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This is Not a Democracy, This is Madness: The Election Process


Every four years, the citizens of the United States come together to watch as presidential
candidates from multiple political parties, particularly the Democrats and the Republicans, rally
the people, banter and debate against one another, and give powerful, inspiring speeches to
convince the people to give them their vote. Then, in November, when Election Day arrives, the
citizens whom are eighteen years of age or older go to their respective voting booths to elect
their new president. Many see this day as a privilege, a natural right that we Americans are lucky
to have been granted. However, the real question is: Is the United States voting and election
process truly effective? Does it truly empower the people? Does it truly allow rule by the
people? And the answer that many experts provide is typically quite negative. The United
States electoral process is an ineffective method of selecting political leaders because it deters
the existence of true democracy, for it fails to provide an accurate representation of the peoples
true wishes.
The first flaw in the American voting system is the First Past the Post system, wherein
each person has one vote and the candidate who has the most votes wins. It appears to be
simple, logical, and effective, but, in reality, this is but a mere guise of simplicity that masks the
complete failure of this system. Although it seems to be a majority rule, as the candidate with
the most votes wins, that is, in reality, not the case. For example, lets say that there were five
candidates whom were running for candidates, titled A, B, C, D, and E. Candidate A won 5% of
the popular vote, Candidate B won 25% of the popular vote, C 25%, D 30%, and E 15%. By the
rules of first past the post, Candidate D would win the election and become president, as 30% is
greater than any other percentage. However, should one take another look at the percentages and

the math behind the system, they will realize a most unacceptable flaw: Candidate D may have
won the largest percentage of votes, but, at the end of the day, he only won 30%. This means
that 70% of the nations population voted against him. This is the case with any election that has
more than two candidates.
However, this is not the end of the flaws and transgressions against democracy that the
first past the post system has. It also leads to something known as the Spoiler Effect. In
America, there are only two main political parties, the Democrats and Republicans, and most of
the attention during the campaign is focused on them. However, there are still Independent
parties who run, which is where the Spoiler Effect comes into play. In the Spoiler Effect, the
better a third party does in their campaign, the worse it is for their own voters because it helps to
ensure victory for the candidate that they dont like. For example, let us say that Candidate A of
the Independent Party has similar beliefs as the Democratic Party does, and targets voters from
that side. Candidate A does exceedingly well in the campaign, and earns 15% of the Democratic
vote, and even 5% of the Republican vote. However, the 15% of Democratic voters who voted
for Candidate A instead of the Democratic Party has lead the Republican candidate, whom they
do not like, to win. Therefore, this puts pressure on voters in a first past the post system to vote
for a candidate from a major party, because they would prefer to have someone that they can
tolerate (even if they really like the third-party candidate), rather than someone they completely
despise. The first past the post system unknowingly prevents third parties from truly being
integrated, almost completely restricting American politics to the two major parties.
The first past the post system is not the only flaw in Americas electoral process. There is
yet another, more atrocious part that suppresses democracy to an even farther extent the
Electoral College. The Electoral College is the 538 votes made by a group of voters that are

supposed to represent the wishes of the people. In the beginning, it seemed logical, even
necessary, for communications were poor, literacy was low, and voters lacked information about
out-of-state figures.1 However, this is no longer the case. People have access to the Internet,
television, cell phones, motor vehicles, and all of the new technologies that render the Electoral
College nothing more than a useless, pointless, gross violation of the cherished value of
political equality.2
Equality plays a major part in each of the three flaws in the Electoral College system. The first
of which is the fact that some peoples votes are worth more than others. To explain why, we
must discuss a bit of math. There are currently approximately 309 million people living in the
United States who are eligible to vote, and 538 Electoral College Votes. By dividing 309 million
by 538, we arrive at the conclusion that each Electoral College vote represents approximately
574 thousand people.
However, by counting the votes from states, rather than from people, America is faced
with a number of inequalities and adverse impacts. The first of which is that states are not being
given proper representation. For example, Ohio has a population of 11.5 million, which, divided
by 574 thousand, shows that Ohio should have twenty Electoral College votes to accurately
represent the weight that their states vote has in an election. However, that is not the case
Ohio has only eighteen votes, rather than twenty. The missing two votes go to small states, such
as Rhode Island, which has a population of 1.1 million, meaning that it should have two votes.
However, it has four votes. Why? Because, according to the Electoral Colleges rules, each state
must have three Electoral College votes, and then afterwards, the rest of the votes are distributed
1 Raasch, Chuck. Electoral College Debate Intensifies. USA Today. USA Today, 24 Sept,
2004. Web. 24 Nov 2014
2 Edwards, George C. Faulty Premises: The Flawed Foundation of the Electoral College.
Texas A&M University Distinguished Lecture Series. 24 Sept, 2004.

according to population. This means that sparsely-populated states that should have one or two
votes actually have three or four. This may seem like a small issue, but it truly does add up.
California is short of ten votes because they had to be distributed to the smaller states. The
Electoral College is essentially pretending that more people live in places that they dont, and
less people live in places that they do. This is unfair, as it places more weight on the votes of
people in certain states. For example, a single Electoral College vote from Vermont is equivalent
to three Texas votes, which causes political unbalance, and allowing a certain group of peoples
votes to be worth more than anothers.
Not only are the votes unequally distributed, but the Electoral College also forces
candidates to only pay attention to the swing states, or battleground states, as they already
know that the states that always vote for one side will likely continue to vote that way.
Furthermore, in the Electoral College, due to the winner takes all system in all but two states,
winning by millions of votes is the same as winning by one vote. Therefore, it leaves candidates
safe to ignore states where they are winning by a large margin. The votes [living] in a Red or
Blue state as do 79% of Americans dont really matter.3 This concentration on swing
states and complete lack of consideration of Red or Blue states is shown by the candidates
statistics in the final two months of the 2011 election. During that time, the top four states that
candidates visited were swing states Ohio with sixty-two visits, Florida with forty-six,
Pennsylvania with forty, and Virginia with twenty-three. The candidates seem to concentrate on
these large, battleground states as to earn the most possible Electoral College Votes. It makes
them intensely interested in the needs of just a few states with close races to the detriment of
almost all Americans.

3 Edwards, Mike. Oppenheimer, Danny. Eliminate the Electoral College. 27 Sept., 2012.

The third, and final reason that America ought to abolish the Electoral College is that it provides
a false representation of the true wishes of the people. Should a candidate choose the correct
states, it is possible for them to win the election with only 21.91% of the popular vote. Granted,
this situation is highly improbable, but the fact that this is possible is most certainly an area of
concern. Besides, throughout history, the Electoral College has proved not once, not twice, but
thrice that it cannot be used as an accurate representation of the peoples wishes. In 1876, 1888,
and 2000, a candidate who won the popular vote lost the Electoral College votes, ultimately
causing them to lose the election. Three failures in the fifty or so total elections results in a
failure rate of about 5%. No one would tolerate a sport in which, 5% of the time, the loser could
win. Seeing as how the presidency of the United States is a much more important issue than a
sport, why is a system that tolerates this 5% failure rate still in place?
The best alternative to Americas current electoral process would be to a) abolish the
Electoral College and use a direct voting system, and to b) implement the Alternative Vote.
Unlike first past the post, the Alternative Vote allows people to rank the candidates in order of
most favorite to least favorite, rather than simply checking off a single candidate. Although the
Alternative Vote still has a few issues, they are issues that a first past the post system shares:
those of gerrymandering, unproprtional representation, preventing a Condorcet winder, and
ultimately leading to a two-party system that prevents political diversity. However, it does help
to stop the Spoiler Effect and encourages new or small parties to run. Let us revisit the same
example used above, wherein Candidate A received 5% of the votes, Candidate B 25%, C 25%,
D 30%, and E 15%. As Candidate A received the least number of first-choice votes, they are
eliminated from the race. The majority of votes listed Candidate C as their second choice, so it is
possible to simulate what the voting results would have been like if Candidate A did not run by

adding Candidate As 5% of votes to Candidate Cs 25%. Now, Candidate B has 25% of the
votes, C and D have 30%, and E has 15%. Now, Candidate C is eliminated, and their six of their
15% are given to Candidate C, and the other nine percent to Candidate D, whom were Candidate
Cs voters second choices. Next, Candidate B, having the fewest number of the votes, is
eliminated and has their 25% of votes given to Candidate C, who was named as the voters' next
choice. Now, Candidate C holds 61% of the popular vote, and Candidate D 39%, and thus
Candidate C wins the election. This differs from first past the post because it is a much better
representation of the peoples true wishes and produces results that more voters can agree on.
And, because votes are transferred to their next best option, voters will not be discouraged from
voting for candidates from small or new parties by the fact that it may allow someone that they
dont agree with to win, in converse to the first past the post system.
A direct voting system and the Alternative Vote provide a much better option in
comparison to the United States current election process. The Electoral College and first past
the post system, the most major parts of Americas election process, have major flaws that cause
the entirety of the election process to be ineffective in representing the true will of the people.
Under the current election system, there is no equality, there is no democracy. Different groups
votes have different weights, presidential candidates focus on convincing a few swing states at
the expense of the entire nation, there is no room for new, smaller, or emerging parties within the
first past the post system, and the peoples wishes are not accurately represented. Americas
current system does not protect the interests of small states or racial minorities, nor does it serve
as a bastion of federalism. Instead, [it] distorts the presidential campaign so that candidates
ignore most small states and many large ones and pay attention to the minorities.4 An effort
4 Edwards, George C. Faulty Premises: The Flawed Foundation of the Electoral College.
Texas A&M University Distinguished Lecture Series. 21 Sept, 2004.

to protect the equality and democracies that America so greatly values must be made, and it
cannot be done under our current election process.