Members of the United States Electoral College just elected Donald J. Trump the nation’s forty-fifth president. But the process isn’t over yet.
When voting is complete, the ballots will be sent to Washington, DC, where they will be tallied on January 6 in a joint session of the House and Senate. Vice President Joe Biden, who serves as president of the Senate, will formally declare the results. Mr. Trump will then be inaugurated at noon on January 20.
By 54 percent to 41 percent, Americans believe we should replace the Electoral College with a simple popular vote. This sentiment crosses party lines and is reflected in similar polls in 1987, 2000, and 2012. Since Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.8 million, it’s easy to see why many believe she should be the next president.
But before we jettison the Electoral College, let’s understand its purpose. The 2016 election is a textbook reason for its existence.
Clinton received 48.2 percent of the popular vote to Trump’s 46.2 percent, but neither candidate won more than 50 percent. Her popular vote lead came entirely from the state of California, where she got 4.3 million more votes than Trump. Excepting that one state, Trump won the rest of the country by 1.4 million votes. If the election were decided by a simple popular vote, the Trump campaign would likely have doubled down on Texas instead of spending much of his time in six swing states.
The Founders chose the Electoral College system to keep a small number of heavily-populated states from deciding each election. However, the Electoral College does reflect the popular vote, just on a state-by-state basis. The states (except for Maine and Nebraska) grant their electoral votes to the candidate who won their popular vote. Maine and Nebraska allocate two electoral votes to the statewide winner and the rest by congressional district winner.
This system requires that candidates appeal to smaller states and rural communities as well as to more populated areas. Otherwise, candidates would campaign only in the most populous states and develop policies weighted toward winning these states.
The Electoral College reflects the fact that America is not a democracy in the strict sense of the word. If it were, the majority would always prevail and the minority would have no rights. Our republic exists to protect individual rights from the state and the majority, a fact enshrined in the Bill of Rights. And so the Electoral College, despite its flaws and frustrations, is an extension of America’s historic commitment to the assertion that “all men are created equal.”
Here’s why the concept behind the Electoral College is biblical: we are not just “created equal,” we are equally created. We are each alive because the God of the universe intended for us to live. He did not make us because the planet needed another person, but because he wanted us to exist in our uniqueness.
That’s why God’s word tells Christians that “there is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:28). This fact is an extension of the sanctity of every life, a principle rooted in our creation in the image of our Creator (Genesis 1:26–27).
Whether you are pleased or troubled by the results of today’s Electoral College vote, remember that we are all citizens of one nation and we each have a stake in the success of the incoming administration. Mitt Romney noted recently, “I was indeed very critical of Donald Trump during his campaign.” However, he states, “As the country’s next president, I earnestly hope that he will be successful in fostering greater prosperity and peace. I believe all Americans can join in that wish.”
So do I.