This election is rigged, but not in the way one might think based on what is discussed in the news.
This election is rigged because the vote of a citizen in Vermont is worth three times the vote of an equally qualified citizen in Texas. This system has led to five elections where a candidate won the popular vote, yet lost the election.
The clearest example of this flaw is in the 1888 presidential election when incumbent Grover Cleveland lost the electoral college while winning the popular vote. The following election cycle in 1892, Cleveland ran again, winning the popular vote for the third election in three tries and demonstrating that the will of the people is not represented by an Electoral College.
The common argument against a popular vote—apart from the idea that we should preserve the will of the Founding Fathers—is that candidates would choose simply to campaign in the most highly populated areas or specific regions as opposed to running on platforms and promises with a national focus. Simply put, this reasoning ignores the facts of the situation.
Under the current structure, in 2016, the largest state in the U.S. by population, California, was treated to zero campaign stops by both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton after each candidate clinched their party nominations. In fact, Hillary Clinton spent more days campaigning in Florida, Ohio, and Pennsylvania than the 47 other states combined.
Though a popular vote might lead to more campaign stops in higher populated states such as California or Texas, that should not be considered a con. A democracy is supposed to represent the will of the people, and therefore regions with more people should be valued over those with less. In the 2012 election, 54,132,897 people, or 43% of all votes cast, were ignored. These are the number of votes, Republican and Democratic, cast in states whose majority, and subsequently 100% of their electoral votes, went for the opposing candidate. The 4,839,958 Republican votes in California, a number larger than the population of 25 states, would have had an equal say in the election had they stayed home that day and watched TV. In a time when celebrities are posting videos online to go vote and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is streaming to 400,000 viewers on Twitch about utilizing their voices, the institutions currently in place do the opposite.
The presidency is the most important job in our country, arguably in the world, and we somehow narrow it down to two people out of hundreds of millions.
It is also a fairly widespread consensus that the main candidates of the past two elections all have serious flaws and would likely not be many voter’s first choices. Another argument against a popular vote is that it encourages more candidates to run as independents, resulting in a possible President who only received 35% of the vote, the majority simply due to there being four candidates. In my eyes, this is an outcome we should strive for as a country. There are too many qualified individuals barred from running for president because, under the current circumstances, they would never receive enough funding or backing to carry the required amount of states. We should be doing everything we can to encourage as many candidates as possible. The presidency is the most important job in our country, arguably in the world, and we somehow narrow it down to two people out of hundreds of millions.
This opinion piece is not meant to say Clinton should have beaten Trump or Gore unfairly lost to Bush, as I acknowledge campaigns would be managed drastically differently if the goal was to receive a majority of votes; all I am attempting to do is to provide the facts needed to spark a dialogue around an important issue and hopefully give enough of an argument to motivate you to do research on this issue and form an opinion of your own.