If we consider an electoral system in which the leaders are elected by the majority of the citizens’ votes as democratic, the system of the United States is not democratic. The candidate that wins the majority of votes does not necessarily end up being the “president-elect.” It happened with Al Gore versus Bush Jr. and now with Clinton versus Trump. Clinton received 947,579 more votes than Trump.*
In the United States one does not vote directly for the president but rather for members of an electoral college. The candidates of the electoral college for each state are listed on the ballot below the name of the presidential candidate for whom they will vote for. The system would be correct if in each state one would elect a number of electors proportionate to its population, but it is not that way. For example, Wyoming has a population of 500,000 people and 3 electoral votes, in other words, each electoral vote represents 166,000 people whereas California has a population of 34 million people and 55 electoral votes, therefore each vote represents 600,000 people. Because of this, the vote of a Californian is worth four times less than the vote of a Wyomingite. In other words, not all “American citizens” are equal because the votes of some are worth more than those of others. Even worse, the electoral votes of each state are not distributed proportionately according to the popular votes that each presidential candidate obtains but instead, with the exception of Maine and Nebraska, the candidate that receives more popular votes gets all the electoral votes of the state.
This system served well at the beginning of the United States’ founding due to the fragility of its federation, but that was centuries ago. The United States of Mexico and the Federative Republic of Brazil are also federations and the vote for the president is direct and equal for all citizens. In countries whose unity is more fragile than that of the United States, such as Spain and the United Kingdom, the votes of all citizens have equal value. In order to choose their “electoral college,” in this case the Parliament, which elects the president of Spain or the prime minister of the United Kingdom, proportionality is maintained. The vote of the Catalonian is equal to the vote of the Castilian, and that of the Scotsman equal to that of the Englishman. All citizens are equal since their vote equally counts.
Besides that, the U.S. Congress does not democratically represent its people because the House of Representatives (congressmen) has 435 members that represent “congressional districts” that were created by considering a district for each 30,000 inhabitants, according to the Reapportionment Act of 1929. But in 1929 (87 years ago) the U.S. had a population of 130 million people and now it has 330 million. The number has tripled and has been redistributed; some districts today are unpopulated and others are overpopulated. Each congressman does not represent the same number of citizens. Even worse is the number of senators, which is a total of 100, two for each state. In New York, which has 20 million inhabitants, each senator represents 10 million people, whereas in Vermont with 600,000 inhabitants each senator represents 300,000. In the Senate, the vote of a senator who represents 10 million is equal to the vote of a senator who represents 600,000. This disproportion is not seen in the prestigious democracies of Europe, Canada or Australia, for example.
Just because this system has functioned this way for a long time and American citizens have submitted themselves to these “rules of the game” does not mean that it is good or democratic. Even worse is to consider it a “model of democracy.” Not all accept it in the United States and there are voices of protest that are growing in strength against an electoral system that does not reflect the true popular will, nor does it truly sustain “representative democracy.”
*Editor’s note: As of Nov. 25, 2016, Hillary Clinton’s lead in the popular vote has surpassed two million.