Why the Electoral College Needs an Overhaul

I remember sitting in Mrs. Gorin’s history class in 1988 hearing about the time a POTUS won in the Electoral College even though he lost the popular vote. I remember DISTINCTLY thinking, with the smugness only a Reagan-loving American teenager durring the Cold War achieve, that I was glad that wouldn’t happen again. It was inconceivable. It was as unthinkable as the idea America would ever get it’s butt in another hopeless war like Vietnam.

As it turns out, I was wrong. Who would have thunk it?

In my humble lifetime, I’ve voted in 6 elections. A solid 1/3 of those elections were decided by the Electoral College rather than the popular vote. George W. Bush stole the election from underneath Al Gore’s feet (thanks to Katherine Harris and the Brooks Brothers Riots) in 2000 and now Trump has ridden that horse over Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Fun times.

Do you know what makes the whole thing more painful? That the founding father’s put the Electoral College in place to protect slave owners. As Professor Akhil Reed Amar (Sterling Professor of Law and Political Science at Yale University and a specialist in constitutional law) explains: In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn’t vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount (the three-fifths clause), and that’s what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections.

To put it another way, “From James Madison’s records of the Constitutional Convention, we know that the delegates disagreed vehemently about how, exactly, the executive at the head of their new government would be chosen … as Madison tells it, there was “one difficulty … of a serious nature attending an immediate choice”—that is, a popular vote—“by the people.” That wrinkle? “The right of suffrage was much more diffusive in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of the Negroes.” Madison’s meaning here is straightforward. Southern states had a huge mass of people—slaves—who contributed to population size but could not vote. Northern states did not. And the Southern delegates felt entitled to national representation equal to their total populations, slaves included—despite the fact that slaves could not choose their representatives and were not, in any real sense, actually represented at all.”

Additionally, the founding fathers (many of them slave owners) were worried about the growing power of the abolitionist movement (it was already strong and growing stronger by the last half of the 1700s). They didn’t want the “tyranny of the majority” voting in an abolitionist president over the objections of the slave holding states and Congressmen. The electoral college DID delay that dread event for 100 years — until Lincoln in 1860 — BUT when he did win the slave holding powers in the southern states threw a cat fit in the form of a Civil War.  (Don’t believe the myth; the Civil War was about slavery not states rights.)

Worse, the electoral college is STILL diluting the votes of progressives, women, and minorities in favor of bat-crap crazy red states. This is made worse by blatant and unceasing voter disenfranchisement and suppression aimed at minorities.

Not that every white votes counts the same. Har. Under the current Electoral College the voters in certain states – blue states in particular – have a fraction of the “power” of a white voter in a smaller state. That’s because the state electoral votes don’t ACTUALLY reflect the population. Not by a long damn shot. Just compare the populations of the states based on the 2010 census with the number of electoral votes they get.

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Okay, look at the little states and the District of Colombia. You get 3 electoral votes as a baseline right? So the states that get three votes range in size from a little over 1/2 million to slightly over a million voters. The first state (by population) to get 4 votes is Rhode Island with 1,052,931 …. while Montana is left at 3 votes with 989,417 people.  The next jump is at  West Virginia, with 1,853,011 people and 5 electoral votes. This sucks for Idaho, who crossed over the 1.5 million mark but don’t get that extra electoral vote yet. Why? Because the electoral votes are based on number of representatives in Congress, NOT on population. Doing the math you’ll see that a sort of base line for population per state for the smaller states is 3 electoral votes plus 1 vote per 1/2 million people … but that shifts rapidly once the states start getting more populous.

Wisconsin and Minnesota at about 5.5 million have 10 electoral votes, but to have the SAME percent of electoral votes per population as West Virginia they would need 3 + 11 = 14 electoral votes. Tennessee has more than 6 million residents and it only has 11 electoral votes.

You know what this means? In terms of how much your vote “counts” vis-à-vis an electoral vote the top 10 most populous states are getting hosed, and the top 5 are getting hosed with extra water. Now, it just so happens that of the 10 most populous states – Michigan, North Carolina, Georgia, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Illinois, New York, Florida, Texas, and California – 5 almost always go blue, 2 almost always go red, and 3 are nail-bitingly close and could go either red or blue depending on the election. That’s why North Carolina, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Florida are “battleground states”. However, the votes in these states count LESS per voter. For example, New York has a million more people than Florida but they both have 29 electoral votes; meanwhile 1 million people in Idaho are worth 4 electoral votes.

Nowhere is this discrepancy worse than the perpetually blue California. The population of California is 37,254,503 and it has 55 electoral votes. It should have 3 + 74 = 77 electoral votes. Texas, with a population of 25,146,105 and 38 electoral votes needs 53 electoral votes to match electoral vote per person in Idaho. Moreover, right now Red Texas is worth only 17 less electoral votes than Blue California when it should, by population, be worth 27 less electoral votes.

So the bluest, most progressive, most populous state in the USA has the LEAST amount of voter power per voter.

If the Electoral College matched exactly the population of the states Hillary Clinton may have still lost because of winner-take-all system of the electoral states, but it would have not looked like such an uneven drubbing on the electoral map when she won (in spite of the misinformation campaign by Trump’s team) the popular vote by millions of votes.

Clearly, we need to overhaul this system to reflect “we, the people”.

     

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