Electoral College represents rural voters

Brian Westrick

The Electoral College is a confusing concept for many. We’re aware of the simple version of it; presidential candidates attempt to win states, rather than individual votes.

By winning these states, the candidates bank a certain number of electors, or “points.” The number of points, or votes, that a candidate can win from a certain state is directly proportional to the population of the state, as it is the same as the number of Congressmen who can represent the state.

With a finite number of points available to the candidates, a candidate must secure “50 percent plus one,” of the votes to be elected president.

It’s complicated, convoluted and makes some states matter more than others.

The Electoral College system is not without its critics. Among the chief criticisms is the nature of “swing states,” or states that can be unpredictable come election day.

There are many critics who say that this makes a vote in Ohio or Florida, two of the largest swing states, more important than, say, a vote in California.

It is with this in mind that a large cry has been heard to go to a popular vote to choose the president. While this may solve the swing state problem, it creates new problems that the Electoral College actually does address.

First, it prevents an urban-centric electoral process. More than 75 percent of Americans live in areas that could be considered urban, or at the very least, metropolitan.

This creates a problem in which a candidate can completely ignore rural voters, and go so far as to state that these rural areas don’t matter and could shape policy in that fashion.

For example, a massive subsidy to people living in urban areas at the expense of rural Americans might be enough to secure a majority of urban votes, which creates an underrepresented sect of Americans.

This is an issue that those of us in the U.P. already deal with on a smaller scale. When it comes to electing congressmen or governors in Michigan, the U.P. can be essentially ignored and a candidate can still win the office without much problem.

Our population is so small and spread so thin that we are politically irrelevant. This makes us a small-scale example of what could happen to every rural voter in the country should a popular vote be instated.

Some may ask if our situation doesn’t make us more of a model of a state in the Electoral College than a model for rural voters. The answer is that no matter how liberal or conservative a particular state is, after time, if the party that a state typically supports continues to fail to serve the interests of the state, the party will lose hold on power within the state.

The former deputy director of the Office of Election Administration, William Kimberling, in 1992, stated in his report that it also helped to enhance the voting power of minorities.

By breaking the election down state-by-state, more diverse states force candidates to acknowledge and to campaign toward minority voters. This means any minority population throughout the nation that is prevalent in a state. This could include legal immigrants, the elderly and white collar Americans, among others.

It also addresses issues that may come from low voter turnout. With a November election, it is perfectly reasonable to believe that voters in New England, or the Midwest may be less likely to make it to the polling stations.

The smaller sample that may accurately represent those who were unable to make it, even though not all voters could do so.

The Electoral College is not perfect. Any method used to measure an executive in charge of 300 million people will have its share of flaws.

While the popular vote has its strengths, it comes with a host of problems that many believe to be much more damaging than the system in place.