The debate surrounding the efficacy of the Electoral College has been batted around now for decades, and as the 2020 election nears, and with the specter of yet another possibility of the courts deciding who the next US President will be, I thought it a good time to address why the Electoral College needs to be abolished.
The National Bureau of Economic Research reviewed every Presidential election since 1836 and have concluded that nearly half (40%) of the time the election will be won by the loser of the popular vote when there is a margin of two million or less votes. This, of course, bodes well for Republicans, as in just over two thirds of they are expected to win the election while losing the popular vote. This is one of the main reasons why the GOP vehemently opposes abolishing the Electoral College. But there is another reason.
Black People and Other Minorities
The origin of the Electoral College, like many areas of political dispute at the time regarding political power, centered on slavery. States that had an abundance of slaves did not want them represented. In those states that had an abundance of slaves, there was concern that too much political power would be vested in the black population, so a variety of solutions were presented. The most well-known one is the designation of black people to be worth three-fifths of a white person. What many people do not realize is that the Electoral College was another one of the solutions to negate the voice of black people and was put in place at the behest of the demands of slave owners.
In 1787 James Madison wrote,
“There was one difficulty however of a serious nature attending an immediate choice by the people. The right of suffrage was 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.”
The ramifications of this decision are now an extreme polarization of the nation’s distribution of political representation and is also the reason we have things like battleground states and swing states. Currently, only thirty-four states observe the majority rule. Throw into the mix gerrymandering, and you have a situation which electoral results are already decided prior to votes being cast by citizens.
Both Republicans and Democrats engage in gerrymandering, but Republicans do it way more and often without shame. Gerrymandering, when done by Republicans, is unabashedly along racial lines. Again, this is not a conspiracy theory. It’s math. Minorites historically vote Democratic, and in many areas, minorities are, in fact, the majority. However, when district lines are drawn in such a way where a white Republican ends up representing a minority-heavy district, all one needs to do is look at the boundary lines to understand that this is systemic racism in real-time.
And this directly effects the electoral college, as districts that vote overwhelmingly in the popular vote for the Democrat candidate often end up being represented by a Republican due gerrymandering. When there is an abundance of gerrymandering, it translates into an electoral vote that does not represent the wishes of the majority.
I will cover gerrymandering in another article, but here’s a link that you can visit that explains it pretty well.
The result is a complete loss of true representation of any given district or the arbitrary distribution of power, and this directly skews the electoral college and the ability to have fair elections.
Ties that Bind
Another problem is the tied vote. In this case, the decision is made by the House of Representatives. The problem with this is that it a majority vote by the legislature is not required. Instead, it requires a majority of represented states. When you consider states that have one or two representatives weighed against states that have dozens of representatives, you can better understand the problem.
Furthermore, while the House of Representatives is in the process of voting for the Presidency, the Senate is simultaneously voting for the Vice President. In the event of a tied vote in the House, the Vice President gets to serve in the capacity of President until the tie is broken, and there is no time limit on this. At all. This is not a conspiracy theory, but literally the rules of the House and Senate when it comes to an electoral tie.
All of this doesn’t even speak to the problems inherent in what is basically a two-party system. The electoral college makes a third party virtually impossible. In the past, many third-party candidates succeeded in getting tens of millions of individual votes, but not one single electoral vote. In some cases, third-party candidates won a higher percentage of individual popular votes than the person who won the White House, because the electoral votes went to them, regardless.
The 1960s Supreme Court established that legislative districts shall be functionally equal in their respective populations. This was done to ensure that individual votes are counted equally in state elections (Reynolds v. Sims 1964; Baker v Carr 1962). These cases established that legislative districts shall be functionally equal in their respective populations. This was done to ensure that individual votes are counted equally in state elections.
This brings into question the constitutionality of the Electoral College as a whole, given the premise of “all men are created equal,” While we are not governed by the Declaration, the same principle exists in the Constitution, particularly since the ratification of the 13th amendment that abolished slavery and the three-fifths rule, and the 19th amendment that granted women the right to vote. All ‘men’ are created equal extends to ‘one person one vote.’
The Warren Supreme Court of the 1960s puts up a very good argument for the Electoral College being unconstitutional. However, as it stands now, the Electoral College is constitutionally mandated, and Article 5 of the constitution outlines what it would take to achieve an amendment. Basically, Congress submits an amendment proposal that requires approval from two thirds of both houses. Then a convention is called for proposing the amendment, and this must be approved by two thirds of the states. Finally, it must be ratified by three fourths of the states. No easy task.
But it almost happened in 1970, though. On September 18, 1969, the U.S. House of Representatives voted 338 to 70 to send a constitutional amendment to the Senate to abolish the Electoral College, the indirect system by which Americans elect the president and vice president. It was the only time in American history that a chamber of Congress actually approved an amendment to abolish the Electoral College
A year later the Senate bill that would have abolished the Electoral College was filibustered by Southern lawmakers in order to preserve their hold power in their states. Senate ended up just five votes shy of breaking the filibuster.
The Electoral College is dinosaur from a pre-civil rights era, and if it didn’t already exist, nobody would consider creating it. It’s useless, malevolent, racist, and allows a disproportion of political power that often comes with terrible consequences, especially for minorities, as it does nothing to make their voting experience comparatively legitimate. Small states are way overrepresentedand have an overwhelmingly larger white population, making nonwhite voters overwhelmingly underrated.
The Electoral College is undemocratic, allows for the election of a candidate who does not have the most votes, and it effectively eliminates the votes for the losing candidate. While there may be other arguments to keep the Electoral College, the main reason to keep it is for the continued suppression of minority representation and political power.