There’s a movement afoot to get rid of the Electoral College. Those of us in Kansas ought to oppose that idea.
If you’ve forgotten your civics class from high school, the Electoral College dates back to the Constitutional Convention in 1787. The Founders of our country decided to create a system in which the presidential race is determined by the 538 votes in the Electoral College, rather than by a nationwide popular vote. Each state is allotted a certain number of votes, mostly proportional to its population, in the Electoral College. Each state holds its own presidential election, in essence, and then awards its electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis.
That can create situations where a person wins the presidency based on Electoral College votes but loses the popular vote. In fact, that’s what happened in 2000, when George W. Bush beat Al Gore, and in 2016, when Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton.
As you might guess, it’s Democrats who are promoting the idea of doing away with the Electoral College. They argue that it’s most important to make every vote count equally.
For Kansans, let’s be clear: We benefit from the current system. We get six Electoral College votes. That number is determined by the number of members of Congress we have. Proportionally that’s more say than we would have based on a purely popular-election system.
Presidential campaigns generally skip us anyway, since the large Republican registration advantage here makes most elections fundamentally noncompetitive. If you were Hillary Clinton, for instance, why waste time or money campaigning here when you were highly likely to lose?
It’s worth saying that America also remains a collection of states with different values and cultures and laws. The Electoral College essentially creates a series of state elections, rather than one national election, and thereby tends to give more weight to the interests of smaller, more rural states, than otherwise. (Since those states tend to vote Republican, that’s why it’s the Democrats who want to get rid of it.)
But we don’t view this as a partisan issue. If the parties were flipped, we’d have the same thought: It’s best for Kansas to leave it as it is.