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Milt Hankins: Electoral College system is unfair

Feb. 08, 2013 @ 11:47 AM

I heard about the Electoral College in high school, but I didn’t understand it any better when I learned about it in college. Here’s a brief essay about what it is:

The Electoral College is made up of “electors” who choose the president of the United States. If you thought your vote on Election Day was counted and the person who won the majority of all of the popular votes cast across the United States would automatically become the next president, you were absolutely … wrong!

Each state’s number of “electors” is determined by the number of delegates the state has in the U. S. Congress as representatives and senators. In the last election, West Virginia had five; Kentucky had eight; and Ohio had 18 electors.

Obviously, the citizens of West Virginia and Kentucky totaled together were not as important to the candidates as were the citizens of Ohio. If you voted for President Obama in either West Virginia or Kentucky, for all intents and purposes, your vote did not count, period. No need to wonder why the candidates didn’t bother to visit West Virginia or Kentucky.

Well, that’s not precisely true. Presidents like to have as many popular votes as possible so they can say they had the popular majority. The astounding thing is that a candidate can win a majority of the popular vote throughout the country and still lose in the Electoral College. It has happened several times in our history.

The Electoral College was written into the U. S. Constitution to ensure that the larger, more populous states had a greater voice in the election of the president. Well, perhaps that wasn’t its original intent, but that’s how it has worked out over the years. It takes 271 votes in the Electoral College to win the presidency. Therefore, if a candidate wins California (55), New York (29), Texas (38), Florida (29), Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Illinois (20 each), Michigan (16), North Carolina (15), Virginia (13), Washington (12), Massachusetts (11), he or she wins the presidency! 

Naturally, for every one of these states they lose, they must make it up with several of the smaller states. In other words, it takes the sum of Kentucky and West Virginia’s votes to make up for, say, the loss of Virginia’s. If the candidate is assured of Virginia’s “electors,” he or she could care less about Kentucky or West Virginia.

My vote in Kentucky counted a little over one-half as much as my son’s vote in Virginia. But, since Kentucky went Republican, as everyone knew it would, I might as well have stayed home on Election Day. Fair? No! Your vote in West Virginia was worth less than half of my son’s vote in Virginia. Fair? No.

The Electoral College idea, enshrined in the U.S. Constitution, is unfair. Presidents should be elected by the popular vote of ALL Americans. And, it doesn’t make sense to wait until the next presidential election to try to change this antiquated system. Let’s start working to change it now!

Milt Hankins of Ashland, Ky., is a retired minister, theologian and freelance writer.



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