It’s way past time for us to scrap the Electoral College

The elector nomination process is specific to each state. For example, the governor in Florida nominates the electors of each party. In other states such aas California, electors are nominated by the state political parties. ABEMOS/iStockphoto/Tribune News Service

NEW YORK — Democrats and progressives are beginning to relax and even feel like celebrating, at least a little bit.

The U.S. electoral system teetered once again on the edge of the electoral abyss, but it didn’t completely collapse.

Although the Biden/Harris team now have more than a 5 million lead in the popular vote nationwide, and the presidential race was never close from a national viewpoint, Team Blue was only able to squeak out the 270 plus votes needed in the Electoral College by winning a razor thin majority in Pennsylvania, Arizona, Nevada and possibly a couple of other “battleground” states.

But if Pennsylvania, Michigan and Wisconsin had gone to Trump by small margins as they had in the ill-fated 2016 election that propelled him into the White House, the country would be facing the nightmare scenario of another four years of presidential-induced chaos, lies and further polarization.

If this very real possibility had been the fate we were now facing, the question of whether our already eroded pillars of our democracy would ever recover would have been a serious one. This would have been the third time in 20 years that we had elected a president who did not win the national majority vote.

The elections of 2000, when George W. Bush lost the popular vote but won the White House, and 2016, when Trump squeaked into office by losing the popular vote but winning the Electoral College, were very real and painful memories for those tens of millions of us who saw that our votes did not really count in the presidential elections, just because we happened to not live in one of a few battleground states.

Isn’t it time we took a close look at this antiquated and broken system of choosing our presidents? Or will we just revert to our usual post-electoral stupor? Let’s hope that as the country recovers from the last four years of disastrous policies, that we also scrap the Electoral College before it produces another Trump-like nightmare.

Indeed, the Electoral College is part and parcel of the institutional racism that the Biden/Harris team has vowed to tackle, though they may not know it yet.

At the Constitutional Convention in 1787, some of the founders gave lip-service to the concept of “one man, one vote,” but these faint calls for a real democracy were generally ignored. Instead, the founders crafted a Constitution that contained several tripwires to ensure that a “mobocracy” — as a pure democracy was derogatorily referred to — would never see the light of day.

Allocating two Senate seats to each state, no matter what its population size, was the most obvious way to ensure that smaller and more rural states (particularly slave-holding Southern states) held disproportionate political power.

The Electoral College was a stealthier — but just as effective way — to ensure that those same smaller and less populous states would continue to play an outsized role in the selection of the president.

The Electoral College and the Three-Fifths Compromise, where three out of every five slaves were counted as “people,” ensured that slaves would be disenfranchised while still being counted for purposes of maintaining political clout within the U.S. federation.

Allowing the Southern states to partially count slaves gave them a third more seats in Congress and a third more electoral votes than if slaves had been ignored. But the states didn’t have to actually let black people vote.

The Electoral College has been similarly problematic for women voters.

In a direct national election system, any state that gave women the vote would automatically have doubled its national clout. But under the Electoral College, a state had no such incentive to increase the franchise.

Just as slaves were partially counted for purposes of empowering the states in the House of Representatives, so too were women counted as “persons” for the same purpose, without actually having the right to vote.

With a preordained number of electoral votes allocated to each state, it made no difference to each state’s ability to influence presidential elections whether women or blacks voted. By contrast, a well-designed direct election system would further motivate the states and political parties to empower all eligible voters to cast their votes.

As we strive in the coming years to build a more equitable and perfect union that best serves the interests of the vast majority of Americans, not an elite few, the Electoral College must be removed as one of the last vestiges of an antiquated, anti-democratic and racist system that does a grave disservice to our contemporary society.

Its destruction in favor of a true national electoral process is far more important than toppling a few Confederate statues and removing a few Confederate flags.

According to a Pew Research poll done in March 2018, 75 percent of Democrats support moving to a popular vote system, with overall support for a popular vote at 55 percent.

A significant minority of Americans in a post-Trumpian country will vociferously oppose any move closer to the “one person, one vote” ideal because they fear true democracy and have benefitted from decades, if not centuries, of a system that protects white, male privilege.

If you really want your vote to count and you want it counted equally with those of your fellow citizens, one of the primary ways to build a more perfect union is to scrap the Electoral College.

Kenneth F. McCallion is a New York-based lawyer and author of “Treason & Betrayal.” His latest book is “COVID-19: The Virus That Changed America and the World.” He wrote this for InsideSources.com.

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(26) comments

Charlie McGrath

We are not a dem/mobocracy. We are a republic consisting of 50 separate but united states. Not a conglomeration of people. If the electoral college is eliminated then rural, less populous states would have no voice and therefore no reason to be part of the United States unless united by force. To allow the left and right coast to rule would make all of America disfunction like the left and right coast. The only reason that this idea keeps resurfacing is that Democrats can't become the permanent party unless the individual states lose their sovereignty. Democrats want to dictate to everyone how to live and what to think.

hermit thrush

we are a democratic republic. the founders did what they had to do to get the various states to ratify the constitution, but they knew themselves that anything less that majority rule is a perversion of the popular will. as it currently stands all those small rural states like the dakotas and vermont have no voice anyway, since they're dominated by one party or the other. political equality means political equality. if more american voters prefer what the democratic party offers, then they should get to be in charge. if more american voters prefer the republican alternative, then they should get to be in charge. it is a very elitist attitude to say that your side deserves to rule without the popular will behind it.

Pitbull

It is a very elitist attitude to think that you know that the founding fathers "did what they had to .... but knew that anything less than anything less than majority rule is a perversion...

hermit thrush

"True it is, that no other rule exists, by which any question which may divide a Society, can be ultimately determined, but the will of the majority[.]" -- james madison, 1785. https://press-pubs.uchicago.edu/founders/print_documents/amendI_religions43.html

more here: https://slate.com/news-and-politics/2018/10/minority-rule-not-in-the-constitution.html

all pb is doing in saying that it is "elitist" to read the founders' own words and the history around them is revealing that there yet another word he doesn't know the meaning of.

Joseph Savoca

We are a country ruled by the minority mob of Republicans. If the electoral college is not eliminated then urban, more populous states would have no voice and therefore no reason to be part of the United States unless united by force. To allow the center and south coast to rule would make all of America disfunction like the center and south coast. The only reason that this idea keeps resurfacing is that Republicans want to remain the permanent party. Republicans want to dictate to everyone how to live and what to think.

The electoral college does not allow each person's vote to count an equal amount. This is the only reason why Republicans cling to it. They don't have the values and ideology to appeal to a majority of Americans. They have lost seven of the last eight popular votes for president.

The senate provides for non-proportional representation. A minority of Americans vote for Republican senators, but they win a majority.

The mob of Republicans representing a minority of Americans is using that to dictate to everyone how to live.

The minority mob of Republicans have bullied their way to replace one-third of the Supreme Court in just four years in order to impose their will on all Americans.

The Republican mob mentality posted here is that might makes right and that Republicans have to do it to Democrats before Democrats can do it to Republicans. Republican minority mobocracy telling everyone how to live.

hermit thrush

👏👏👏

Pitbull

Haha, I see what you're doing there, Joseph. You're copying McGrath! But changing the party name and places! [sneaky] So, Joe, since the Senate allows for non-proportional representation, should we change that too so maybe NY gets 14 senators and Wyoming gets none or one?

hermit thrush

good job, you figured out joseph's comment! however it would seem kind of embarrassing for a rock-ribbed conservative to suggest that it's possible to change the number of senators from each state; the number is fixed by the constitution.

Joseph Savoca

When Republicans had a majority in the New York State Senate, they were happy. Now the last few years that they don't, Republicans like Griffo, Walczyk and others want to change the apportionment. Being out of the majority is no fun for anybody. They say that they have to be a check on the Democrats in the Assembly and the Governor.

For the United States, what is the check on the Republican majority in the Senate representing a minority of Americans? They can do whatever they want. They can refuse to bring a Supreme Court nominee up for a vote, even if they could block the appointment by all voting against. They can block any Cabinet appointees they want. When Trump hired and fired so many people, their excuse was that Trump should have whoever he wanted in his Cabinet. They won't say the same thing for Biden. They will say the appointees are "too radical" and "socialist". Obama nominated a centrist to the Supreme Court and could not get a vote.

There is no check on the tyranny of the minority.

Pitbull

Since when did constitutional limits stop modern day democrats, hermit?

hermit thrush

all the time, bro.

rdsouth

If only sovereign (sic) states like Kansas and Mississippi were dysfunctional like Boston and San Francisco. People crowd into those places because they aren't working very well. I'd like to vote for democracy, but then I'm not a sovereign state, so my voice doesn't count.

hermit thrush

a simple popular vote is the only fair way to do it. political equality for all means political equality for all.

rdsouth

A more robust system would be to simply have the House of Representatives function as the electoral college. I mean, once gerrymandering is banned. Since it is popularly elected and apportioned by population, voting for your representative would essentially be voting for president. But this is all pie in the sky because there will never be any more amendments because Republicans control most of the states. Unless they are reactionary amendments.

hermit thrush

nothing is more robust than a direct popular vote. even if gerrymandering is banned, your system would remain open to the possibility of the popular vote loser winning. and all of the attention in the election would move to the swing districts, just as the swing states get all the attention now.

Pitbull

Kenneth, now listen for a minute. Whether you think you'd like the founding fathers if you ran into them or not, they were not like you. Though some were aristocrats, most had a rural connection. You want to scrap one of the systems that keeps rural folk, the "salt of the earth", in the game? I would expect no less from a NYC lawyer. I get that the 2/3 Compromise wasn't even close to perfect but that is ancient history. So is the decision to give women the right to vote. These were hard fought issues, to say the least, but they are decided. Why do you say that because some relics have been overwritten that all must be rewritten? You want a different America, thats why. I would like readers of this comment to grasp at what would happen if we went to a pure democracy. Mobocracy is what would happen. In the end it would serve no one except NYC lawyers.

hermit thrush

why do rural voters deserve special privileges?

Pitbull

Because they have completely different needs than urban voters, which would be forever ignored under mobocracy.

hermit thrush

needs like what? and would your way simply mean that the "needs" of urban voters are forever ignored?

Pitbull

Where are you hiding yet still voting in NY-21? Use your imagination! If the EC is scrapped, presidents will be elected by NYC, LA, Chicago, DFW, ATL, etc., not Walker, IA or Columbus, MS. You, in your lofty position, must think that country folk are rubes, clinging to their Bibles and guns!

hermit thrush

of course you can't answer the questions. what special needs do rural voters have which would be ignored? under your system, why wouldn't analogous "needs" of urban voters be ignored?

the point can't be made enough, but there aren't nearly enough voters in urban areas to dominate under a simple popular vote. you already see this in plenty of individual states, like tx, ga, and fl.

Pitbull

1. The right to keep and bear arms without the insane restrictions levied by the intellectual elite.

2. Agricultural policies that help produce the nation's food.

3. A business climate that allows for free enterprise without high taxes and the increased regulation that urban societies always dictate.

4. Trade agreements that favor economic relationships with other countries where rural and small town industries can thrive.

5. Transportation initiatives that meet the needs of rural people.

6. A strong national defense. Rural and small town people are overrepresented in the military and have more skin in the game.

7. Abortion restrictions that reflect the people's will in a region.

There's a few for you to chew on.

hermit thrush

of these only 2 and maybe 5 have anything to do with intrinsically rural interests. the rest of it is just whining that the broader public doesn't agree with you. there's no principle to what you're saying; you just want to be able to shove your (unpopular) views down people's throats.

rdsouth

Pure democracy would be voters voting directly on laws, like we sometimes do on ballot initiatives and such. A fairly portioned representative democracy, with directly elected representatives, is known to work just fine.

hermit thrush

[thumbup]

rdsouth

What would help is if the states did it by congressional districts instead of winner take all. Some states do. But no state has a motive to go to such a system because it would mean a party majority in a state (assured of getting all the electors) would be giving up some electors to minority party areas. If you are changing the constitution, a more interesting proposal, one that might actually get bipartisan support, is designating the next electoral college as the Article V convention if one is called for and assigning them to use Masons Rules of Order and chaired by the president elect. It's a handy body that already exists (periodically). We are teetering on the brink of calling such a convention, with just a few more ratifications, and it is completely undefined how it will work.

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