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Make Our Votes Count
Get Rid of the Electoral College
Melanie Mata

On November 8, 2016, the United States made a decision: Donald Trump is the president-elect. He is a man who has claimed Mexican immigrants are rapists and criminals, who believes he can grab women’s private parts without their consent because he’s famous, and who proposed to ban Muslims from entering the United States.

But the majority of people actually voted against Donald Trump. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2.8 million votes. How is it that Clinton won the popular vote, but lost the presidency?

The reason Trump won is the Electoral College. When Americans vote for a president and vice president, they are actually voting for state electors, known as the Electoral College, who then officially elect the president.

It is possible for a candidate to get the majority of the popular vote, but still lose the election. That’s because whether the candidate wins a state by a landslide or just by a few votes, they still receive all of that state’s electoral votes. Take Michigan, for example. Trump won 47.5% of the popular vote and Clinton won 47.3%. But Trump got all of the electoral votes. This is called the winner-take-all system, which is how it works in 48 of our 50 states.

The two remaining states, Nebraska and Maine, distribute their electoral votes differently. Their electoral votes are split depending on who wins the presidential vote in each district.

Why the Founding Fathers Created the Electoral College

The Constitution assigns each state a number of electors based on how many representatives they have in Congress. Washington, D.C., which doesn’t have its own representatives in Congress, gets three electors.

The more populated the state, the more electoral votes it gets. For example, California, which has a large population, gets 55 electoral votes while North Dakota, which has very few people, gets only three. In order to win, a candidate has to receive 270 electoral votes.

After the elections, many people thought, “How is the Electoral College fair?” To understand how we established this system, we must look at the origins.

image by YC-Art Dept

The white, male property owners who created our Constitution back in the 1770s were concerned about giving too much power to the lower classes and the ill-informed. They also feared that if presidents were elected by a popular vote, an unqualified tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come into power. Alexander Hamilton and other founders believed that the Electoral College system would ensure that a qualified person becomes president. In effect, the Electoral College was designed to have educated people in charge of electing the president, just in case the voters made a mistake.

In the 1770s, education was a privilege reserved for rich, land-owning white men. The founding fathers were scared that if the decision were left to commoners, they might be persuaded to vote for a demagogue (a leader who gains popularity by exploiting prejudice). Yet here we are in 2016 and that’s what happened.

The Electoral College has been proven flawed. Instead of blocking Donald Trump—who seems to be dangerously unqualified, and lost the popular vote—the electors officially voted him in on December 19.

What’s Next?

We need to change the Electoral College to fit the current times.

As a nation, we are now more educated and are capable of making wise decisions. The Electoral College is a relic from a time when only white land-owning males were considered important.

I believe that people have the right to marry the person they love and the right to practice the religion of their choice. Women have a right to be treated as equals and to make choices about their own bodies. These are rights a lot of us expect and fight for today. As a country that is built on “freedom and justice for all,” we need to make sure that these rights are respected.

Since Trump was elected president, there’s been a lot of fear among minority communities as to what will happen to them. A spike in reported hate crimes across the nation has increased these fears.

We now have a president-elect who incited violence against protesters at his campaign rallies, threatens to take away healthcare coverage from 20 million people, hired Steve Bannon, who runs an a website that stirs up white supremists and anti-Semitic activists, as a chief strategist, and has called for a “total complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States.” The irony is that millions more people voted against him and his ideas. We have to find a way to prevent this from happening again.

Until then, we will protest his actions. Let’s show the government that we won’t stand by this attack on our fundamental rights as Americans.

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