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COMMENTARY: Why do we need the Electoral College?

By Jeff Backer, MN State Rep., Browns Valley, MN

We have just experienced an election when the popular vote went to Clinton while the Electoral College votes went to Trump. This outcome has happened four times before and should not be regarded as a first-time event in our nation's history. The outcry is that the election is somehow rigged. However, our presidential election process was set up to accomplish exactly what happened. Here's why:

When the Constitution was being framed, several smaller states would not sign on to it because they justifiably felt the more populated larger states would be in control of all legislation. In effect, the small states would be out voted and have no voice in the government. It was not until the "Great Compromise," authored by Roger Sherman, that the smaller states joined the United States.

The Great Compromise created the House of Representatives and the Senate in the Legislative branch. The House seats were based on population; the more people in the states, the more representatives in the House. The Senate was based on each state having two senators no matter the size of the state or its population. The Senate provided a check on the power of large and heavily populated states. If a bill the smaller states did not like passed the House, they had a very good chance it could be defeated in the Senate. Finally, unless both the House and Senate agreed upon a bill it could not be passed and sent to the president.

The Electoral College is based on the same principle. Each state elects its choice for president. The Electoral College votes are equal to the number of representatives and senators each state has. For example, Minnesota has eight congressional seats and two senators. Therefore, it has 10 electoral votes. The Electoral College members are supposed to support the popular election results of each state. While not absolutely bound to this outcome, it is justifiably assumed that they will vote with the will of the people.

If you take a look at the United States election results county by county, it is obvious that except for several pockets of blue in the densely populated urban areas, most of the nation is red. If the Electoral College were not in place, all these red counties would be out voted by a relative handful of blue urban counties. That is not fair representation for the whole nation. In fact, if the Electoral College were not in place, the only places for a candidate to spend a lot of time campaigning would be in the most populated counties. The popular vote would be all that mattered since it would govern the country.

The Midwest, including "blue" Minnesota, would rarely if ever get much attention from presidential candidates. All of the "flyover country" between the two coasts would simply be ignored by presidential campaigns because the number of their votes really would not matter much in the final result.

Only the Electoral College ensures that the more sparsely populated states will have a real say in the outcome of a presidential election. And this is why the founding fathers wisely put the Electoral College in the Constitution. Eliminating it would be at our own peril.

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