As Donald Trump’s supporters rejoice in their unforeseen triumph, his numerous opposers seem to have erected one last hurdle for him to jump: the electoral college vote.
Thousands of democratic voters have launched desperate efforts to reverse Trump’s upsetting victory after a petition for electors from states that supported Trump to change their votes attained more than 500,000 signatures on Change.org. Washington elector P. Bret Chiafalo, and Colorado elector Micheal Baca have founded a campaign entitled “Moral Electors” in order to persuade thirty-seven Republican electors to switch their votes, thus ensuring a Clinton victory. They point to the fact that Clinton reportedly won the popular vote by more than two million votes, arguing that electors have the power to correct this failure of true democracy by changing their votes in her favor.
Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, has taken on similar efforts to drag electors to the Democratic candidate, calling for recounts in Pennsylvania, Michigan, and Wisconsin. She argues that widespread allegations of fraud renders recounts in these three, razor-thin states logical. However, the states appear to have little intention of recounting ballots.
If history is a reliable judge, a Clinton victory has been ruled unlikely. Presidents Adams, Hayes, Harrison, and Bush all succeeded in gaining the presidency while losing the popular vote and only very rarely have electors voted in opposition with their state majorities. In fact, many states have proposed laws that bind electors to vote in accordance with their home-state majorities. It seems that the United States has faith enough in the electoral college that it will not be eliminated.
Nevertheless, efforts to ensure a Clinton victory have called into question the manner in which elections are conducted in the United States. Many Americans fervently argue that the Electoral College preserves geographical equality by preventing candidates from pandering to a few densely populated cities, thus forcing them to create a nation-wide appeal. They reason that the country’s founders formed the College as an ingenious device in order to prevent direct democracy from producing a tyrannical majority. However, opposers of the Electoral College contend that it renders millions of votes insignificant, causes politicians to pander to swing states, and prevents the accomplishment of authentic democracy.
In reality, the Electoral College has become a partisan controversy, which implies that it is unlikely to undergo any great change. The College is widely seen to give sparsely-populated, rural Republican states a voice. In fact, the two most recent Republican presidents have only the Electoral College to thank for their victories, as both lost the popular vote. Therefore, many Republicans are hesitant to embrace Electoral College reform or elimination, as it would impede their growth and success as a party. Democrats, on the other hand, feel that the Electoral College decreases their rightful, proportional influence, awarding small Republican states excessive power.
Ultimately, it seems that democratic disdain for the Electoral College will not be enough to overturn Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory. A Clinton victory would require an absolute repudiation of electoral tradition and a willingness to defy over two centuries of accepted methodology. But in an election that has been riddled with extraordinary unorthodoxy from the start, 2016 just may conclude with the inevitable upset of the Electoral College.
By Natasha Herle