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Jul 20

The Thievery of the Electoral College

In Brief—An artifact of 18th Century politicking, the Electoral College, is not only outmoded here in the 21st Century but it is robbing the minority voter of her/his vote at the national level every four years. It is past time to bring America’s presidential voting system into the 21st Century by passing an amendment that makes every vote weigh the same.

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Quadrennial Electoral Thievery—

Your vote may be rendered null and void by the Electoral College, an artifact of political logrolling in the 18th Century but inappropriate for the 21st Century when every vote should count equally. This may affect your vote at the national level but won’t affect any vote at the local or state level.

In my recent piece on the Tyranny of the Two-Party System, I recommended the Ranked Choice or Instant Runoff Voting systems. If these are used in your area, your vote will remain unaffected. However, at the national level, thanks to the outmoded Electoral College system that has been in effect since the 18th Century, your individual vote may not count. For this reason, in the modern era when every vote should carry the same weight (one person, one vote, remember?) the Electoral College system at the national level must be dumped.

 A Little History—

History! Arghh! To eliminate the pain, I will be brief. The Electoral College came into being as a sop to the sparsely populated colonies that felt they would be swept aside by the more heavily populated colonies. Remember that there were only thirteen colonies at that time. Today’s fifty states stretch to Hawaii in the west and to Alaska to the north. The colonial population was roughly 3 million while today’s population exceeds 300 million.

It pays to remember that in order to vote in the colonial era one had to be an adult property owner. Excluded were females, slaves and Native Americans. Only with the passage of time and the amendment process were these groups given the right to vote.

The Constitution Reigns—

The Constitution establishes the Electoral College system while the one-person-one-vote doctrine arose out of the Supreme Court reapportionment case of Reynolds vs. Sims (1964). Thus, in order to comport with the Constitution it will be necessary to amend the Constitution by a three-quarters vote of all the states, a tall order, but not impossible.

So who benefits from the inequitable, outmoded Electoral College system devised in the 18th Century? The Republicans, naturally. One need look no further than the 2012 Republican Party platform to see their ardent embrace of the Electoral College and rabid opposition to a national popular vote allowing all votes for the presidency to be weighed the same.

By contrast, the Democratic Party platform calls for a national popular vote in presidential elections. What is the effect of the Electoral College system? It won’t surprise you to learn that the votes of voters in the less populated states are worth more than the votes of voters in the larger states. What happened to one-person-one-vote? It has been tossed in the trash can by the Republican Party, that’s the reality of the system embraced by the Republicans.

 Arguments Pro and Con—

What is the argument in support of the Electoral College?

The Republicans claim a national popular vote will result in corruption, yet they can’t explain how it will result in corruption. Big money leads to corruption and it’s an equal opportunity evil. They argue that maintaining the Electoral College will result in stability. Translated that means the way we did things in the 18th Century should control how we deal with elections in the 21st Century when conditions are markedly different. What remains unspoken is that the Electoral College system benefits Republicans.

What is the argument in support of a national popular vote?

A national popular vote makes every vote weigh the same regardless of where the voter lives and casts his/her ballot. When we speak of corruption, what’s corrupt is that the voters living in sparsely populated areas count for more than the voters living in urban areas. Is an 18th Century solution more stable than one that reflects the different time and conditions in which we live here in the 21st Century? The answer is a clear “No.” This, of course, is the problem that led to this piece, namely that the minority voter in a Republican state has her/his vote ignored, yes, ignored, thereby reducing the minority voter’s interest in voting. “Since my vote won’t count, I might as well not vote.” America’s voting participation is already deplorable as a result of the Electoral College system, but with a national popular vote, there is the incentive to cast a vote.

 Politics and Reality—

My recommendation is that to overcome the difficulty of passing an up-to-date constitutional amendment, it will first be necessary to institute Ranked Choice Voting at the local and state levels throughout the United States. When the states see how easily and cheaply the modern one-person-one-vote system is, then it will be much easier to replace the thieving, outmoded Electoral College system at the national level with a national popular vote.

So where do you stand? Do you want to be governed by 18th Century political logrolling or would you like to have every vote weigh the same here in the 21st Century. Start working now at changing to a Ranked Choice Voting system at the local and then the state level. Get to it!

4 comments

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  1. Dave Meyers

    Quick thoughts…..
    I agree with you Don, completely.
    I will go one step further….. not only should a simple one-person one-vote system be enacted, but everyone should automatically be registered to vote at age 18. Tied to your Social Security number and possibly your drivers license, the process should be simple and easy. Just as we all receive information about Social Security benefits and Medicare around the time we reach our early and mid 60’s, so should we receive registration information, nay….BE registered automatically at age 18.
    I also submit that there should be a uniform and standardized voting system and equipment. Remember the hanging chads? There is no excuse for that sort of issue in a modern electronic era. In FACT….if we all had a PIN number associated with our SS# we could vote from our Smart Phones! (There maybe issues with that, but you get the idea)
    I feel better now.

    1. Don Bay

      I agree with you that voting should be compulsory. If jury duty is compulsory then voting for those who govern us should be compulsory. Citizens have fought and died for the right to vote, so it’s a valued right, certainly in a democracy.

      As you say, as soon as a person reaches 18, s/he should automatically be registered and required to vote. Exemptions can be given for mental retardation and certain grave illnesses, but otherwise it should be a duty to vote. It works in Australia and twenty-one other countries, so there’s no reason compulsory voting wouldn’t work in America.

      Opponents of compulsory voting have weak counter-arguments, but their arguments are either illogical or don’t hold up to examination. This subject is so important that it deserves a piece of its own in this blog. Thanks for raising such an important issue.

  2. Jim Newton

    I agree with the registration idea completely. Why make it so hard to be able to vote? I agree even more strongly that voting systems should be standardized. Voting machines can be and are sometimes rigged, etc.

    I don’t understand compulsory voting. What if I forget or am not sure what I prefer in a given case? Do the voting police come for me? This sounds like a recipe for dysfunction, where I vote because I must and don’t take time to vote responsibly. Random choices are worse than no choice.

    1. Don Bay

      I just finished writing a piece recommending Compulsory Voting that’s intended to go along with taming the two major parties and dumping the Electoral College. I suspect you will find the answers to your doubts in the upcoming piece which I hope to post this weekend. If I’m wrong, I expect you to tell me where you believe I have erred. No system is perfect, but the American system is almost totally dysfunctional. In my view, with some changes I have recently advocated, Compulsory Voting would help correct a system that has gone off the rails. Stay tuned.

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