Opinion: Electoral College serves country well once again
Perhaps all the attention paid to the Electoral College this year will serve to curb efforts to do away with the system, which has served the nation well and did again this year.
Recall that in 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote but not the presidency because Donald Trump managed to win traditional Democratic states such as Michigan and Wisconsin, giving him the edge in the Electoral College.
That marked the fifth time in 59 presidential elections, and second time in 16 years, that the winner lost the popular vote. These results produced cries from the left to scrap the Electoral College, which allots electoral votes based on the size of each state’s congressional delegation. Oklahoma, with five House members and two senators, has seven electors.
The Electoral College ensures that smaller-population states such as Oklahoma have a say in the outcome of presidential elections, instead of the most densely populated states. Four years ago, three states combined to give Clinton one-fifth of her vote total, while Trump received more votes than Clinton in 30 of the 50 states.
Candidates naturally focus their campaigns on swing states, but “safe” states have changed over time. Thus, “no presidential candidate can get to 270 electors without some combination of safe and swing states,” writes Tara Ross, a retired attorney and author of several books about the Electoral College. “… Every vote in every state matters. Without the Electoral College, these dynamics completely change.”
This year, Joe Biden won more votes than any candidate in history, roughly 81 million, and Trump won the second-most ever, more than 74 million. Concerns about a repeat of 2016 evaporated when Biden captured several states that put him beyond the 270 Electoral College votes he needed.
Arizona, Wisconsin and Georgia combined to help put Biden over the top, giving him 37 of his 306 electoral votes. The popular vote difference in the three states, meantime, was fewer than 43,000 votes, which is one reason why Trump fought to overturn results in those states.
That fight proved unsuccessful, and along the way some of Trump’s supporters even suggested state legislatures send Trump electors to Congress regardless of the outcome in their state. That didn’t materialize, thank goodness.
Instead, we had full-scale coverage of the official Electoral College tally on Monday, with some networks posting the totals on screen and updating them as states certified their electors. Biden officially got past 270 late in the afternoon when California’s 55 electoral votes became official.
Trump hasn’t acknowledged Biden as the victor and likely will not. Many Republicans, however, are finally coming around, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky.
“As of this morning, our country has officially a president-elect and a vice president-elect,” McConnell said Tuesday on the Senate floor. “The Electoral College has spoken.” May it continue to do so for generations to come.