California’s Reduced Role in Electoral Politics
As an American, you should be able to hear Sens. Barack Obama and John McCain vehemently campaign in person for your vote this November. You should have the opportunity to meet, interact and shake hands with them as you learn about their positions on all of the issues. In many parts of the country, this is considered normal. But alas! You have one unfortunate circumstance: you live in California.
Unfortunately, due to the Electoral College system in the United States, some small and non-existent states like Wyoming become super important to the presidential candidates, while other large states lose value. Since California is going to vote for Obama, guess what California Republicans? Your vote doesn’t count. Since candidates pick up an entire state’s electoral votes, it doesn’t matter if they win by 500,000 votes or by five.
The Electoral College was devised by the framers of the Constitution as a compromise for the presidential election process. Some framers believed that a purely direct democracy was too reckless and would lead to mob rule while others were against giving Congress direct control of the election. The compromise was to give each state the number of electors equal to the proportion of the state’s population, and for purposes of equality, two for each state’s senators. Furthermore, the founding fathers attempted to maintain the philosophy of federalism, or the sharing of powers between the states and the federal government.
Certain states shouldn’t be empowered to choose the president and vice president of the nation. The presidential election should be about every single eligible voter in the United States having an equal vote regardless of where he or she lives. Currently, that’s not happening.
For example, California, with its population of more than 36 and a half million, has 55 Electoral College votes. Wyoming, with a population of just over half a million, has three Electoral College votes. Therefore, Wyoming has an inflated number of three votes (the minimum for any state), because while California has a population 50 times the size of Wyoming’s, it has only about 18 times as many Electoral College votes. This basically means that a vote cast in Wyoming counts about three times as much as a vote in California. Now, I know that without the Electoral College, small states like Wyoming wouldn’t even be relevant in the election, but why are Californians being punished for living in a state with such a big population?
In 2004, George Bush spent very little time in California, since it was a foregone conclusion that California would go to the Democrats. However, he visited the state of Pennsylvania nearly 40 times because it was a swing state. Pennsylvania! Seriously? As the most populated state, one would think California would be worth a little more of a candidate’s time and money. The candidate’s neglect of California is a direct insult to our great state.
History only further validates the uselessness of the Electoral College. In 1876, Rutherford B. Hayes won the election with 185 Electoral College votes while his opponent Sam Tilden lost with 184 votes, despite Tilden beating Hayes significantly in the popular vote. In 1888, Benjamin Harrison won with 225 electoral votes to Grover Cleveland’s 168, despite losing the popular vote. And everybody knows the outcome of Al Gore versus Bush in 2000.
Therefore, this archaic practice should be ended so that the candidate with the most popular votes wins the election. It would increase California’s relevance in the country, and in California we could ask for nothing more.
Nishant Chandra is a second-year economics major. He can be reached at email@example.com.