democracy on the planet! One person, One vote. Right? Not on
your life. It has been no secret since the 2000 "election" fiasco* that
the Electoral College system is once again fertile ground for debate. An
innate American outrage ensued when we realized that the presidential choice
of the American people had been exiled in favor of the election loser,
installed as a result of an electoral anachronism. (We won't even address
the atrocity of the Supreme Court in this article.) Nevertheless, the extent
of the inequity was ambiguous at best until people started poring over
the numbers. In the following paragraphs, we'll paint the picture of injustice
for all to see and then explore the steps necessary to repaint one that
I'm sure everyone knows that conservative
areas of the nation tend to be more rural while progressives dominate urban
areas. Suburban areas tend to be the ongoing battleground for support.
This explains the ridiculous "map of red" that republicans use to claim
their overwhelming support across America. They obnoxiously point to the
massive red zone, which accounts for about 99% of the nations unpopulated
regions and instantly claim victory. Shucks! I'm surprised we bother to
have an election at all. Yuk. Yuk. Anyway, as you might expect, blue tends
to encompass all the metropolitan areas. Indeed, I'm not at all shocked
at this republican idiocy. The shock comes along when you start comparing
some of these "red" states to some of the "blue" states.
In general "republican" leaning states
require a shockingly smaller amount of popular votes to give their preferred
candidate an electoral vote compared to "Democratic" leaning states. To
illustrate, let's compare the make-up of the 25 most "republican" states
to the 25 most "Democratic" states (State classification is based on traditional
voting records). Each electoral vote from an average Democratic leaning
state is represented by 536,571 citizens. In the average republican leaning
state, however, each electoral vote is represented by only 501,699 individuals.
This is a 7% disadvantage for Democrats. Is it any surprise that a republican
loser replaced the people's choice for president? This isn't Democracy.
This is nonsense.
Powerhouse. As a specific
example, let's take a look at Wyoming and California. In national elections
each individual in the state of Wyoming has FOUR times the voting power
of individuals in California. Why? You guessed it. The Electoral College.
In Wyoming, each electoral vote is represented by only 164,594 people.
In California, you'll have to scoop together a massive 627,253 members
of the populace to give their preferred candidate a single electoral vote.
In what society could that possibly be fair? The bottom line is that the
principle rationale behind the Electoral College's creation is no longer
valid. The technological and communications infrastructure in this country
is multiple paradigms apart from those of two-plus centuries ago. So, although
the founding fathers may have had valid reasons for instituting this pseudo-democratic
method of choosing our nation's leader, If they were alive today, they
would certainly call for its abolishment**.
Electoral College. In case you haven't heard, the Republican
party was so disgusted with the Electoral College process that they had
set up contingency plans for the 2000 Election in the event that Gore won
the electoral vote even while losing the popular vote to Bush. This philosophy
never disappeared even as the Republicans fought tooth and nail to avoid
letting the people's votes get counted. After the State Supreme Court ruled
that the manual recount should take place, but before the "States-Rights"
Republican Supreme Court justices handed the Presidency to Bush, Republican
leaders were pushing legislation through the Florida State legislature
that would have handed the states electors to Bush regardless of the outcome
of the manual recount. With all this in mind, you would think that Republicans
would jump at the chance to eliminate the Electoral College. Right? Yeah
Right! Not as long as it gives them a grossly unfair advantage in any national
Take Election 2000. No, I mean take it
please. Ok then, here's the deal. In election 2000 Gore had to muster 190,997
popular votes to gain each earned electoral vote while Bush needed only
186,185 popular votes for each electoral vote awarded to him. That is a
difference of 4,812 popular votes per electoral vote disadvantage for the
Democrats. This is roughly nine times the margin of victory that Bush claimed
How many votes does it take to elect a republican? Answer: Fewer votes
than it takes to elect a Democrat to the same office. To illustrate, let's
explore another way to see the gross inequity of the Electoral College
system. This time through the Senate. In 2000, we saw the Senate achieve
a balance of 50-50. What we didn't see is the gross advantage that republicans
had in achieving that stasis. As a measure, let's use the electoral votes
to guage the popular support for each half of the even senate. Credit each
senator with half of their state's allotted electoral votes (state electoral
votes divided by 2 senate seats). For example, Trent Lott from Mississippi
would receive 3.5 electoral votes, half of the state's 7 votes. Do this
for every senator and you get the following results: Democrats -
302.5, Republicans - 232.5 ***. That translates to 6.05 electoral votes
required to put a Democrat into the Senate, but only 4.65 electoral votes
to put a republican there. In other words, Democrats need to muster 30.1%
more electoral vote power than the republicans do just to break even! Now
you know why Democrats are struggling despite their clear and further emerging
popular majority in this nation.
Why, you might ask, did the founding fathers jam the Electoral College
into the constitution in the first place. We left the "old" world to escape
government and various other types of oppression, prosecution and persecution.
Why not have the people vote directly for their leaders in our utopian
"New" World? Some suggest that America was never intended to be a true
democracy, but rather a republic as every republican was quick to remind
the world post-Election 2000. Some argue that the Electoral College system
ensures that the candidates pay attention to states with small populations
rather than spending all their time, energy and policy-making focused on
the large states. Well, the fact of the matter is that the founding fathers
were still the ones with the power in this new world and its suspected
that they were less than confident that the masses were capable of choosing
the "right" leaders. The Electoral College offered a safety net in case
the populace voted for the "wrong" candidate. For a less controversial
argument against the Electoral College, let's look to Senator Dick Durbin.
U.S. Sen. Dick Durbin originally co-sponsored
legislation to abolish the Electoral College in 1993 and renewed his call
shortly before the presidential election of 2000. He argued the following:
The Electoral College is an anachronism
badly in need of retirement. Created during the Constitutional Convention
in 1787, the Electoral College was thought to add stability to 13 loosely
knit states where communications and travel were slow and illiteracy high.
The debate over how to choose a president was perhaps the most contentious
one of the Convention and involved a number of fundamental issues: federal
vs. state powers, balance of powers between the branches of government,
big state vs. small state rivalries, and slavery. Delegates were concerned
that voters would lack sufficient knowledge of the candidates to make an
informed choice and only local favorites would receive popular support.
Proponents of the Electoral College wanted the most knowledgeable citizens
from each state to select a president based on merit. For a young country
experimenting with democracy and forged in revolution, the Electoral College
was seen as less risky than direct elections.
These concerns have largely disappeared
and, 200 years later, the rationale for replacing the Electoral College
with a direct popular vote is clear and compelling. The Electoral College
is undemocratic and inherently unfair. Wyoming, for example, has 160,000
people for each electoral vote, while Illinois has more than 550,000. Awarding
all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate with a popular vote plurality
in the state means millions of voters are disenfranchised. Essentially,
votes are taken away from those supporting the losing candidate and added
to those supporting the winning candidate. In comparison, a direct popular
vote - with its one-person one-vote system - is the foundation of democracy.
Many argue smaller states have an
advantage under the current system. Yet, the winner-take-all ballot in
each state means less populous and uncontested states are largely ignored.
Campaigns primarily focus on battleground states with the most electoral
votes. Hence, a few thousand votes from key states can have a disproportionate
impact. This system also invites undue influence by third party candidates.
The Electoral College now has produced four presidents who lost the popular
vote but still won the election. There have been seven other close calls.
The danger in this situation is a president who lacks a mandate from the
people, especially during a crisis. Abraham Lincoln once said, "Public
sentiment is everything. With public sentiment, nothing can fail; without
it nothing can succeed."
Throughout American history, there
has been an inexorable march toward one-citizen, one-vote. As the 13 colonies
were debating if and how to join a more perfect union, only a privileged
few - those with the right skin color, gender, financial status, and religion
- enjoyed the right to cast votes to select their leaders. The people
did not gain the right to choose U.S. senators by popular vote until the
ratification of the 17th Amendment in 1913.
Today, we rely on the popular vote
for nearly every election in America. As the world's first and greatest
modern democracy, it is time to fully trust the people and allow them the
right to choose their president.
A supporter of the Electoral College, John
Samples, Director of the Center for Representative Government at the Cato
Institute has this to say
What about the Electoral College?
Madison thought it embodied the federal will of the nation. By that he
meant the Electoral College included both the will of the nation as expressed
in the popular vote and the will of the states in a federal system (every
state large or small gets two electors) [Actually they get three. Bozo.].
As Madison knew, this amalgamation gave small and medium-sized states more
leverage in presidential elections than they would have in a popular vote.
He found that to be only fair given the influence of large states elsewhere.
In our own time, we can see other
advantages of the Electoral College. Under direct popular election of the
President, candidates might try to roll up large majorities in their strongholds
and ignore other parts of the nation. In contrast, the Electoral College
forces all candidates to seek support throughout the nation. Thus our last
election found Mr. Gore looking for votes in Florida and Mr. Bush doing
the same in Michigan and Oregon. By making presidential candidates look
for support beyond their strongholds, the Electoral College produces a
leader with broader support throughout the nation than would be the case
with direct election of the president.
So, should some voters have more influence
simply because they live in sparsely populated states as Mr. Samples suggests?
Are they more important than those who live in populous states? I don't
think so. One person. One Vote.
In addition, the argument that the Electoral
College ensures that "presidential candidates look for support beyond their
strongholds" is beyond ludicrous, it's simply wrong. Candidates actually
tend to ignore their strongholds, assuming that they will remain with him/her
throughout the election. The true targets are the toss-up areas where additional
votes can be harvested. You certainly didn't see Gore focusing on Wyoming,
Idaho and Montana and this wasn't because they have very few electoral
votes, it was because there was no hope of picking up any votes in these
states. The bottom line is that candidates will always campaign most where
they think they can pick up the most votes in addition to their base, Electoral
College or not.
There is, of course, no doubt that campaign
strategies would change in a post-Electoral College world. But the general
idea would remain the same. Candidates are going to focus on those areas
where the most independent/undecided voters live. This is where the greatest
return on campaign investment will always be made. The difference will
be that instead of focusing on the confines of states' borders, candidates
would concentrate on regions (e.g. farm belts, steel producing regions,
bible belts, mining regions, etc.) The benefit would be that everyone's
vote would count as much as anyone else's.
So what is the
solution? You know as well as I do that the only way to ensure
a just electoral system consistent with the American ideal is to get rid
of the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote. "One person. One vote."
* All data used is based on the popular vote
totals and electoral vote allocation as of the 2000 election cycle. See
below for data summary.
Relentlessly promote the mantra "One person.
One Vote." and point out the gross inequity of the current system.
Stress that the original intent of the Electoral
College is no longer relevant.
Note that we should always strive for a complete
democracy in spite of critics' claims that the US is "only" a republic.
Be aggressive and express outrage!
** Invoking the founding fathers is a tried
and true strategy used by the right. Here, you can see how truly baseless
and ridiculous such a tactic is.
*** Although Washington DC has 3 electoral
votes, it has no senate representation. Thus, the electoral vote count
for the senate adds to 535 instead of the national total of 538.
most Republican States
most Democratic States
The editors of Politicalstrategy.us