On November 7th, 2020, Joe Biden was elected as the 46th President of the United States of America. Around the country, Americans held their breath for five long days as Pennsylvania and Nevada took their precious time counting votes, knowing the fate of the nation was in their hands. And finally, on Tuesday morning, we breathed a communal sigh of relief. But why could we not have been cheering in the streets five days earlier, rejoicing in the bounties of our democratic government on Tuesday night? That extra week of existential dread, procrastination, nail-biting, and bang-cutting to feel in control of something was thanks to the Electoral College. 

Biden won the popular vote Tuesday night, but he was still nowhere close to winning the election. This phenomenon of “winning-without-really-winning” has influenced more than one presidential election, and it raises the question: why do we keep the Electoral College around? The answer is more complicated than one might think. There are a lot of myths surrounding why the Electoral College even exists: many argue it protects small states, the Founding Fathers wanted it this way, and it keeps the party system fair and equal. Not only are all of these notions false, but they are nonsensical. If America really had a system that valued every vote equally, then every eligible voter would get one vote, and the candidate who got the most would win. Unfortunately, this is not the case. The Electoral College gives every state a set number of delegates, all of whom must elect their state’s popular vote winner, essentially rendering the votes of political minorities in strong ‘blue’ or ‘red’ regions useless. This means that in every presidential election, the votes of 80 percent of American voters, roughly 100 million people, are ignored. 

This system does not uphold the democratic principles that are supposed to be demonstrated in the name of American ideals. And yet, for the last 243 years, politicians from the Republican party, which has a history of perpetuating slavery, segregation, and systemic racism, have been resisting the abolition of this policy because it protects white voters. In relation to the actual distribution of the US population, former confederate states are weighted more heavily than highly concentrated blue states. For example Wyoming, with a population of around 540,000 is awarded 3 electoral votes, which means that each vote represents around 180,000 people. Massachusetts, which has a population of around 6,500,000, only has 15 electoral votes, making each vote represent 541,666 people. Wyoming, a state that’s 92.5% white, votes are valued at 300% of the average American vote. At this point, it is a question of basic fairness. 

The Electoral College makes it so that some communities are given more of a voice on a national scale than others, and it gives some states more power because of their party fluidity. Not only does this keep politicians from focusing on issues that remain central to millions of Americans in non-swing states, it contradicts the very notion of democracy. The most important takeaway is that it does not have to be this way. Even with President Trump’s defeat, we cannot be complacent in a governmental system that is failing us. The way the Electoral College functions today is the result of many individual states’ policies. A little known fact is that every state gets to divide their electoral votes between the two candidates however they want, and there is already a movement to support always choosing the popular vote winner. So far, 15 states with a total of 196 electoral votes, including Massachusetts and the District of Columbia, have signed onto an agreement which will award states’ electors to the popular vote winner no matter what. If just 74 more electoral votes worth of states sign on to this plan, the popular vote winner will always become president in future elections, and every vote will finally matter. This change can and will happen; we just have to keep fighting for justice.