Our digital democracy has no need to Electoral College
© Getty Images

Once Hillary Clinton hit a one-million-vote lead in the 2016 Election's popular vote, it became clear that something about our “Representative Democracy” wasn't functioning correctly. 

Whether you believe in petitioning the Electoral College's members to, as Ted CruzRafael (Ted) Edward CruzTrade deal talks expand as Congress debates tech legal shield Sanders meets with MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred Cruz knocks Chick-fil-A over past donation: It has 'lost its way' MORE famously put it, “vote their conscience” by surrendering to the popular vote, one debate came up among my politically inclined friends in which I found an unexpected amount of support for a system which I believed had been found wanting since the Bush vs Gore days.


I've always approached elections from a simple principle: One citizen, one vote. The Electoral College distorts this: CGPGrey echoes my viewpoint well: For starters, Presidential candidates tend to only appeal to the nigh-legendary “battle ground” states such as Ohio and North Carolina, and can rest on their laurels when it comes to small states that are viewed as reliably “in their column.” Of course, Grey has had to update his video for the 2016 election, but another bit of math strikes me as even more indefensible, and has thus surprised me with regards to the amount of support it's received.

Fairvote.org, a group dedicated to free and fair elections, published data which indicates that under the current Electoral College arrangement one Wyoming voter is approximately equal to three California voters and change. That math may vary based on actual voter participation numbers, but the underlying meaning is clear: States with large populations are not just mildly unequal to states with small populations, but are in some cases three times as unequal. I seem to remember a three-fifths clause being controversial at one point in American history: This is a one-third clause!

The argument I encounter when I make this case is simple: “Oh,” my friends cry out in alarm, “so you mean to tell me that New York, Chicago, and LA should decide the election for everyone else?” No; I mean to tell them that Americans should all have an equal vote for a nationally-elected office.

The Electoral College is theoretically a representative body, which sounds nice - although, theoretically, this status under the Constitution implies they can in fact submit their red-state votes for Hillary ClintonHillary Diane Rodham ClintonTrump to hold campaign rally in Michigan Saagar Enjeti ponders Hillary Clinton's 2020 plans Political ad spending set to explode in 2020 MORE if they so choose, but it is a representative body from a time when, as Vox.com's Sean Illing explains, some states allowed slavery under the law and felt they needed to protect that institution by bending the principle that each citizen's vote should be equal.

I view things a little differently. I look towards the future, and what type of government we should have going forward. I see this argument that, somehow, all a President has to do is convince a few megacities of his agenda and he'll win to be missing the point. The very nature of our government has changed. 

Originally, only land-owning White men could vote in the first place. With the 19th Amendment, we put Senators under the direct election of the people and not the political backrooms of state governments. I see the Electoral College as not only antiquated, but contrary to the progress America has made.

Most of all, I believe it no longer fills the role it once did as a protector of small states.

Remember when Nixon lost a debate to Kennedy on TV that he won on radio? That's the old story, anyway; Kennedy got all nice and made up, and Nixon was all sweaty? That outcome represented a fundamental shift in how American politics functioned. As video infiltrated its way into the world, we got to see them more often. Our opinions on the Presidency changed with television's growth; as new technology spreads throughout the world, our opinions will continue to evolve.

For those who will point out the obvious: The internet is simply a medium by which information is conveyed, and I fully agree that not all of the information you'll find on it is clear-cut or accurate. After all, "fake news" is allegedly as much responsible for Trump's election as Russian hacking of the DNC (at Trump's nationally-broadcast request!). We've yet to master the means to filter out all of the...Less sane voices in the issue. It is no different than when people used to peddle snake-oils across western towns kept alive by railroads; relative anonymity raises the odds of fibbing.

However, if you go to any credible news site, you'll see alerts when one candidate or another is speaking. You can tune in and watch a lecture almost anywhere you are - just plug in your headphones and pop on your data plan and you can even watch parts of it on the NYC Subway or in the great plains. Yes, I realize the entire country isn't data-fied yet, but they certainly have TV and radio to fall back on. A candidate no longer has to go to a given state in order to campaign there; they no longer have to visit in person to hear that area's cries for help.

So when people talk about "concerns of the XYZ," and usually they bend it to concerns about middle Americans, I tend to think, "Wait a minute; do these people fear that those interests aren't self-evident?" Do people think that New Yorkers don't care what their fellow Americans in Texas deal with? Or how about Wyomingites? Isn't the Speaker of the House from Wyoming? Doesn't the Senate already grant these states incredible power? And correct me if I'm wrong, but a lot of national media is focused on the tiny state of North Dakota thanks to a government effort to build a pipeline through Sioux lands. Why? The internet.

I don't like stacked decks, and the electoral college is a stacked deck. I sometimes think Long Island should secede from New York to form a new state because NYS always spends LI/NYC money upstate. But I also love what we caringly call “upstate!” I know how much upstate has suffered as certain industries have faded away to time, and I visited often as a child! So, naturally I have an interest in their prosperity. I wish the proportions were different, but it's perfectly natural for a state to spend resources gathered in one prosperous area to help out with a less-prosperous one! And, yet, when it comes time for the governor to be elected we still manage to have one citizen's vote equal that of another's.

Someone else suggested California break into three states to help offset the fact that Californians are under-represented in the Senate and clearly under-represented in the Presidential race. I've also seen Neil Freeman's "50 equal-population state" map, where he demonstrates what fifty equally-populated states would potentially look like. Is that our best solution? Auto-Balkanization in pursuit of equality?

I'm not saying that eliminating the Electoral College is perfect. I'm just saying that for everyone who talks about the "Tyranny of the majority," they're forgetting that twice within our lives we've been given a "Tyranny of the minority," instead. In fact, that's now 2/3 of the non-incumbent races in the 21st century (Bush and Trump, as opposed to Obama). And, in 2012 one of the very people who won by the Electoral College declared that it must be abolished. How deliciously hypocritical that he now supports it. Funny how that happens.

We shouldn't let it happen ever again.

Jesse Pohlman is a writer from Long Island, New York.  When he's not writing politics, he writing Science Fiction books exploring the nature of life which you can get more information about at his website, www.jessepohlman.com.

The views expressed by Contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.