THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE IS UNDEMOCRATIC

You know where I stand.  Now let me explain why you should feel the same way.  What follows was excerpted from a column by George Skelton in the L.A. Times.

“What I’m opposed to is the undemocratic general election winner-take-all system used by all but two states—Nebraska and Maine—of awarding electoral votes.  The Founding Fathers never set it up this way.  The Constitution doesn’t even mention the words Electoral College.

“The Founders, in fact, were skittish about direct democracy.  They didn’t trust all the people.  Women and slaves weren’t allowed to vote.  Senators originally were chosen by the state legislatures.  The constitutional framers merely decreed that the president be chosen by state `electors.’  Legislatures could appoint electors by any method they chose.

“What we have today evolved sordidly from states—especially slave states—jockeying for power leading up to the Civil War.  There’s nothing at all holy about it.  The winner-take-all system is bad for two reasons.

“First, as we’ve seen, a candidate can receive the most votes nationally and still lose in the Electoral College.  In all, four presidential candidates have won the most votes but lost the presidency.

“Second, under a winner-take-all system, the vast majority of states are shunted to the sidelines, forced to watch from afar as the candidates fight it out in a few battleground states.

“That’s because candidates won’t waste their time or money campaigning in states where they’re a cinch to win everything anyway or are sure to be shut out.  In California, since 1992, no Democratic can lose, and no Republican has a prayer.  So you can already add California’s 55 electoral votes—20% of the number needed to win the presidency-to the Democratic column in November 2016.

“Neither candidate in the 2012 presidential election held one general election campaign event in California—or in 37 other states.  Only 12 states saw any events.  And 96% of the 253 events were held in eight battleground states.  Nevada, with only six electoral votes, had 13 campaign stops and $55 million spent on it for ads.  For three-quarters of the states, it was a total snub.

“These figures come from Fair Vote, a nonpartisan group trying to reform the system so that every vote counts.  It’s a simple idea that doesn’t require a constitutional amendment.

“States form a compact that obligates each to cast all its electoral votes for the candidate who wins the popular vote.  The compact wouldn’t go into effect until signed by enough states to make up a majority of the Electoral College votes.

“People must get over the notion that states should elect a president.  Citizens should elect their national leader, as they do governors and members of Congress.

“So far, 11 states have inked the compact.  They possess 165—or 61%–of the necessary 270 electoral votes.  These states come in all sizes—small, medium and large.  California signed up in 2011.  New York was the latest last April.  The focus now is on Oregon, Connecticut and Delaware.  There’s hope of electing by popular vote in 2020.

“`Early on, legislatures didn’t want to spend time on something that seemed pie in the sky,’ says John Koza, a Silicon Valley computer wizard who came up with the idea.  `Now we’re getting closer and approaching another presidential election, and that’s generating interest.’

“When Gov. Brown signed the compact bill, he commented:  `It seems logical that the occupant of the White House should be the candidate who wins the most votes.  That is basic fair democracy.’”

No question we are long overdue for a change.  Here’s a summary of the four previous popular vote winners who didn’t get to be president.

In 2000, Governor George Bush and Vice President Al Gore squared off in one of the closest elections in our history.  Once the final count was tallied, Gore won the popular vote by 54,895.  Winning the popular vote, however, was not enough.  George Bush won the Electoral College 271-266.  At this time in history, as is still true today, the required number to win the Electoral College is 270.  Bush was declared the winner, even  though more voters went for Gore.

In 1888, President Grover Cleveland and U.S. Senator Benjamin Harrison battled a long race, with the outcome of the election coming down to Cleveland’s home state of New York.  The overall popular vote was only a difference of 90,596 votes.  What is crazier is that the state of New York came down to less than 15,000 votes, roughly 1.1% of a difference.  If Cleveland could have swayed 1.1% of voting New York citizens, he would have changed the Electoral College vote from 233-168, to 204-197; thus, putting him over the 201 Electoral College votes necessary to win presidency.  Unfortunately, he would have to settle for only winning the popular vote, and re-running for president in 1892.  Cleveland went on to win in 1892, becoming the only president to serve two non-consecutive terms.

In 1876, Governor Rutherford B. Hayes and Governor Samuel J. Tilden competed in one of the most disputed elections in our history.  Governor Tilden received 247,448 more popular votes than did Governor Hayes.  Now we start to see an issue.  Almost 3% difference in the popular vote, and Hayes was declared the victor because he won 185-184 in the Electoral College.  This election stands as the only time in America’s history where there has been an absolute majority of the popular vote—more than 50%–go to one person, yet the votes did not get the majority winner elected president.

I saved the best for last.  Imagine having the most Electoral College votes AND the most popular votes, but not winning the election.  You are in a race with three other competitors, and you win every contest.  Unfortunately, there are some “rules” that decided that you didn’t win by enough, so you lose.

In 1824, Andrew Jackson clearly won both the popular and electoral vote; however, Jackson did not win a majority (more than 50%) of the electoral vote.  This led to the tie-breaker event laid out in the Twelfth Amendment of the U.S. Constitution; a very convoluted and totally undemocratic system used to break a tie or when no candidate gets a majority of the Electoral College.  The House of Representative decides, not by a majority vote of all representatives, but by giving one vote to each state.

ArtSchwartzSig

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