(NOTICE: This is an opinion article. Our goal is not to isolate people who do not agree with us, but rather to encourage conversation on these topics.)
In the 2016 US presidential elections, almost 2.9 million more people voted for Hillary Clinton than Donald Trump. Under the electoral college system, Trump won. However, most Americans voted against Trump, so he won against the will of the people. That doesn’t seem like a fair electoral system. Even countries with a less strong culture of democracy have better electoral systems, as they were devised sometime in the last century, not the 18th. The truth is, the world has been completely transformed since then (especially in the last 30 years) with the rise of phones and now the internet. We can know what’s going on in the other corner of the world in a matter of seconds. We have information at our fingertips. But whathasn’t changed since then is the electoral college system.
What was the logic behind the electoral college in the first place? Well, back then, people couldn’t really understand the problems of other parts of the country, so the Founding Fathers conceived that based on the popular vote, delegates would be assigned, who could then convene and discuss the problems facing all corners of the nation, and if need be, change their vote. Back then, this was the norm. Wise scholars would be selected to be delegates, and much power was placed in them, instead of the common public. Democracy was different in the 18th and 19th centuries. Citizens weren’t trusted with making critical decisions for the nation. Today, that’s not exactly the case. We are connected more than ever before.
So what am I suggesting instead? There is no perfect answer, but I see two feasible options. One option is that the candidate receiving the most votes wins. Simple enough. However, the problem is, neither Donald trump nor Hillary Clinton had the support of the majority of the country. It could be possible to win with most people opposing you. That doesn’t seem fair either. It might not seem like a big problem now, but what if the election gets split three ways. It wouldn’t be fair to award someone the next presidency because 33.1% of voters voted for him/her. But then what? The other option is to have a first round election; if no candidate wins more than 50%, then there is a second round, or run-off election, similar to the system in France. This way, the candidate who wins must receive the support of the majority of voters. Also, in many US elections, it is speculated that people are hesitant to vote for a third party or independent for fear that it would be a “wasted vote”. If this system were adopted, citizens could vote who they truly believed in, and then in the run-off, pick a second best option. Critics of this system say that after voters’ first choice is eliminated, many will simply not vote in the run-off. Which might be true, but in effect, this already happens in the US during the primaries.
No system is perfect; all have their faults. But we shouldn’t have to stick to a bad system. We should continually strive for a fairer electoral system that more accurately reflects the will of the people. It is just as important that elections be fair as it is that they be free. We often stick to the Constitution like it is unchangeable, and even talk of the prospect that somehow it could be significantly altered doesn’t happen. It should. We need to face the facts: the US constitution is a great one, and sets out the important ideals of liberty and justice. But some sections of it need to be reviewed, and updated to reflect how life is in the 21st century. I am not suggesting that Donald Trump is not a legitimate president, as he was elected according to the rules. I am suggesting that for elections coming forward, we could think about how to further advance our democracy in this day and age.
Presidential elections aren’t the only ones that are unfair. Congressional ones are too. I’ll demonstrate how with an example. Let’s say there’s a country where there are 20 congressional districts. In every single one, the Republican candidate won 51%. The Congress is now 100% Republican, although 49% of citizens in that country are not. Just because a political group doesn’t constitute a majority anywhere, they won’t have their voices heard. There are no Greens or Libertarians in Congress, although together, they could make up about almost 10% of the country. Congress does not accurately represent the political groups Americans voted for. Instead of the present system, we could use a system of proportional representation, where the percentage of seats given in the legislature to a party roughly corresponds to the percentage of votes it got. Voters nationwide would have the same ballot. One problem with this is that representatives are often involved and connected to their legislative districts. To have the best of both worlds, in certain countries, there is a fusion. There are party-list candidates elected by proportional representation, and other representatives elected in their local districts. Some countries even have so-called “compensation” candidates, where the rest of the vote in the local districts for the losing parties gets tallied up, and more seats are awarded to the party-lists. Obviously, all of this makes the system more complicated and more likely that somewhere in the way, something will be miscalculated or manipulated. Then again, the US’s present system with districts has also been manipulated by gerrymandering, or setting legislative districts in a way that they give advantage to certain parties.
At the end of the day, every system has its faults and failures. Nonetheless, we should still try to fight for the best system possible, as it is clear that the present one in the United States is quite unfair. Whatever we eventually decide upon must be a strong, secure system that cannot be easily manipulated. It is high time for the will of the people of this country be accurately represented. It’s time we make our elections fair.