If you’re American, you’ve probably seen or heard one of the millions of campaign videos or advertisements expressing how important it is for every individual to vote. You might have been excited that you would one day have the opportunity to determine the future of the United States of America and that this little slip of paper you cast your vote on will have so much significance. Unfortunately, not each slip of paper was made equal.

For presidential elections in the US, we use a system called the Electoral College. This system was made by our founding fathers in 1787. That was 237 years ago, yet we still use the same system? Yes, that is the problem. So much has changed: the people, society, the economy, technology, legal rights, morals…. This system no longer works the way the founding fathers intended it to. It was made during a time of slavery and fresh independence from England. Even when the Founding Fathers decided on this system, Thomas Jefferson explained that the Constitution, which contains the Electoral College, would be a living document that should be revised every 20-30 years because he knew times would change and was aware the Electoral College wasn’t ideal. However, apparently, times have not changed, as we still have the Electoral College.

The Electoral College was made based on population; each state is allocated a certain number of “electoral points.” For example, California, with a large population, has 55 points, the most points any of the states have. After the citizens of each state vote, their elected officials (each state has 2 senators, and a differing number of House Representatives based on population), vote based on their state’s majority-winning candidate. Then, the presidential candidate with the most elected official votes wins all the electoral votes for that state, so in California, the candidate would gain 55 points. Whichever candidate gets 270 or more points wins the presidency. 

Since there is a “winner gets all” mentality within this process, the candidate with the highest population vote receives ALL the electoral votes. The minority candidate votes will be in vain. This also coincides with the issue that candidates often only campaign within swing states (states that aren’t always Republican or Democrat). The people’s votes within a swing state are much more decisive on the results of the presidential election than in a consistent red (Republican) or blue (Democratic) state. Since the presidential election will essentially come down to the votes of a few states, the presidential election outcome practically lies in the hands of 40,000 voters. For example, someone in Pennsylvania (a swing state) would have a vote more significant than someone in Massachusetts (a consistently blue state). That creates a disproportionate influence for voters in swing states since their votes matter more than those in a historically red or blue state.

The Electoral College has several issues, but the main one is that the chosen representatives are supposed to but don’t necessarily have to vote for the candidate the citizens of their state wanted. Some states provide the representatives with the freedom and leniency to choose. Other states have legal obligations for them to vote as they pledged, but the penalty for doing otherwise is often quite minimal, with just a fee. In other words, your vote may not matter since the officials aren’t obligated to reciprocate the majority opinion.

Another key factor, the data from the past few elections, in an article from Washington Post, shows that this system benefits Republican candidates. In the last 32 years, there have been 3 Republican presidents who won the Electoral College but 2 of them lost the popular vote. If a majority of the country does not want that candidate to represent us and further run our country, how is it that they do? The electoral college works hand in hand with system features such as the Senate, the filibuster, and gerry-mandering. Neither political party should be using systems to their advantage; that is a foundational concept of democracy.

The Electoral College supports the two-party system, pushing for a bipartisan country. There are third parties, but the Electoral College makes it almost impossible for them to win since they’ll never win the popular vote in each state individually. In the case you do vote for the Green Party or Libertarians, your vote will, again, have no impact. This limits voter choice and causes more division as the parties polarize more and more.

Due to the way electoral points work, there is less potential for an ideology that does not fall under the Democratic or Republican domain; it indirectly skews the system, and someone in Wyoming does indeed have 4 times the voting power as someone voting in California. Does that seem fair to you? In a country where supposedly, “every man was made equal”?