Do the primary/PPE party-driven systems and the EC promote fair elections in American democracy? If you had to change one, how would you do it?
Neither the Presidential Preference elections nor the Electoral College promote fair elections in that they ultimately exclude a large number of voters. This is mostly due to the fact that both systems are party-based, and when one party gains the majority, all those who originally voted for the other party lose representation. I personally find it surprising that more people are not aggravated by this. It takes the purpose out of voting for some in that if you live in a state where your party is consistently the minority; your vote will never really count! Ultimately, it is clear that the two party system that dominates American politics today creates many problems for the maintenance of fair elections and these two particular systems further add to them.
At first glance, the Presidential Preference Elections seem sound and just. In the primary, you as a citizen are able to go vote for the candidate directly. However, there are immediate restrictions on how you can vote. Each state is able to dictate what kind of primary they will have. These include open, closed, blanket primaries, etc. Even the least restricting primary, not surprisingly referred to as an open primary, limits you to vote in only one party’s primary, although you are free to choose which one regardless of affiliation. However, only 14 states even use open primaries. This adds to the control of the two party system. Furthermore, you are not directly voting for your candidate. Rather, you are voting for their delegates and these delegates are not chosen by the people but by the parties themselves.
In addition, the time in which the primary is held during the season creates inequality among states in terms of influence. The states that hold their primaries first serve as models for the rest of the states, which gives them more power in determining the party’s candidate. This creates a disadvantage for the states who hold their primaries later, for at that point the party’s nominee is basically decided. Therefore, if you live in a state that has a later primary, your voice and vote go largely unheard.
These types of issues can be seen even more so in the Electoral College. When first born, the College served as the best way to promote fair elections for it allowed the masses who might have been unavailable geographically to vote to be represented. However, as time has gone on, this old system no longer fits our growing country. There are a number of flaws that make it unfair. First and foremost, it’s outdated! There isn't necessarily a reason to have representative electors when people can now vote for themselves. It made sense to have this type of a system at the time in which the Constitution was written, but just as we have added multiple amendments to the Constitution, so too should this system be amended. I mean, we have the general election anyway, so why not just count the votes and call it good!
Second, the system in which the number of electors for each state is determined is defective. It gives the smaller states an advantage in the college because even if the population is small, they still get a minimum of three electors in that they get two for their senators and one for their representative. This gives a smaller number of people more representation and ultimately pull in the Electoral College. Furthermore, because of their power, candidates often have to do more campaigning in these states, which leaves other states ignored.
This behavior by the candidates is also amplified by the “winner take all” method that is used in voting. Because the party that receives the majority gets all of the electors for that state, candidates are discouraged from campaigning in states that are dominated by the opposing party. I could only guess that this could further amplify the power of the majority party in each particular state because then those who are uneducated/undecided will heavily hear only one candidate’s campaign promises. But what’s most instrumental to the hindrance of fair elections in regards to “winner take all” method is that all those who did actually turn out and vote for the candidate representing the losing party will still lose their representation in the Electoral College, making their votes are meaningless.
It seems like instituting any sort of change to these complicated systems would be potentially disastrous not to mention effort intensive. However, I think there is a possible fix that would make the elections more fair. As I highlighted earlier, the “winner takes all” method makes it so that a large portion of people from every state lose their representation. If we changed it so that we took the proportional representation system that Maine and Nebraska use in the Electoral College and applied it to all the states, the elections would become more fair. This way even if the state was say, more heavily Republican, those who voted for the Democrat candidate would still be represented by a proportional amount of Democrat electors. It wouldn’t necessarily make the elections become perfectly fair, but it would take a step in the right direction for voters of both parties in every state would be represented in the Electoral College.