High School Essay Contest: 2nd Place

This semester, the Buckley Program held a high school essay contest with the topic: If you could propose an amendment to the U.S. Constitution, what would it be? The following essay by Holden Whaley, a freshman at Xavier High, won 2nd place. 

The Change I Hope to See

To have a fair democracy every vote needs to count for the same amount, allowing each person to have the same voice in our government. This is essential to any indirect democracy as it is built on the social contract theory.  This theory states that the people of a nation give a smaller group of people the right to govern them, if they respect the will of the people. As Abraham Lincoln said, it’s “government of the people, by the people, and for the people”. This in turn means that democracy is based on the popular will of the people, as not everyone will agree. However, in America, that is not always the case; while most elections and votes are won by majority rule, the presidential election does not always work this way. The system for electing a president in America is known as the electoral college, and due to several factors, it sometimes allows a president to win without amassing a majority of the vote. In my opinion, if someone can win without a majority, the system is unfair. So, if I could propose an amendment to the United States constitution, I would propose that the electoral college is abolished in favor of the two-round system.

While it is easily observable that the electoral college has put a president into office without a majority votes, as just last year Donald Trump won with only 46% of the vote, it is important to understand why this happens. The electoral college assigns a certain number of electors to a state based on its population. These electors are pledged to vote for the candidate who wins a majority of the votes within a state. If you take the population of the United States, approximately 323 million, and divide it by the number of electors, 538, you get about 600,500 people per elector. Based on the previous ratio it would be fair to give Wyoming, which has a population of around 586,000, one elector; however, it is given three electors, as all states start with three. Many other smaller states are given more electors than they deserve, because of this rule. This is unrepresentative to larger states, like California, Texas, and New York, which should be given 10, 8, and 4 more electors respectively, to be fair. This shows that the electoral college is inherently unequal in its rules.

Some people fear that by eliminating the electoral college, candidates would only campaign for and care about people in higher populated areas. This would obviously be just as unrepresentative as the electoral college; except for the fact that this would not happen. The top 10 most populated cities only make up about 11% of the United Sates population, and every city after the top ten most populated have less than a million people residing in them. This means that winning over the most populated cities in the U.S. would not even guarantee that candidates win in the election. Even if this is still worrisome to people of rural communities, candidates already focus on specific locations in elections. 94% of election events in the 2016 presidential race were held in just 12 of the states. States like Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio are frequently campaigned in, as they are considered swing states. Other countries such as France, a very urbanized country, use the two-round system; the rural population in the U.S. is 19% while the rural population in France is 20%. This shows that using majority vote would be viable for the U.S. in terms of population density.

So, the electoral college is unrepresentative of the population, and does not protect anyone’s vote from being insignificant. Due to these facts it should be clear that the voting system needs to be changed.  I would propose the two-round system, as it allows for more political parties to have a chance of winning. It functions like this: there is one ballot with all the possible candidates, if no one candidate gets over 50% of the votes, then there is another round with only the two most popular candidates. Here’s an example of why this helps smaller parties: if Bernie Sanders chose to run as a third-party candidate, this system could have allowed him to compete with Trump. In this hypothetical without the two-round system, people who would want to vote for Bernie would be fearful that if they did, that Trump might win, as Bernie supporters are mostly Democrats. This would cause people to vote for Hillary instead of Bernie, fearing he would not get enough votes. In the two-round system, people could vote for Bernie and not fear that they would help the opposing candidate win.