Why we should elect presidents by popular vote

Columnist: Bayley Baker is a senior studying mass media and political science. The goal of this column is to mobilize and inspire Washburn students by educating them on politics.

Only slightly more than half of all eligible voters cast ballots in presidential elections. Even fewer than that vote in midterm elections. Why?

A major reason is that many Americans feel like their vote doesn’t matter. While I disagree with this - I firmly believe that everyone’s vote ​does ​matter. I see where those people are coming from. America’s elections are broken, but they can be fixed.

It is going to take big, structural changes. I have one idea about where to start: abolishing the Electoral College and electing the president by popular vote.

Our current Electoral College system effectively marginalizes millions of voters living in firmly red or blue states. In a winner-take-all system, any votes over the 50% margin are considered “wasted votes.” This means that voters in states with a heavy partisan lean have a much lower chance of actually impacting the election. It’s not surprising that public knowledge of this fact results in lower voter turnout.

In every presidential election, candidates are forced to only compete in a handful of swing states, and effectively ignore voters in every other state in the union. This anti-democratic campaign style is largely forced by the winner-take-all Electoral College system. This undermines the principle of every person’s vote making a difference.

Abolishing the Electoral College would reshape our democracy for the better. Not only would it ensure that the person who got more votes would win the presidency, but it would also force candidates to spend time engaging with voters in all 50 states, instead of just a few key swing states. By electing our presidents by popular vote, every vote would matter.

Polls show that most voters would prefer to elect the president by national, popular vote over the existing Electoral College system. It’s time for lawmakers to force presidential candidates to build real, nationwide bases of support and strengthen our democracy by ditching the Electoral College.

Edited by Jason Morrison, Adam White, Jessica Galvin

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