Our Undemocratic & Dangerous Electoral College
In a true democracy, each person should have one vote. Unfortunately, that’s not at all how our Electoral College works.
Our Founding Fathers didn’t trust the illiterate public, feared the true democracy of majority rule, and only allowed white males who owned land to vote, not poor men, women, blacks, or Native Americans.
Southern states had fewer citizens eligible to vote and feared being weaker than the Northern states, so they refused to sign the Constitution. Instead, they demanded and got UNDEMOCRATIC compromises.
One of these compromises was the Electoral College, giving more power to rural slave owning states.
Now that more and more Americans live in big cities in large states, the Electoral College gives more and more power to rural, mostly white, non-Hispanic, conservative states with small populations and less and less power to those living in large cities and large states.
- California has 73 times the number of people Wyoming has. In the 2016 election, Wyoming had one electoral vote for each 187,875 residents, while California had one electoral vote for each 677,344 residents.
- So with the Electoral College, the power of a person’s vote in California is nearly 66% less than that of a person voting in Wyoming. This is VERY undemocratic.
- In the 2016 election, 32 states and Washington D.C. had more electoral power than their share of the US population.
- This problem will get far worse in the future because experts agree our large cities will continue to attract people from the smaller, rural states.
The antique Electoral College also foolishly allows someone to become president despite losing the popular vote.
- In 2000, Al Gore won the popular vote by over 540,000 votes, yet George W. Bush won the Electoral College.
- In 2016, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 2.9 million, yet Donald Trump won.
- Because of the Electoral College, a crowd that wouldn’t even fill the Rose Bowl (under 78,000 people) made Donald Trump president.
The Electoral College is a huge reason why Americans feel hopeless and apathetic about voting. With it, many votes for president don’t really count.
- Many states are reliably Democratic or Republican. And 48 of our 50 states use a winner-take-all approach to the Electoral College.
- This winner-take-all rule for the Electoral College is not in our Constitution.
- If a candidate wins by just one vote in a winner-take-all state, all the state’s Electoral College points goes to that candidate.
- In these states, then, opposition voters have no say in the election. In 2016, 55 million people, 42% of voters, had no say in choosing our president.
- Why bother voting if you live in a state that reliably votes for the president you oppose? Your vote doesn’t count at all!
- This unfair Electoral College hugely reduces voting.
- Research by Making Every Vote Count finds guaranteeing winners of the popular vote become president would boost turnout by 20 to 80 million.
The Electoral College also makes only a few swing states important.
- Candidates have no reason to target reliably Democratic or Republican states with winner-take-all electoral votes.
- So presidential candidates spend all their money trying to influence voters in swing states and rarely visit or invest much money in other states, ignoring them as if they didn’t vote.
- In 2012, presidential candidates ignored 80% of the states and 93% of all their campaign spending on TV ads went to just 9 states.
- In 2016, 99% of all presidential campaign ad spending and 95% of all the presidential candidate appearances occurred in 14 battleground states, even though only 35% of all eligible voters lived in those states.
- In 2016, this ignored the other 147 million voters. In fact, just 4 major battleground states got 71% of all presidential campaign ad spending.
It is foolish to ignore much of the population and make them irrelevant in presidential elections.
The Electoral College of the 1700s doesn’t work anymore. The Founding Fathers never imagined 80% of the voters would be irrelevant and politicians would ignore them.
Even worse, the 10th circuit federal judges have ruled that members of the Electoral College can ignore the will of the voters in their state and choose the candidate they prefer!
Guaranteeing the presidency to the winner of the popular vote would also force political parties to create policies favored by the majority of voters. They wouldn’t be able to take so many voters for granted.
The Biggest Danger
The Electoral College makes it far, far easier for Russians, other nations, or hackers to interfere in our elections by just targeting a few swing states. Russian hackers targeted election systems in at least 21 states.
It would be much safer if we just let the presidential candidate with the most votes win.
Fixing the Electoral College
A majority of Americans support ending the antique and foolish Electoral College and just counting the popular vote to choose our presidents. This would be a giant step toward a true democracy.
- Getting rid of the Electoral College with a constitutional amendment is difficult. It requires winning a 2/3 vote in both the House and Senate and also ¾ of the states (38 of them) ratifying it.
- So just 13 states can block it. Most likely, 13 or more of the smaller states that would lose power with this change would defeat the proposal.
- If we don’t eliminate the Electoral College, states should at least award their electoral votes based on the proportions of votes to each party, like Maine and Nebraska do.
- The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is a much easier way to accomplish the same goal. States have the power to determine how they award their electoral votes in national elections.
- Already, 16 states and Washington DC, with 196 electoral votes total, have agreed to hand their electoral votes to the candidate that wins the national popular vote.
- When enough states join this interstate compact to grant the candidate with the national popular vote 270 electoral votes, it will make this candidate the president.
We have already become far more democratic, giving the vote to:
- poor white men without property
- African Americans
- Native Americans
- young people between 18 and 21
We’ve already eliminated poll taxes and let voters choose senators themselves, instead of state legislators doing so.
It’s time to fix the undemocratic and dangerous Electoral College and let all Americans participate in choosing our president.
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