Don’t Like the Electoral College? Tough!

So many of my friends still haven’t gotten over the 2016 election, and desperately want a change in the electoral system, aiming straight for the villain of the drama, the Electoral College.

“Get rid of it!!  The person who gets the popular vote should be president!”

Oh, my friends, my friends, you have forgotten your history!  The United States is not and never was a country in the usual sense. In a word, we are not a nation, we’re a federation and the Electoral College was the price we had to pay for there to be a United States at all.

Don’t you remember how in 1787 at the Constitutional Convention the small states were worried that if they signed on to what James Madison was proposing they would lose all their power?   They were afraid the big states like Virginia would always have more members in a Congress where representation was based on size of the population, and the big states would out-vote the little ones in everything. Thus was the Senate born in that famous Connecticut Compromise—a bicameral legislature with 2 senators for each state no matter how big or small, and that affects each state’s numbers in the Electoral College too. The small states in the West and Midwest (rural America) have disproportionate power both in the Senate and when it comes to voting for the President, but without that system, there would have been no United States. Today there would only be 50 separate countries or perhaps groups of smaller unions. Our government is a federal government and that’s the way it’s going to stay, complete with Electoral College until the whole thing breaks apart, which is not unlikely.   No country lasts forever, and that goes for federations too.

So to those who say it’s not fair that Hilary Clinton won the popular vote but lost the presidency in the Electoral College, the point is, yes, that would be true in most countries, but it’s completely fair in our federation, simply because those were the rules each state (each “country”) agreed to when we came into being. If we don’t like it, we can change the rules, but do you really expect all those western rural states to give up their power to the eastern states dominated by cities? That will never happen until there is so much unrest, so much protesting, so much chaos, that we will have to amend the Constitution or risk the break-up of our 239-year old federation.

In the meantime, it would be nice to think that the electors in the Electoral College were men and women of the highest character who would take their roles seriously and not slavishly follow a party line.   It turns out the Founding Fathers who later started the Federalist Party were correct in being leery of too much democracy.   2016 proved that “the people” sometimes make terrible decisions and it would behoove the Electors to reject someone who is egregiously unqualified to hold this exalted office.

 

 

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4 thoughts on “Don’t Like the Electoral College? Tough!

  1. The founders created the Electoral College, but 48 states eventually enacted state winner-take-all laws.

    Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1
    “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
    The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    Neither of the two most important features of the current system of electing the President (namely, universal suffrage, and the 48 state-by-state winner-take-all method) are in the U.S. Constitution. Neither was the choice of the Founders when they went back to their states to organize the nation’s first presidential election.

    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors by appointment by the legislature or by the governor and his cabinet, the people had no vote for President in most states, and in states where there was a popular vote, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

    The current winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is not in the U.S. Constitution. It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention. It is not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was not the Founders’ choice. It was used by only three states in 1789, and all three of them repealed it by 1800. It is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method. The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes became dominant only in the 1830s, when most of the Founders had been dead for decades, after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state.

    The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding a state’s electoral votes.

    States have the responsibility and constitutional power to make all of their voters relevant in every presidential election and beyond. Now, 38 states, of all sizes, and their voters, because they vote predictably, are politically irrelevant in presidential elections.

  2. In Gallup polls since they started asking in 1944 until this election, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states) (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

    Support for a national popular vote for President has been strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed. In the 41 red, blue, and purple states surveyed, overall support has been in the 67-81% range – in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.

    Most Americans don’t ultimately care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state or district. Voters want to know, that no matter where they live, even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans think it is wrong that the candidate with the most popular votes can lose. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

    The National Popular Vote bill in 2017 has passed in the New Mexico Senate and Oregon House.
    It was approved in 2016 by a unanimous bipartisan House committee vote in both Georgia (16 electoral votes) and Missouri (10).
    Since 2006, the bill has passed 35 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, Democratic, Republican and purple states with 261 electoral votes, including one house in Arizona (11), Arkansas (6), Connecticut (7), Delaware (3), The District of Columbia, Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), North Carolina (15), Oklahoma (7), and Oregon (7), and both houses in California, Colorado (9), Hawaii, Illinois, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Mexico (5), New York, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Washington.
    The bill has been enacted by the District of Columbia (3), Hawaii (4), Illinois (19), New Jersey (14), Maryland (11), California (55), Massachusetts (10), New York (29), Vermont (3), Rhode Island (4), and Washington (13). These 11 jurisdictions have 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to bring the law into effect.

    It changes state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), to guarantee the presidency to the candidate with the most national popular votes, without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

  3. The National Popular Vote bill is 61% of the way to guaranteeing the majority of Electoral College votes and the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country, by changing state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), without changing anything in the Constitution, using the built-in method that the Constitution provides for states to make changes.

    All voters would be valued equally in presidential elections, no matter where they live.
    Candidates, as in other elections, would allocate their time, money, polling, organizing, and ad buys roughly in proportion to the population

    Every vote, everywhere, for every candidate, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election.
    No more distorting, crude, and divisive and red and blue state maps of predictable outcomes, that don’t represent any minority party voters within each state.
    No more handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    Support for a national popular vote has been strong in rural states

    None of the 10 most rural states (VT, ME, WV, MS, SD, AR, MT, ND, AL, and KY) is a battleground state.
    The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes ( not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution) does not enhance the influence of rural states, because the most rural states are not battleground states, and they are ignored. Their states’ votes were conceded months before by the minority parties in the states, taken for granted by the dominant party in the states, and ignored by all parties in presidential campaigns. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.

    The bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes among all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    • You’re right. If that law were enacted in more states, that would link the national popular vote to the electors in each state and essentially make the Electoral College obsolete without amending the Constitution. I see now that only 10 states have enacted it into law so far—all of them usually go Democratic. I would guess that none of the states that went Republican in 2016 are in any hurry now to make this the law within their state, even if it passed one branch of the legislature, because they would not want to risk their party losing in the future. We’ll see what happens.

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