Can we really get rid of the Electoral College?
Calling it a “voter suppression law,” the candidate for the Democratic primaries, Elizabeth Warren, shared one of her most liberal proposals so far: to eliminate the Electoral College.
Donald Trump’s victory in the 2016 presidential election left open the question about the true value of the individual vote in the United States.
If the majority of the citizens (popular vote) had chosen Hillary Clinton as president, why then was Donald Trump the winner?
From a noble idea, the Constitution of the United States established the Electoral College system to grant equality of voting conditions in a territory with demographically different states, thus structuring the figure of the "elector.”
Each state has the same number of electors as members in the Senate and the House of Representatives, and 270 votes are required for a candidate to be elected president.
Thanks to this system, the 3 million votes that Clinton had over Trump were useless because the Electoral College was inclined in favor of the latter.
This lack of objective representation of the popular will has been the strongest argument for those who advocate the abolition of any voting system other than the “one-person-one-vote” system.
"Presidential electors are not more qualified than other citizens to determine who should head the government," wrote Jack Rakove in his column for Stanford Magazine just weeks before Trump's victory in 2016. "They are simply party loyalists who do not deliberate about anything more than where to eat lunch," he added.
Rakove also argued that the "political protection" that the Electoral College seeks to ensure is not equivalent to popular opinion, and only reduces (or nullifies) a large number of voices in the process.
The phenomenon of "swing" or "battlefield" states has been another reason why some consider that the Electoral College homogenizes the representation of the vote at the national level, respecting the federalism of the territory.
However, this simply endorses the apathy of some candidates when it comes to actually communicating their political project and convincing voters, no matter how far they are from the preponderant states.
For Senator Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, the guarantee of democratic participation comes precisely from the abolition of the Electoral College, which she has defined as "a voter suppression law.”
Considered one of the most liberal Democratic candidates in the race for the nomination for 2020, Warren has campaigned on her antagonism to Wall Street and the corporate world, Medicare For All and tuition-free education.
During her appearance at a Town Hall held by CNN at Jackson State University in Mississippi, Warren added fuel to the fire of her rhetoric.
"Every vote matters and the way we can mate that happen is that we can have national voting, and that means get rid of the Electoral College," the candidate said, producing "one of the longest ovations of the night," according to the New York Times.
Other politicians have raised this idea – form Bernie Sanders to the Democratic mayor of South Bend (Indiana) Pete Buttigieg, but this is the first time that a candidate has spoken so bluntly about it.
As the Huffington Post reported, Warren's comments followed Colorado's decision to join 11 other states and the District of Columbia "to challenge the power of the Electoral College."
The coalition has been organized under the National Popular Vote Interstate Compensation Plan that proposes "assigning its electoral votes to the next presidential candidate who wins the popular vote throughout the country."
However, the plan is far from becoming a reality because it must be approved by the states that represent "at least 270 votes" of the Electoral College, and it barely has 181.
Even if Congress succeeded in passing a measure to eliminate the Electoral College - something very unlikely according to Michael W. McConnell's analysis - the underlying problem in American politics remains the same: bipartisanship plays the game of popularity above the preparation and capacity, and the needs of voters are increasingly too diverse to be agglomerated under the same umbrella.
Similarly, the new challenges, represented by social networks and the break with the tradition that Donald Trump has led during his tenure, suggest the need for a profound change in campaign strategies within both parties.
With or without the Electoral College, the 2020 elections will demonstrate the extent to which the political system can adapt to new trends without undermining the democratic process.