As of the writing of this post, Hillary Clinton leads Donald Trump by just under 566,000 votes, with 99% of the precincts reporting. Since she received more votes, President-Elect Clinton will take office on January 20.
What’s that you say? She won’t take office? She’s not President-Elect? She didn’t win the election?
But she got more votes!
Welcome, friends, to the Electoral College. Or, as I’ve come to call it, Voter Fraud, American Style.
Prior to this week’s election, the Republican candidate for president spewed endlessly about a rigged election. In recent years Republican governors and legislatures have signed voter ID laws to help prevent voter impersonation, which they claim is common. Never mind this constitutional law expert’s study that found 31 cases of voter impersonation out of 1 billion votes cast from 2000-2014.
That rate of voter impersonation works out to 4 votes cast via voter impersonation in this election. Four.
The voter fraud Republicans worry about is so extraordinarily rare that we can call it non-existent. When Indiana defended its voter ID law before the Supreme Court they couldn’t provide one real example of voter fraud that the ID law would have prevented.
However, Voter Fraud, American Style is very real.
The basic concept that Republicans are supposedly trying to protect is the idea of one person, one vote. Everyone gets one vote, and no one’s vote counts more than anyone else’s vote.
Sounds good, eh? Fair and democratic. It’s the sort of noble idea that the great men who founded this country endorsed.
Except they didn’t.
Instead of setting up a true one person, one vote system, the Founders created the Electoral College. When problems arose, they modified it with the Twelfth Amendment.
The Electoral College works like this: citizens cast votes for president. Those votes are tallied, and the candidate who wins the most votes in a state gets all the electoral votes for that state.
But what’s an electoral vote, and why do some states have more than others?
Each state has two electoral votes (based on having two Senators), and then an additional electoral vote for each member of the House of Representatives from that state. The numbers of members of the House is based on the population of each state in the census. So states with the smallest populations like Wyoming, Alaska, and South Dakota have the fewest members of the House, and states like California and New York have the most.
So California, the most-populous state, has two Senators and 53 Representatives, for a total of 55 electoral votes. And Wyoming, the least-populous state, has two Senators and 1 Representative, for a total of 3 electoral votes.
Poor Wyoming, they have so few votes! They don’t count for anything.
But wait a minute, this is Voter Fraud, American Style, so there’s more than meets the eye.
California’s 55 electoral votes are spread over 37.2 million people, while Wyoming’s 3 electoral votes are spread over 563,000 people. Some quick division reveals that a person’s vote in Wyoming counts 3.6 times as much as a person’s vote in California!
A South Dakota person’s vote counts 4.1 times as much as person’s vote from neighboring state, Minnesota. A vote in Indiana only counts nine-tenths as much as a vote in Illinois.
What happened to one person, one vote?
If we’re so gung ho about the fairness and integrity of our elections, then why do we choose a president through such an unfair system?
The Founders setup the Electoral College this way for a few different reasons. In an era when political parties didn’t exist and the country was too spread out, and infrastructure too scarce to permit nationwide campaigning, the Founders worried that voters wouldn’t have enough information to make an informed choice.
There was also the issue of slavery. Southern states wanted slaves counted as people for purposes of determining how many Representatives they’d get, and thus their number of electoral votes. Northern states didn’t want slaves counted. So they came up with the Three-Fifths Compromise, which counted each slave as Three-Fifths of a person, which permitted less-populous, slave-holding southern states to be on par, population-wise, with more-populous, non-slave-holding, northern states.
But we don’t have slavery any more. And we have more than enough information to make an informed choice. The reasons for the Electoral College no longer exist, yet we keep it.
And we keep it despite the fact that it makes our presidential elections patently unfair. In addition to nullifying the idea of one person, one vote, the Electoral College also perpetuates inequality of attention. Only 11 states had a margin of victory of less than 5% in this election.
Hillary Clinton lost Wyoming by 46%. She knew she was going to lose Wyoming—and gain zero electoral votes—so she never campaigned there. Trump lost California by 28%. He knew was going to lose California, so he never campaigned there.
Instead, presidential campaign events and advertising are concentrated in the states with close races, effectively disenfranchising Democrats in Wyoming and Republicans in California.
The only sensible alternative is direct election by popular vote. The candidate who wins the most popular votes wins the election. Force the candidates to campaign from sea to shining sea.
A Democrat would campaign in central Alabama, which is heavily Democratic, but is now ignored because the rest of the state is Republican. A Republican would campaign in upstate New York, which leans Republican, but is now ignored because the rest of the state is so heavily Democratic.
If we want to do away with Voter Fraud, American Style, then we need to get rid of the Electoral College.
That’s not likely to happen though. Beginning next year Republicans will control the White House and both chambers of Congress. And if it weren’t for the Electoral College, Republicans would rarely control the White House.
Democrats have won the popular vote in six of the past seven presidential elections. And Republicans have won the popular vote only once in the past 48 years in elections in which they were not the incumbent party.
The Electoral College negates the idea of one person, one vote. And if the Republicans hated voter fraud as much as they claim, they’d lead the charge to amend the Constitution so presidents are elected by popular vote.
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