Electoral College: Out With the Old and in With the New?

Does the Electoral College really represent the opinion of the United States, or has the time come to switch to the Popular Vote, or something different entirely?

Electoral College: Out With the Old and in With the New? (Getty Images)

San FranciscoIn the last five years, Gen Z has come of voting age and they tend to be disillusioned with traditional political structures and parties, and are skeptical of mainstream politics. About eight million Gen Z are eligible to vote this year and of that number, 47% are BIPOC. YR Media’s “Control Z: #Vote2024” series examines the impact the young generation will have this election season and how more Gen Z candidates are looking to have a seat at the table.

Every four years Americans vote for their preferred candidate for president and vice president. However, it is the Electoral College, a 300-year-old practice in which a select group of 538 electors from each state, choose who ultimately leads the nation. Each state has the same number of electors as there are members of the House of Representatives plus two Senators. 

The candidate who wins at least 270 electoral votes of the 538 electors wins. In France and Brazil, the President is chosen by Popular Vote or Ranked Choice Voting. 

Currently, the Pew Research Center reports that nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults (65%) say the way the president is elected should be changed so that the winner of the popular vote nationwide wins the presidency.  With Gen Z already disillusioned by the voting process, is it time to change?

Those in favor of the Electoral College believe it ensures that smaller states stay relevant in politics. They say this is consistent with what the Founding Fathers intended. Tina Mulally, a South Dakota Representative, stated that the Electoral College protects small state and minority interests. Another argument for the electoral process is that it creates more credibility for the winner rather than the popular vote which can often tally pretty close between two candidates. For example, The American Presidency Project reported that former President Barack Obama received 51.3% of the popular vote in 2012 but 61.7% of the electoral votes. 

Opponents of maintaining the Electoral College say that the only true snapshot of public opinion and will is the popular vote, one vote per adult. There are more than 332 million people in the United States, with the population expected to grow to almost 342 million by November 2024. But just 538 people decide who will be president; that’s about 0.000156% of the population deciding the president.

Jane Ryan,* a senior at Pomona University majoring in political science weighed in on how the Electoral College may not truly represent what want. But there would be a bigger issue. “I think re-building the entire system for presidential elections may be too complicated and may cause too much discord in our country,” Ryan said.

However, some states and local municipalities such as San Francisco, Minneapolis, and New York have already begun using a system similar to the popular vote called Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) to see if it is a viable option for larger-scale elections.  Ranked Choice Voting is a process that allows voters to rank candidates for a particular office in order of preference. Steering away from the Electoral College was found to have a slew of positive benefits with the Campaign Legal Center Reporting, using  Ranked Choice Voting in San Francisco had been shown to decrease negative campaigns, increase voter engagement, increase representation, and save money.  

Angelina Monet,* who turned 18 last December, said she is optimistic about her vote counting.  “Living in San Francisco, which uses  Ranked Choice Voting made me feel like my vote actually counted and made a difference in the election,” Monet said. 

Due to the implementation of  Ranked Choice Voting, San Francisco has seen voter turnout skyrocket, especially among young voters. This has been crucial to gaining input from this generation.

“The key to future success is going to be empowering youth to have real, tangible input on our city. We need to engage this next generation in determining the future of our city. It's time to let the queerest, and most accepting, generation vote,” said Chair of San Fransisco’s Youth Commission Ewan Barker. 

*Names have been changed for privacy.

Leah Mordehai (she/her) is from San Francisco and is a local youth journalist. 

Edited by Nykeya Woods

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