The Electoral College: Giving Citizens the Illusion of Choice by Richard Erickson

After a very tense election, the results are finally counted. Many people are unhappy with both options and are being forced to pick their poison. Then it is finally reported that Trump won the election while losing the popular vote. Many are outraged by the fact their candidate somehow lost while winning. Unfortunately this isn’t the first time a result like this occurred, and it certainly won’t be the last. For the fourth time in U.S. history the president elect has lost the popular vote, leaving the election with a 9% failure rate. If this were a sport where the loser won 9% of the time because of a fluke in the rules no one would watch or play it, so how is it acceptable for the presidential election?

If you are unfamiliar with how the presidential election actually works, it’s basically a bunch of local elections. Instead of directly voting for the president, citizens vote for how they want their representatives to cast their electoral votes, which are what actually determine the president. In general it is a winner-take-all system, where whoever most votes in a state gets all that state’s electoral votes. This means that a candidate doesn’t need to be voted for by the majority of the population, they just need to receive more votes than their competitors. As a result this means that someone can get one vote and still win a state’s electoral votes. This means someone could hit the required 270 electoral votes to become president, but only have 11 people voting for them. Of course a scenario like that is unreasonable. It would require no more than 1 person voting in each of the 11 most populous states. On top of that they would also all need to vote for the same person.

Unfortunately there is a much more possible result that ends with the president being voted for by ~21% of the total U.S. population. Rather than assuming that only three ten billionths of a percent of the population vote, it assumes 100% of the population votes. It also assumes that people don’t vote third party, but that is actually semi-reasonable since voting third party is basically the same thing as not voting at all because of the winner-take-all system. Speaking of which, the winner-take-all system is essential for winning in this scenario. If you win the votes of exactly half the population plus one you will win the votes in that state, so the strategy to win with the smallest amount of the population voting for you is to focus entirely on the smallest states while ignoring the big states. Using population data from the 2012 U.S. Census, this means that if you win half plus 1 of the votes in Wyoming, Washington D.C, Vermont, North Dakota, Alaska, South Dakota, Delaware, Montana, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Hawaii, Idaho, West Virginia, New Mexico, Kansas, Nevada, Utah, Arkansas, Iowa, Mississippi, Connecticut, Oklahoma, Oregon, Kentucky, Louisiana, South Carolina, Alabama, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Missouri, Indiana, Tennessee, Arizona, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and North Carolina, and all of the vote from Maine and Nebraska, you can reach the required 270 electoral votes to win with only 20.8% of the population voting for you.

This is partially caused by how many votes are given to each state. Each state is given votes equal to the amount of representatives they have in congress. This means that states can have no fewer than three votes, two for the Senate and one for the House. Because the votes aren’t entirely based on population you get situations where the vote from someone in Wyoming is worth more than the vote of someone in California because Wyoming has 93,938 people per electoral vote, and California has 338,672 people per electoral vote. This is where the strategy of ignoring the highly populated states comes from, as one vote in Wyoming is worth about 3.6 votes in California.

Winning with ~21% of the popular vote is madness, but the Electoral College can cause far worse results than that. In actuality, electors are only encouraged to vote the same way as the people they represent. This means that they can vote for whoever they want without breaking any laws, and therefore you don’t need anyone to vote for you to become president, assuming you have supporters on the college. Now this has never happened in the history of the U.S, and hopefully it never will, but the fact that this is even a possibility is unacceptable if we want a fair system for electing the president.

In all of these three scenarios the vast majority of the population is unhappy with the result. Certainly if you voted for the winner you may be happy, your team won, but the presidential election isn’t a game. If you see this as an okay result you don’t seem to want a democracy. Instead you seem to want something closer to a dictatorship, where a potentially small group of people decides the rules for the rest of the population.

As it stands we have a system where ~9% of the time we elect the wrong person, and 100% of the time more than half the population is unhappy. Certainly about half the population will always end up unhappy as a result of our voting system, but the electoral college only compounds the problem. It allows for situations where ~80-100% of the population is unhappy in a 2-party system, and this is unacceptable if we hope to have a fair system where the most supported person always wins the election.

If you look back to the formation of the U.S. government these rules certainly make more sense. When mail carried by horses is the best form of communication, a country wide vote would be horribly slow. On top of that the electors being able to overrule the people makes more sense when only a small fraction of the population can read. It’s not hard to imagine a situation where illiterate farmers don’t elect a very qualified person as president. However these rules need to change with the times. At this point using the electoral college instead of going off the popular vote doesn’t make much sense. If we just went off popular vote we wouldn’t have a situation where the losing candidate wins anyway, or any of these possibilities where a small fraction of the population elects the president.


The importance of History in Modern Day Society by Hunter Kinney

I realized my love for history when I was in sophomore year my history class was  world history. I had a teacher that realized I had great knowledge of the subjects so she would push me to answer all the questions, or would give me a harder subject to write a paper on. And through these challenges I realized how much I was enjoying doing all the hard work and research to write the papers or to make a presentation. We talked often about world history and how some events could have changed the world with just the smallest change in the actions taken. These talks were the final push I needed to realize how much I truly love the subject of history. I finished the year with not only a newfound love of history but also a plan for the future. I knew I wanted to study world history in college and take that knowledge to get a job in a top museum or maybe come back home and get a job at the Denver Natural History museum.

The importance of learning history is so that you can make better thought out decisions in today’s democracy. Having a general knowledge of history is good and can be beneficial but without a better understanding of what you know and why it happened you could never know why the world is what it is today. Knowing why the conquistadors invaded Mexico, and why the Belgians took over the congo with an iron fist are two different topics but they have the same purpose behind them. And knowing the purpose is the most important thing when talking about history events. Without knowing the purpose of events in history is like not knowing history at all. The importance of knowing the purpose in history events is so you can actually apply those events to modern day events that happen all around you everyday. For example knowing why Pres. Lincoln first got the North engaged in the Civil War is one of the most important facts about American history there is to know. Knowing why he made the Gettysburg Address at Gettysburg, why he appointed certain generals to certain areas is even very important because you learn that he was not the only one making decisions in the war room.

Why knowing all these things are important is so you can understand why and how the decisions that kept America together were made. There are arguments to say that Pres. lincoln was the greatest President ever, or that Pres. George Washington for fighting for the freedom of the people of the United States of America. Knowing these two presidents is a necessary part of participating in America’s democracy. The events that have been happening in the last couple of weeks since Pres-elect Donald Trump was voted in have been some of the events that these two presidents talked about hundreds of years ago. Pres. G. Washington is quoted saying that a two party system would tear America apart. And Pres. Lincoln asked men to fight and die to keep America under one banner and a one party system.

The only way to actually participate in this conversation that is a part of our current democracy is to be actually knowledgeable about what decisions they made and why not something else. Knowing general history of America is good enough to participate in basic voting. But being able to know why some candidates are actually running for president, and for knowing why presidents in the past ran instead of others. We have a perfect example of why some people run some years instead of others. And why they run for some reasons instead of what they might have said in earlier years. Pres-elect Donald Trump is a very interesting person to win the election, because not only is America in a more democratic swing right now with the years President Obama gave us. But once Donald Trump won the election there were riots, people protesting, minority groups were terrified for their safety in public and even in their home. When Donald Trump was running for president he started off saying very radical ideas like building a wall at the Mexican-American border. He degraded a crippled veteran, he talked down to women. He also found a way to talk about China in every speech no matter the topic of the question. Eventually his speeches swayed more towards what the people wanted to hear and more on topic if asked a question. Although he did switch his speeches up one topic he talked about constantly is how bad of a person Hillary Clinton is. He always brought up the 30,000 deleted emails, and her abandoning American soldiers in Benghazi.

Both the candidates this year have been a complete 180 from the past two campaigns run against each other. But now that we are past the election and we do have a new president in Donald Trump, we as the American people refuse to work together under the one banner that won. After the election there were riots, protests, and people not going to work. Yet after the democrats won the last two years the republicans went back to work, did not riot or protest, they accepted Pres. Obama as their leader and went along with what needed to be done to make America better. Events like these are why knowing more about history is important so you can why people are doing what they are doing, when they are doing it. Knowing these things allows for you and others around you to not repeat history.