by Eric Oberman
The United States is a democracy, but it is not a perfect one. The biggest threat to American democracy is written into the Constitution. The Electoral College has created a system in which some people’s votes count more than other people’s, and only certain states are important in national elections.
First, President Barack Obama won 50 percent of the popular vote, but 62 percent of the Electoral Votes. Because the Electoral College usually gives all of a state’s votes to the candidate that won it, no matter how slim the margin of victory is, it rarely gets anywhere close to accurately reflecting the popular vote.
And, the system is outdated, but unfortunately, this is the least of the Electoral College’s problems. While in theory, every person’s vote should be worth the same in a democratic system this is not true in the U.S. New Jersey has roughly 5.8 million eligible voters and 14 electoral votes, while Wyoming has over 400,000 voters, and 3 electoral votes. Every voter in Wyoming counts for .0000072 electoral votes, but in New Jersey voters are only worth 0.0000024 votes. Essentially, a voter in Wyoming is three times more valuable than one in New Jersey. These votes are supposed to be doled out proportionately, but the Constitution does not allow any state to have fewer than three, no matter how small its population. Because of this, the electoral vote system is just not fair to some states and people.
Additionally, because the college makes it necessary to win states rather than popular votes to become the president, it places an incredible amount of importance on a few states while others are forgotten. Ohio, which is estimated bynytimes.com to have a 50 percent chance of deciding the election, has been visited dozens of times by the candidates, because it is one of the largest states that is not clearly Republican or Democratic. However, states that are reliably blue or red, like New Jersey or Alabama, respectively, are paid little attention.
President Obama was reelected in part because he won eight of the nine states that were considered toss-ups, but the election should not be left up to Ohio, Florida and Virginia every year. This problem came to a head in 2000, when Al Gore won the popular vote but lost the election because George W. Bush won a few key states.
Tradition is an important and powerful thing. But sometimes traditions just don’t make sense. If the people of the United States need to elect a president to serve them, then the people should directly pick him or her.