US one of few to still use indirect election system

OSWEGO, N.Y. — Millions of Americans are lined up and socially distanced as they wait to vote in the 2020 presidential election this Tuesday. 

Although so many people are patiently waiting, only 29 New Yorkers will actually be voting for President this year. 

“The electoral college is a pretty unique institution in the world,” said Dr. Joshua Plencner, an assistant professor at SUNY Oswego. “Indirect election is an unusual mechanism.”

Indirect election is a system where the voters do not directly choose their head of government. The U.S. is one of the only countries to still use this system. 

“It motivates people to go to the polls so in some sense it can be really positive it activates people as voters,” said Dr. Plencner. “But in other senses, it kind of obscures how our system actually works.”

In the U.S., each state is given a slate of electors who represent the interests of the people and then vote for the president in December. Even though most time electors follow the wants of their state, it is possible for them to vote for whomever they want instead. 

“Sometimes when people show up at the electoral college,” said Dr. Plencner. “They don’t vote for who their state told them to vote for, and that’s a real possibility inside of our system.”

The electoral college is a complicated system that the average person probably does not know much about, but college student Stephen Novak said that is how it should be.

“Maybe we don’t need to know everything about politics,” said Novak. “Not because I want a population that is stupid, but because I think there are a lot of things people can devote their lives to.”

The electoral college was created so that only the elites could have a say in who was elected and though some say it is a dated system, Novak said it actually encourages more people to vote. 

“The more complicated it is to vote I guess,” said Novak. “The less appealing it is to the average person.”

Record numbers of Americans have already voted before election day this year, either by mail or in person at early voting sites. Despite the U.S. still using an indirect election system, there is usually a clear picture of who our next president will be by the end of the night.