How the Electoral College works and is it time for a change?

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SAVANNAH, Ga. (WSAV) – After millions of people voted in the state of Georgia and tens of millions voted nationwide comes the results. And while President Donald Trump and former Vice President Joe Biden campaigned for every vote, now they only want 270.

That’s the magic number in the Electoral College. But how many Americans know how it all works?

Savannah Political Science Professor Bruce Mallard says perhaps not many. Plus, he thinks the system has may have no place in our modern times.

“I don’t see much benefit to it anymore if there ever was one,” Mallard said.

He says the Electoral College was established by the Founding Fathers and is constitutionally required in terms of how our a president is elected.

“There’s no way to sugarcoat this, the people who wrote the Constitution didn’t think much of the average voter and they didn’t think they had the ability to make good decisions,” said Mallard. “Part of it was a lack of communication.”

“In those days, if people got a newspaper, it was a month old,” he said, “so they had the system of people who got to vote for you.”

He says these days it’s different. There are vast communication networks and most citizens are certainly aware a presidential election is taking place and who the candidates who are running.

Mallard also says, in general, the populace is better educated than was the case in the 1700s when the Constitution was written.

Still, he says we are electing our president using the Elector College system. The main concern, he says, is that it’s a system of “winner take all,” which Mallard believes has grown troubling in recent years.

In Georgia, the candidate who wins gets all of the state’s 16 electoral votes, no matter what the vote margin may be.

“So you win a state by 1,000 votes, and you get all the electoral votes, and that’s what has complicated the system,” he said.

For example, in 2016 Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of about 3,000,000 votes but lost the Electoral College. In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote by about 500,000 votes but also did not become president.

“And in just plain ‘ole democracy, if you vote for the number two person, your vote pretty much doesn’t count because they get no electoral vote,” said Mallard.

He says under a popular vote system, your presidential favorite may lose in your state, but then your vote would go into the larger nationwide group of votes for that person. In that sense, if your candidate was doing better in many other states, your vote might ultimately help elect him or her to the presidency.

He also says the Electoral College system usually makes presidential candidates concentrate on swing states with higher electoral votes.

“I haven’t seen any candidates going to Wyoming to get their three electoral votes,” said Mallard.

He does say that while many elections have ended up with the Electoral College vote following the popular vote, again, what about the elections when that doesn’t happen? Is a voter’s intent truly executed? Mallard believes following the popular vote may be the best choice.

“I’d like to see somebody start a campaign to do away with the Electoral College,” he said.

He does say a constitutional amendment would be needed to end the use of the Electoral College.

Mallard also says that in recent elections, it has become a partisan issue as well. He says since Republicans have benefited in two elections in the last 20 years (when a candidate did not win the popular vote but became president anyway), that the Republican party may be lukewarm about the idea.

Still, he says Americans aren’t always informed about the Electoral College or how it works and it may be time to think more about the system.

“I just think it should be abolished,” Mallard told News 3.

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