It’s time to dump the Electoral College (November 2016)
For the second time in recent history, the Electoral College has thwarted the will of the American voter. Hillary Clinton won the popular vote in 2016, as did Al Gore in 2000. That is twice in 16 years that the Electoral College has failed us. The Electoral College is an 18th Century anachronism that may have made sense back then. But is the 21st Century it has become a disaster.
No one wants to see another Electoral College tragedy like the one that occurred in 2000. George W. Bush was elected by a handful of votes in Florida that overrode the choice of millions of voters across the country. In truth, the election was decided by one vote when the US Supreme Court in a 5-4 decision gave Florida and the election to Bush. Now it has happened for a second time and the results will be even more devastating.
The Electoral College is full of mathematical aberrations which make for unfair elections. Wyoming has a population of 563,626 and 3 electoral votes, or one electoral vote for every 187,875 people. California has a population of 37,253,956 and 55 electoral votes, or one electoral vote for every 677,345 people. Thus the vote of a Wyoming resident counts 3.6 times as much as the vote of a California resident.
But there are even more to worry about. The rules are not even consistent from state to state. Maine and Nebraska split their votes according to congressional districts. While this might actually make sense, the rules should be standardized across the nation.
Even more troubling is the potential for an “unfaithful elector.” One of the electors from the state of Washington declared that he would refuse to cast his ballot for Hillary Clinton out of personal conscience. On election night there were some scenarios that pointed to an Electoral College tie vote at 269 each. In such a situation, one unfaithful elector could change the results of the election out of personal whim, and not be accountable.
The Electoral College system disenfranchises those who vote for the losing parties in each state. If you are a Republican in California or a Democrat in Texas you need not even bother to vote for president. Your vote for president will not even be counted in this winner-take-all system. The only way to make your vote count is to move your voter registration to a swing state, like Florida, where it just might make a difference. But such shenanigans are shameful and ought not to be necessary.
The Electoral College made sense in Eighteenth Century America. Back then America was much like Europe is today. The European Community is still a collection of nations, even though there is the beginning of a European government. In the Eighteenth Century colonial America was also a collection of nations. People were Virginians or Georgians or New Yorkers. No one thought of us as a federation. In the Eighteenth Century it made sense to vote for the president by states.
The name “The United States of America” comes from the Declaration of Independence. But what the Declaration of Independence really says is, “… the thirteen united STATES OF AMERICA.” The emphasis was on the individual states and not on a union.
It was the Civil War that finally fused this collection of states into a nation. The Spanish American War in 1898 marked the birth of the American superpower, capable of influencing events beyond our borders.
Now in the Twenty-First Century the Electoral College is a dangerous and destructive historical anachronism. We are one nation and we need to vote as one nation. The elected president should be the person who commands the most votes regardless of the states in which those votes were cast.