Criticism against the Electoral College has been mounting for decades. However, it has become a talking point for major presidential candidates after a 2000 and 2016 disparity between the popular vote and electoral majority collected. Many Democratic hopefuls including Mayor Pete Buttigieg of South Bend, Ind., Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt. and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., have spoken out in support of a popular vote system, but candidates former Vice President Joe Biden and former Mayor of New York Mike Bloomberg have voiced concerns about the abolishment of the current system. The narrative around the Electoral College is frequently about how much power individuals in small states have. This narrative must shift to a voter power index weighing how much power someone in a “battleground state” has over every other voter.

The term “voter power index” is how likely your vote is to sway the overall electoral vote in a presidential election. The mathematical calculation is coined as the Banzhaf Power Index, which allows groups to determine which states are crucial to the success of a candidate aiming for the presidency. By using a voter power index, we shift from the narrative of small states having all the power under the current electoral system to the idea that a select group of individuals and states hold all the power. The states responsible for deciding elections, a group of tossups, can be defined as the 13 that do not have uniform party support in the past four presidential elections.

The traditional measure of electoral power relies on the number of constituents per representative there are in each state, but the sparsely populated states never end up deciding elections. While it is true that Wyoming has the smallest number of constituents per electoral vote, the state is considered one of the most reliable for Republican candidates and has not voted for a Democratic candidate since 1964. The same is true on the Democratic side with Vermont and the District of Columbia, which have been deemed two of the most reliably Democratic voting blocs. This model of understanding the downfalls of the electoral college is outdated as it has Florida, a state considered a consistent battleground state that frequently decides elections, ranked as the 50th most powerful state. These seemingly over-powerful small states have monolithic political support making their votes count even less under the system that is meant to ensure the equal nature of their vote. 

In the 2016 election, the “battleground” states were home to 94 percent of general election campaign events, which in turn allows for candidates to build messages to appeal to narrow coalitions within traditionally indecisive states. This disparity in campaigning played out across the board as the smallest nine states with high electoral power received zero combined visits while California, Texas and New York received a combined two visits. The current system protects only those states deemed swing states, neglecting the states it was originally meant to protect, as well as those that make up the largest portion of the nation. Voter power is determined by how much a presidential candidate must pay attention to your state, rather than allowing for all votes to be considered equal and forcing a sweeping message from candidates. 

The current system requires a constitutional amendment to abolish the Electoral College process and put in place a popular vote. Passing an amendment is virtually impossible as it requires two-thirds of the House and Senate, as well as three-fourths of the states. While 65% of Americans support a popular vote, a divided government proves to be a hurdle we cannot overcome at this time. 

In the meantime, the importance of having your voice heard takes precedent and the flawed system works in favor of University students and Michigan residents. Behind Michigan, most students attending the University of Michigan are from New York, Illinois, California and New Jersey, all reliably Democratic states with low voter power indices. In contrast, Michigan is within the top most influential states in the upcoming presidential election. University students have the option to re-register to vote in the state of Michigan as they reside in the state for the majority of the year. 

While the system is deeply flawed, working against the states and constituents it’s intended to protect, the U-M student voice is more important than ever with one of the nation’s highest voter power indexes at our fingertips. The 2020 election will prove to be a tipping point in deciding the future of our country that directly impacts University students with lasting effects that will outlive most of the voting population. With an increased amount of voting power and the largest voting bloc, it is imperative for U-M students to register to vote, remain educated and take to the polls in upcoming primaries and the general election.

Owen Stecco can be reached at

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