NOTE: I wrote this as an Editorial for The Greeley Tribune in the days leading up to the 2008 election. All you really have to do is switch out the date and names with this election and it suddenly is relevant again.
On Nov. 4, either Barack Obama or John McCain will be elected the next president of the United States. When you go to the polls that day, however, you will see that you have the choice of 16 candidates — from the Socialist Party to the Boston Tea Party (I’m not kidding). Why is it that only the Republican and Democratic candidates have a chance of winning? The answer is extremely simple: It is this way because of our election process. The Electoral College has allowed America’s democracy to slowly morph into a destructive, and unrepresentative, two-party system. A reform on how America elects its president needs to be implemented as swiftly as possible.
Most people in the United States don’t even understand how our election system works — which helps decrease voter turnout nationwide. In simple terms, each state is allocated a certain number of votes to be given to a candidate in a winner-take-all fashion. The candidate that takes a majority of these electoral votes (270) wins. This system can be considered one of the most lopsided, undemocratic methods of election across the democratic world. This system, which was created because the Founding Fathers didn’t trust the general public, has become riddled with problems as population booms.
If you live in Wyoming (the most over-represented state), your vote has four time the value as one cast in Texas (the most under-represented state). This process, with its inherent inequalities, makes it impossible to claim that all votes are equal in the United States. Even worse, it marks your vote as irrelevant if you live in a state that won’t vote for your candidate. Imagine being a Democrat in Kansas — a state that hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate in 40 years. Or, a Republican in Washington, D.C. — which has voted for the Democrat every single time. Your voice will never be heard there. In this system, you pretty much have to live in a swing state (and support one of the two major parties) in order to have your voice heard.
What many people don’t know is what happens if no candidate receives the necessary 270 votes in the Electoral College. There is no re-vote or run-off election. Instead, the most undemocratic of processes is enacted. The top five candidates (if there are that many) are put on a ballot to be voted on by the House of Representatives. There, they will vote by state, not head, to determine the next president. If there is still no majority, the top two candidates will be put on a ballot to be voted on by the U.S. Senate. There, a majority will be reached unless there is a tie. In that case, the current vice president gets to cast the tie-breaking vote.
Sound fair? This has happened twice in American history. Even if it doesn’t happen again, we are constantly seeing elections where the candidate with the most votes end up losing — Gore had 500,000 more votes than Bush in 2000, but that tally didn’t matter. The United States needs to scrape the Electoral College and implement a double popular vote system, much like they have in France. In this system, no candidate usually takes a majority on the first vote. Instead, the top two candidates have to go into a run-off election. This system is fair and representative — having equal weight on every vote. It allows for several parties to partake in the process. Plus, it’s simple to understand and has proven a good method to turnout the vote.