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OPINION: The U.S. Electoral System is in Desperate Need of Reform


OPINION: The U.S. Electoral System is in Desperate Need of Reform

By Charlotte Thomas

It’s election season, which means many new voters are learning about the U.S.’s complicated electoral system. It is quite apparent our system is not as effective as it has been in the past. We have seen gridlock before, but the divergences of the two political parties is widening exponentially. There are a number of issues that contribute to this complicated problem. Three significant ones are our lack of campaign financing regulations, misinformed voters and winner-take-all system.

1. Campaign financing

In the U.S., politicians depend on large sums of money to fund their campaigns. It is nearly impossible to get elected without copious amounts of money. Consequently, politicians are more responsive to wealthy citizens. With the widening wage gap, the rich have grown richer, and thus have been able to exercise more political power. This largely contributes to the problem of gridlock.

Another problem is that corporations can donate money, which, essentially, gives them a say in politics. Stricter campaign finance regulations would allow minorities and the 99 percent to have their voices heard. Additionally, regulations would facilitate higher voter turnout rates because, as the focus shifts from financing candidates to actually voting for candidates, people will feel like their votes matter. Currently, the rich are almost always more likely to vote than the poor.

2. Misinformed public

Misinformation occurs in all parties. For instance, in the Democratic party, it is still widely believed that Sarah Palin, in 2008, said she could see Russia from her house. In the Republican party, more than half of conservatives believe the unemployment rate has increased under the Obama administration. In this current election, misinformation is exceedingly apparent. For example, PolitiFact, a fact checking website, analyzed 77 statements Donald Trump made and found 76 percent of the statements were either false, mostly false or pants on fire. Roughly, one of every four statements that comes out of the the Republican presidential frontrunner’s mouth is truthful.

3. Winner-take-all system

In the U.S., we have the electoral college. A presidential candidate needs a majority (270 of the 538 electoral college votes) in order to win the election. In the general election, each state gives all of its electoral votes to one candidate. This means if you are voting for the Democratic candidate in an extremely conservative state (e.g. Texas, Utah, Alabama), you’re vote, essentially, does not count. (Disclaimer: This does not mean you should not vote if this is the case for you. It is still advantageous and very important to vote.) This system we use in the U.S. ensures that any group making up fewer than 50 percent of the population are not represented. Thus, politicians target the majority, and minorities are ignored. Winner-take-all elections can result in more than half of the votes being wasted.

Of course, there is no perfect solution to this problem, and these are just a few of the underlying causes. It is important, however, we make ourselves aware of the obstacles that prevent us from having free and fair elections in the U.S.