September 23, 2019 | 90° F

Eagleton Institute hosts debate on electoral college

Photo by Jeffrey Gomez |

The Eagleton Institute for Politics hosted a mock debate on the merits or problems with the Electoral College. Two members of the Rutgers University Debate Union argued for each side, before audience members decided which team won.

The promise of hot pizza may have attracted students to Alexander Library, but an enticing debate over the electoral college is what made students stay.

Pizza and Politics was the Eagleton Institute of Politics's first event of the semester, said Elizabeth Matto, assistant research professor and director of the Youth Political Participation Program (YPPP).

Students from the Rutgers University Debate Union spoke on whether or not the United States should abolish the Electoral College, a system put in place to cast formal votes for president and vice president of the United States in representation of the general public, she said.

School of Arts and Sciences juniors Pasha Temkin and David Vinarov argued that the Electoral College should be abolished, while School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Max Albert and School of Arts and Sciences sophomore Andrea Vacchiano opposed that argument in support for the Electoral College.

Arguments for abolishing the electoral college included that not every vote, or every state counted in each election. Temkin and Vinarov said that swing states receive more funding and that political candidates spent more time on those states.

Arguments in defense of the Electoral College included that the founding fathers were not in favor of mass voting, Albert and Vacchiano said.

The four students participating in the debates are returning Rutgers University Debate Union members who have been on the team for at least a year, said Matthew Maddex, director of debate for the Rutgers Debate Union.

“I don’t think there are any big debates going on right now about whether or not we should abolish the electoral college, but this is a wonderful model for students to see: This is how you tackle an issue that may be contentious, this is how you argue your case, this is how you reason, this is how you try to contradict opposing arguments,” Matto said.

As the debate came to a close, Maddex called for students listening to vote for the team they felt argued their case the best, and as Maddex called it, the “overwhelming majority” favored the arguers for abolishing the Electoral College.

After the debate, Beth Leech, a professor in the Department of Political Science and author of the political thriller novel “Faithless Elector: James McCrone" spoke on the issue, discussing the electoral college and the debate, and then allowing students to participate and give their opinions or ask any questions.

“It was really cool to see a big group of students actually interested in something. This was the first Rutgers event I’ve been to, so it was nice to be in an environment with a bunch of students who were all excited about the same thing,” said Alyssa Somahano, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.

The Eagleton Institute of Politics, which is currently working on its RU Voting campaign, hopes to register students to vote and educate them on the issues this upcoming election, Matto said. The Institute will hold other events to mobilize voters.

“I would definitely come back to more of these events. The environment was awesome — I had fun and you could see that all the speakers were passionate about what they were talking about, which made it even better. With the election coming up, it’s important to learn more about these issues and what students think about them,” Somahano said.

Events coming up include Popcorn and Politics, where students gather in the Eagleton Institute of Politics located on Douglass campus to watch the upcoming presidential debate. The event will be held on Monday, Sept. 26.

“This event was successful, not just because it was a full house and pizza was great, and the event was great, but I think it was a really educational opportunity for students to practice the skills of democracy,” Matto said.

Chloe Dopico is a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore majoring in political science and journalism and media studies. She is a contributing writer for The Daily Targum.

Chloe Dopico

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