Recent predictions about the upcoming 2012 election, conducted and released by The New York Times this October, project Ohio with a 50-50 chance of deciding the election.
Swing states such as Ohio have been fundamental in U.S. elections for years, but with the repeal of Citizens United — a landmark Supreme Court ruling that allows citizens and corporations to donate unlimited amounts of money to political action committees — they now play a more critical role than ever in our democratic process. None of these changes would be nearly as significant if not for the Electoral College, which unfairly skews the election process by giving disproportionate voting power to the states.
Supporters of the Electoral College system argue that citizens use the process as a scapegoat for election results that they do not agree with — but this blame is warranted. Simply put, the Electoral College has no place in our democracy. There is no justification for a voting system that has the ability to put a president into office who has not received a majority of America’s votes. This unfair system must be abolished.
The primary problem with the Electoral College is that it gives some votes more significance than others. According to current population estimates, a vote cast by a citizen in Wyoming has nearly four times the influence of a vote cast in Texas. This is because Wyoming has one “elector” for every 177,556 voters, compared to Texas, which has one for every 715,499 people, according to the Center for Voting and Democracy.
Opponents argue that total vote counts in more populated states vastly outnumber those in smaller states, thus prioritizing larger states over less-populated ones. The assertion is valid but goes against another, more important principle: No single citizen should have more of an influence in an election than another. The Senate already evens out the playing field by giving each state equal representation in the most influential house of Congress. Electing the president should be a choice left up to the majority of the nation’s citizens, not a majority of each state’s citizens.
Though skewing the significance of each vote is a serious problem, the more pressing issue is perhaps the Electoral College’s ability to manipulate voter tendencies.
Supporters of the Electoral College continuously argue that the process almost always reflects the people’s will. They usually are correct, as the Electoral College’s choice for president aligns with that of the states 95 percent of the time, according to US News & World Report. The Electoral College, however, has an undue influence in compelling certain states’ voters to go to the polls over others.
According to the Federal Voting Assistance Program, in 2008, critical swing states Florida and Ohio both had more than 66 percent of citizens voting, while larger states like New York and Texas only had 59 percent and 54.1 percent, respectively.
Because of this trend, presidential candidates, now more than ever before, isolate their campaigning to key swing states.
The Washington Post found that swing states Florida, Virginia and Ohio have received more combined advertising dollars than all other 47 states combined. By contrast, California, Texas and New York — the three most populated states in America — don’t even make the top-10 lists of states with the most campaign money invested. Clearly, candidates aren’t getting their messages across to a wide breadth of voters, but instead to those deemed most influential by the Electoral College system.
Our focus should not be on whether the electors cast votes reflecting the voters’ will, but why the middleman is needed at all. The Electoral College depresses voter turnout and encourages candidates to isolate their campaigning around those few constituents. The process thus not only damages the voting process but fundamentally violates the principles of our democracy.
Sixty-two percent of Americans already support the initiative to abolish the Electoral College. But doing so would be a long and arduous process requiring a constitutional amendment. This generation of students must be the one to rally and put an end to this unfair practice so we can maintain our democratic integrity and preserve the sanctity and equality of voting for posterity.
Ryan Townsend is a sophomore majoring in business administration. His column “The Blame Game” runs Tuesdays.