Should it stay or should it go?
Since the 2016 election, some Americans have found themselves asking many questions – one being, should the Electoral College remain or be abolished?
On Feb. 23, Student Senate and Phi Theta Kappa debated for this answer in the Student Life Zone. Phi Theta Kappa argued for abolition as Student Senate argued to retain the system.
Moderating the event was History professor Sholomo Levy while Communication professor Ellen Santa Maria, English professor Jim Von Schilling and Criminal Justice professor Vertel Martin judged the competitors on effectiveness of their opening arguments, rebuttals and closing arguments.
The debate started with Phi Theta Kappa’s opening arguments presented by Allison Beyer.
“The constitution was meant to be a fluid document that would change over time,” she said. “It was never meant to stay static, stagnant and concrete; it was meant to be amended.”
“The Electoral College, as it stands, has only been amended twice in its history, which makes it the least amended part of our constitution. These two amendments include giving three Electoral College votes to Washington D.C. and putting the vice president and president on the same ticket.”
Beyer also argued that the Electoral College shifts presidential candidates’ attention toward certain swing states rather than the country as a whole.
“Power given to small states so that they might equal larger states is not actually what is seen,” Beyer said. “Power is instead given to few swing states every election.”
The Student Senate then presented their counter-argument by dividing their time between students Miles Brodie and Alex Walsh.
“We believe the Electoral College is not a perfect system, but it cannot be argued that it has its advantages,” Brodie said.
Brodie also raised concerns about voter fraud if the United States adopted the popular vote.
“This past election there were cases where people were voting twice to ensure that the candidate they preferred [won],” he said. “The popular vote method would trigger a national recount possibly every presidential election. It would take months deciding the victor and furthermore, worse, the wrong presidential candidate takes office.”
Brodie relinquished the remainder of his time to his teammate, Alex Walsh, who noted a benefit of the Electoral College.
“The purpose of the Electoral College is to protect the smaller states and allow as fair a system as possible,” Walsh said.
“If you lived on a farm on the Great Plains of the United States, why would your vote matter? Why would the candidates even cater to your needs? They wouldn’t,” Walsh said. “If you don’t live in a big metropolitan area as the popular vote changing that would suggest, they wouldn’t care about your needs.”
The rebuttals began with Student Senate President Elizabeth Segreaves refuting some of Phi Theta Kappa’s claims.
“We are 50 states; we are not one state. We are 50 states with 50 different needs,” she said. “The baseball World Series is another example that we can compare to the Electoral College. The baseball World Series is based on how many games you have won and not how many times you have scored during the season.”
The Commuter’s Jeremiah Reardon delivered Phi Theta Kappa’s rebuttal.
“I think the main argument Senate is proposing is that the Electoral College does not treat all states as equal,” Reardon said. “I believe that this is false in practice. As a concept, it sounds like a great argument, but in practice it doesn’t work that way.”
“The majority of the stops by the four main candidates in the general election were in just four states – Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Ohio and Florida. These four states got the majority of the attention by the candidates.”
“In this time during the campaign stops, where all four candidates were focusing on those four states. 27 states were completely ignored by all four candidates,” Reardon said. “These 27 states comprise the least populous states.”
Reardon also showed how candidates tend to focus on more populated areas in their campaign strategies. “In the two months prior to the election, 72 percent of campaign visits [in Pennsylvania] by both Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton were held in just the cities of Pittsburgh and Philadelphia.”
Both teams offered their closing arguments starting with Phi Theta Kappa’s Sundiata Brown.
“We see the swing state system exclude over 30 states, which is blatantly biased and inherently elitist in thought and action,” Brown said. “If you feel like the electoral college should be changed, abated, reformed in any way, then your duty in this debate is to remove it.”
“As its usefulness has dissipated similar to the need for tradition, or chattel slavery; like that horrible institution called slavery we must send it packing on an overdue trip to the land of abolition.”
Walsh returned to the lectern to give the Student Senate’s final remarks of the debate. “We have a way of changing the constitution, and that way is through amendments,” Walsh said. “And if we were to update or change the electoral college in any way, shape or form the resolve states that the affirmative team should abolish, and changing it is not abolishing it. It is simply amending the constitution to change it.”
Following a period of deliberation, the judges determined that Phi Theta Kappa won the debate based on their argument’s coherence and level of research.