In Defense of the Electoral College, and of Small States

In a little less than a week, the majority of the American electorate who has not voted early or sent in a ballot by mail, will flock to polling places across the country to cast their ballots for either President Barack Obama or for his Republican challenger, Mitt Romney.

It is at about this time that many news outlets across this great country of ours will begin to start classifying various sections of the map as “Democratic” or “Republican” leaning. They do this in large part to try and predict how each state’s votes in the electoral college will determine who “wins” the election.

Inevitably, once all of the dominos fall on Election Day, someone, somewhere is going to start complaining about how unfair the Electoral College is. It happens on both sides. Liberals complained in 2000 when George W. Bush won more electoral votes than popular votes. Conservatives complain that states like California and New York give an unfair advantage to Democrats.  And someone will inevitably belly-ache about it after the conclusion of the 2012 election.

In this election it is not hard to find something to complain about, and the Electoral College is a very easy target. With every state save six or seven completely locked up, the candidates are focusing almost all of their efforts in an amorphous area which I am calling “Colohiovadinaconsinstan.”

Colohiovadinaconsinstan is made up of the key contested states in this election: Colorado, Nevada, Ohio, North Carolina, Virginia, Wisconsin and Florida. From an electoral votes standpoint, these states make up about 104 votes, which makes up about a quarter of the total votes in the electoral college. In other words, only about 25 percent of the country is deciding the election.

That does sound admittedly unfair (provided that you forget that on any given presidential election only 60 percent of the voting population actually votes, optimistically). But it does not make a cogent argument for nixing the Electoral College, because the alternative is actually even more unfair.

If the Electoral College is removed, then the presidential elections will be decided by popular vote. While it might not sound like a bad idea, this is actually monumentally unfair to the electorate, because all of a sudden the only places that actually matter in an election are the cities with the largest populations.

All of a sudden, instead of the amorphous grouping of states of Colohiovadinaconsindiastan deciding the election, the deciding areas will be New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Philadelphia, Phoenix, San Antonio, San Diego, Dallas, and San Jose. If the combined opinions of six or seven states deciding elections is unfair, then having only 10 cities deciding elections is monumentally unfair.

Which is why the Electoral College needs to stay in place, and why small states will continuously advocate against getting rid of it (as they always have). As a Coloradoan, I do not want people in New York, or Texas, or California deciding who becomes president. As a Coloradoan, I like that my state actually gets to have a significant say in the election.

I sure as hell do not want candidates to ignore my state because we only have nine electoral votes. I like it that my state can be a deciding factor in the most important election that our country holds.

Do I think that winning the electoral college but not the popular vote is unfair, yeah. But it is much much better than small states like Colorado being completely ignored.

This is why, in the spirit of the Great Compromise which created the House of Representatives and Senate, I will support the established institution that gives the small states the power to sway elections. It is not perfect by any means, but then again what system is?

It is a choice of what is most fair. Not everyone lives in California, New York, and Texas. Those three states should not be the ones that decide who is president. I would much rather have Colohiovadinastan be the deciding factor in an election.

This is the United States of America, emphasis on the “states.” Fifty states. Not three. Fifty. Everyone’s say matters, no matter the size of the state or the number of people in it.

I support the Electoral College, because it gives me a voice that matters in the election.

Editorial Assistant Caleb Hendrich is a senior political science and journalism double major. His columns appear Wednesdays in the Collegian. Letters and feedback can be sent to letters@collegian.com.