It never fails that when an election is close many begin to claim the voting system itself is rigged and unfair. With the current drama of some calling for recounts and their unfounded claims that foreign governments like Russia may somehow be working to disrupt the process, are advocates correct when they claim America’s voting process is broken?
The answer to that question lies somewhere between “of course it is” and “we enjoy the best voting system man has ever known.” Wherever one falls within that spectrum, there is no doubt that confidence in the system is at an all-time low. But is that because the system itself is corrupt?
We believe the current question about our voting system is directly connected to a general fall in American pride in general. A recent Gallup poll showed that those who are extremely proud to be an American has fallen from a high of 69% to below 30% in 2016.
There is no doubt that Americans’ declining patriotism is probably related more to their broader dissatisfaction with the economy than their thoughts on the Electoral College vs. popular vote in our last presidential election.
It is interesting to note that those with the least national pride make up the same demographic as those who distrust the system – political liberals, millennials, democrats, nonwhites and college graduates.
Conversely, the most patriotic demographic – Republicans, conservatives, and those aged 50 to 64 – show more confidence in both the primary and general election system than other groups.
If any side offers proof that at least part of the system is broken, it is the Democrat party. Hillary Clinton’s primary win in Wyoming’s despite being trounced by Bernie Sanders in the popular vote is great evidence that party will allow no outsider to win, no matter what it’s voters have to say.
On the Republican side, things ended up quite differently. In spite of a furious scramble by the GOP establishment to thwart Trump’s nomination, his sizeable popular support ruled the day at the convention.
Every loser wants to find fault for their loss, and what easier target than the voting system itself? Thus the current flap over the Electoral College (EC). Opponents of the EC, like the editorial staff of Salon, claim that the system setup at the birth of this nation has made it where the only place votes really count is in swing states.
It is true that more money is spent courting votes during presidential elections in those states and for good reason. In these states, it might go Republican, or it might go Democrat — and so all the money, ads, and visits are focused on there. It makes sense to put a campaign’s money and time where it might change all that state’s voters to its side, and not where the votes are certain.
Candidates campaign under the current system in place, not some imagined “better” system. They put their money and time today where they see the best chance of winning – and that is in the swing states. Perhaps if the system were different that would change as well but all this is hypothetical. If the system was different, candidates would surely manage their campaigns differently.
The first reaction the uninitiated have when they see the winner received fewer popular votes than the loser is to say the system is flawed. Lay aside the founders’ original intent and consider that from a purely practical angle.
Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote is accounted for by five counties in California and two in New York. If the popular vote held more weight than anything else, 90% of the time and money spent by both candidates would have been in only seven out of thousands of counties in the entire country.
If there was some different system, where they spent time, and where they bought time to communicate with voters, campaign funds would be spent totally differently. It’s entirely possible, under a different system, with them campaigning differently, that exactly the same politicians would be elected as are elected now.
There will always be a need for election reforms, most notably in who is allowed to cast a ballot in the first place. Perhaps when democrats quit denying voter fraud even exists and stonewalling common sense Voter ID laws they will get a better hearing about the whole matter.