The Electoral College Is Funny


On November 9th, 2016, the states of Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan held elections. Some other states held elections too, but these ones were a little more important. By around 3 AM, the whole world would know why. Donald Trump won these three states by a combined 70,000 votes. While 70,000 is seemingly an insignificant number compared to the almost 3,000,000 vote margin that his opponent, Hillary Clinton, claimed in the nationwide vote, it was actually much more important. This is because no poll, strategist or pundit ever thought Trump would win these states, all of which were taken handily by President Barack Obama in the previous two elections. However, what was thought of as impossible, happened. And due to the 46 votes that these states possess in the Electoral College, Donald Trump went on to be President, which he still is for the time being.

This event was unforeseen by the framers of the Constitution, who never envisioned a President elected by popular or statewide votes, but by electors chosen by conventions or legislatures. How the Electoral College came to work was that voters in states would choose their candidate, and the winning candidate’s electors would (almost) surely vote for him in the Electoral College. The framers of the Constitution did not know this, but their meticulously designed manner of choosing an executive would soon evolve into the single greatest joke of all time. 

The Joke is a simple one: a candidate that wins the most votes, loses to a candidate who got less votes, because the Loser had more votes in the right states (Now Laugh). The joke become more funny as we analyze it further. Since the number of electoral college votes a state gets is based on its number of seats in Congress, which is not completely proportional, states with lower populations have more influence than states that have more people (Now Laugh). This makes the joke more funny, because this means that conservative candidates, who generally receive support from thinly populated states such as Montana, Wyoming, and Idaho, stand to benefit the most from the Electoral College, and historically they always have. All 4 times the Electoral College has overturned a popular vote, it has been a Republican that claimed victory over a Democrat. This is the punchline. Did the Founding Fathers reach beyond time and death itself to push Donald Trump, perhaps the least qualified person to fulfill the founders’ vision for an executive, into the White House?

Ok, no they didn’t. It is funny however, but Democrats shouldn’t despair. Due to shifting demographics and coalitions, soon the joke will be on the Republicans. Since the also-comedic election of 2000, several states, specifically the mountain states of Colorado, New Mexico and Nevada, have “gone blue”, with little hope of “going red” any time soon. As this trend, largely caused by urbanization and immigration (from other states as well as other countries), continues it will become more and more difficult for Republicans to win the electoral college. Ironically, it will soon be the Republicans on the butt end of this hilarious joke. 

But there is one more twist to the story. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), a pact among states to choose electors based on the national vote rather than their individual statewide votes, is currently sitting just below the 270-vote threshold it needs to pass in order to take effect. However, should the Grand Joke turn on Red States, the pact could soon find itself flush with new members. This would for the first time turn the Presidential Election into a nationwide contest, and return the GOP’s potency to win the Presidency. And it would not be possible without the vain attempts of Blue States, most of whom are already in the pact, to circumvent the Constitution. And when it all was over, the GOP spent what the Democrats had made: and in the bottom of their hearts they felt their laughter.