of the politics of the city and that probably doesn’t have the interests of the state at heart.

Instead of signing a petition calling for the elimination of the electoral college, you might just help your state more by starting a petition to create an electoral college for governor elections.