By Staff Writers Jenny Miao, Vicki Xu & Maggie Zhao
In its February 3 issue, the Smoke Signal offered a comprehensive overview of the electoral college system. Below are compiled student voices and statistics regarding their views on the electoral college, as well as a collection of cases where the President elected from the electoral college did not win the popular vote.
Student Statistics and Voices
The Smoke Signal surveyed a total of 51 students on campus. When asked “Do you think the electoral college is an appropriate way to elect the president?” we got the following responses:
[No] “I think that it’s not entirely effective, because if you think about it any representative from any state could just come and vote for who they want, it’s not necessary that they’re actually accurately representing the public’s vote. Also I think it’s unfair that certain states based on population get more electors, and that might not always be an entirely fair way to go. I think that a better alternative would be popular vote. Take this election for example, if it was by popular vote then Hillary Clinton would have won, but since it was by electoral college Donald Trump won. I’m not trying to enforce my political stance on our current presidency but I think that just goes to show how, what the people want versus what certain representatives want [can be different]. The whole point of a democracy is to show what the people want.” — Ananya Verma, 10
[No] “I don’t think it’s a proper way to elect a president because there was this one statistic that stated that there is one electoral vote for three million people in Wyoming but it’s one for every 55 million people in California and I think that if we truly are a democracy, every vote should be the same so that where you live doesn’t matter. The electoral college is an old method and it should be abolished. It is an outdated part of the election system and I think that to truly have a president voted in by the majority, the majority of the individual votes should be counted.” — Neha Dubey, 12
[No] “I don’t see any reason why we can’t have a popular vote system considering that each person gets equal representation in that system, like, even if you agree that small states should have power, it makes sense that we give them power proportional to their population, and not the electoral college, even if it tries to be proportional, it still gives people in Wyoming more power than those in California.” — Praveen Nair, 11
[No] “I think the electoral college was designed in a way, back in the 18th century, to give the electors more freedom and power to elect the president, shifting the main decision makers to the experienced statesmen instead of the people. But in today’s environment, the electoral college just adds a buffer to the presidential election process, something deemed unnecessary. Time Magazine published an opinion article earlier about how the usefulness of the electoral college is in decline. So, as the times change, so should the systems and policies that come along. I think in the modern age, with the information everyone gets from the constant bombardment of media and news, people have an obligation to be better educated, and they are better educated. Instead of going through the electoral college, which often skews the election process, the decision should be shifted back to the people.” — Kevin Wu, 11
[No] “I don’t think [the electoral college is an appropriate way to elect the president] because the electoral college was invented back then, and it was used as a way to not represent the slaves because they were slaves at that time. But now, lots has changed and everything is different and it’s not accurately representing how to vote. I think it should be changed and it doesn’t really make sense the way it was created. I guess the popular vote — the way they count that — also works because I feel like that makes more sense.” — Hetvee Desai, 9
[Yes] “Appropriate — yes. Effective — that’s questionable. The electoral college is supposed to provide for the separation of the government from people to prevent the tyranny of the government over people. It made sense to send highly educated people to a single place to select the president for the people based on what people seem to want, rather than giving the people who — at the time the Electoral College was created — were not as politically involved and maybe not as well educated. It made sense to determine what the best choice the people wanted was. So it made sense at the time, but now with the Internet and people being more well-educated, the Electoral College is not necessarily the most effective method.” — Jason Wong, 12
[Yes] “I think the common arguments against the electoral college are one, it gives too much power to the small states and two, it overrides the popular vote. I think that at the same time, if we were to switch the system to a popular vote, it would cause a pretty substantial political neglect of rural areas, which is where a lot of the nation’s poverty and issues like agriculture are present, so I think that it is important to focus on those issues too.” — Max Wu, 12
[Yes] “I think even though popular vote is important because it is important to know what the American public thinks, not everybody is educated enough to make a decision. Even though this time in the election with Trump and Clinton it might have not worked out in the public’s favor, I think that there are changes that we can make to the electoral college instead of removing it completely. I think it’s a useful system.” — Kristine Yuan, 10
[Yes] “[The electors] know what’s best for the country; they’re expected to know what they’re doing. They are voting for the people they represent, but their opinions are already in line with those of their people, so the system is good.” — Puneet Bansal, 9
There have been five instances in the history of the United States where the elected President and winner of the Electoral College did not win the popular vote:
2016: Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton
The recent 2016 presidential election between Democrat Hillary Clinton and President-Elect Republican Donald J. Trump was an example where the President-Elect did not win the popular vote. The general public viewed both contenders negatively; the so-called “political insider” Clinton dealt with allegations of corruption and fraud, while Trump was widely criticized for his negative attitude toward US racial minorities and his implicit championing of prejudice. Most prominent political polls, including those by FiveThirtyEight and The New York Times, favored Clinton, with the exception of the USC/LA Times Daybreak Poll, which consistently favored Trump. In a major upset, Trump earned 304 electoral votes to Clinton’s 227, although Clinton won the popular vote by almost three million ballots.
2000: George W. Bush and Al Gore
Republican candidate George W. Bush ran against former Vice President Al Gore in 2000. Originally, Gore was declared the winner of the presidential election and the popular vote. However, the results of the Florida election were challenged and ballots were recounted. After the recount, Bush was declared the winner of Florida by the slim margin of 537 votes. This recount won Bush the election, although many studies after the election questioned its validity.
1888: Grover Cleveland and Benjamin Harrison
In 1888, Republican Benjamin Harrison ran against the incumbent President, Democrat Grover Cleveland. Tariff policy was the primary disputed issue during the campaigns. In the end, Cleveland won the popular vote by a narrow margin, but ultimately lost the electoral vote, losing his reelection campaign.
1876: Rutherford B. Hayes and Samuel J. Tilden
The election of 1876 between Republican Rutherford B. Hayes and Democrat Samuel J. Tilden was one of the closest and most contested elections in American history. Tilden narrowly won the popular vote, but after a bitter legal battle, the remaining twenty electoral votes were awarded to Hayes, winning him the presidency. Hayes is thought to have struck an informal deal known as the Compromise of 1877, which ended the Southern Reconstruction, in order to win the disputed electoral votes.
1824: John Quincy Adams and Andrew Jackson
The first unusual case in US history was the election of 1824. None of the candidates won the majority of the electoral votes. In accordance with the 12th Amendment, the House of Representatives chose John Quincy Adams of the Democratic-Republican party, despite the fact that fellow Democrat-Republican Andrew Jackson won more of the popular and electoral vote. Following the election, Jackson’s supporters left the Democratic-Republican party and formed the modern-day Democratic party.
Graphic by Opinion Editor Anthony Chen