Changing the Electoral College must wait

After Donald Trump was elected the 45th president of the U.S., petitions began circulating calling for both the abolition of the Electoral College system and for the College’s electors to cast their Dec. 19 votes for Hillary Clinton instead of Trump, which is illegal in 29 states. 

Clinton won the popular vote by a margin of 1.3 million votes, but Trump won the most electoral votes, which is how U.S. elections are decided. Still, many Americans are clinging to the hope that approximately 40 electors will defect from red states—ones Trump won—and vote for Clinton, giving her the necessary 270 electoral votes to win.

Electors who do not vote for their pledged candidates are called “faithless electors,” and there have only been 157 faithless electors in history, almost half of whom voted for another candidate only because their candidate died between Election Day and when they cast their votes, according to, a nonpartisan nonprofit that seeks to inform people about democracy.

Though the largest petition is at 4.42 million signatures as of press time, it is unlikely that electors will abandon rules and traditions—and rightly so. This election drew out 58.1 percent of eligible voters, according to a Nov. 15 article from FiveThirtyEight, a statistical analysis website. Those people who voted, as well as those who abstained, knew the rules of voting when they were or were not casting their ballots, and just because the result is not what just over half of voters hoped for, that is not a reason for electors to become faithless.

Even if the Electoral College switches enough votes to elect Clinton—which is unlikely because electors are chosen by the winning candidate’s party, according to—there are checks and balances in place that could still prevent her from taking office. 

If enough electors change their votes to result in a tie, the House of Representatives will vote to choose the president with each state only getting one vote, and the Senate will choose the vice president in the same way, according to a Nov. 8 TIME article. If the election ends up being swung by faithless electors, the newly appointed Congress could declare the election “irregularly given” and will vote on what to do, according to the article. Seeing as the newly appointed Congress is Republican-controlled, it would be unlikely for them to go with Clinton, even if the Electoral College did.

The Electoral College may be an antiquated system that was originally put in place because the Founding Fathers did not have faith in the intelligence of the general population and wanted to stay in power, but immediately after an election is not the time to revamp that system. If people really want the Electoral College abolished, they cannot embrace it when it chooses a candidate they want and condemn it when it does not. Before the election, Trump supporters took to social media to criticize the Electoral College when it was projected that Trump was going to lose, but Clinton supporters stayed silent because they thought she would win, which is why the abolition of the Electoral College must be bipartisan and not come right after a major election.

The petitions circulating will not work and are doing nothing but adding fuel to the fire, causing more friction between the supporters of Clinton and Trump—rather than allowing the American people to move forward.