Donald Trump had it pegged; the election was really rigged. Hillary Clinton won the most votes, but Trump won the presidency. It was rigged 229 years ago by the Founding Fathers. They created a convoluted, undemocratic presidential election system that became known as the Electoral College.
It was part of a classic backroom political deal fashioned to appease southern slave states so they’d sign the new Constitution. The south—slave owners, anyway—fretted about the north’s larger population and the political power that came with it. They thought those Yankees might even abolish slavery.
So they infamously compromised. Slaves wouldn’t be allowed to vote, but they could be counted as three-fifths of a person for the purpose of padding the south’s population numbers. That way, Dixie would be entitled to more congressmen—and more presidential electors.
It wasn’t by coincidence that four of the first five presidential elections were won by candidates from Virginia, which had lots of slaves. The three-fifths non-sense ended when slaves were freed during the Civil War. But the Electoral College endured, still tilted toward the less populated states.
It’s because of how presidential electors are allotted by each state. It’s mostly based on the number of U.S. House members, which is determined by population size. But every state also gets an elector for each senator. And every state is entitled to two senators, regardless of how many people live there.
So in the most extreme case, Wyoming gets one senator for roughly every 291,000 residents. In California, there’s one senator for every 19.2 million people.
True, Wyoming has only one U.S. House member and California has 53. When it’s all calculated, for every 194,000 people in Wyoming, there’s one Electoral College vote; but it takes 697,000 Californians to qualify for one electoral vote.
It’s long past time to clean up this absurdity and allow American voters to elect their presidents directly. Our votes should not be filtered through an archaic system that enhances citizens’ votes in some states and dilutes them in others.
Citizens should be electing the president; states shouldn’t be.
Republican votes for president in deep-blue California are worthless; ditto, Democratic votes in bright-red Texas. Such disenfranchisement occurs across the country. That’s because all but two small states—Nebraska and Maine—cast their electoral votes on a winner-take-all basis.
Every other elective office in America is decided by who gets the most votes—all the way from U.S. senator and state governor down to first-grade class presidents.
Why do we still do it this way? Because we always have.
It’s also because Republicans, who now control Congress and most state governments, certainly don’t want to change something that has been benefiting them.
Clinton is the second Democratic candidate in 16 years to win the popular vote but lose the presidential election. Like Al Gore did to George W. Bush in 2000.
In all, five presidential candidates have lost the popular vote but won the White House. The others were Benjamin Harrison over Grover Cleveland in 1888, Rutherford B. Hayes over Samual J. Tilden in 1876 and John Quincey Adams over Andrew Jackson in 1824.
There won’t be a constitutional amendment to change it, at least anytime soon. A constitutional amendment requires a two-thirds vote of both houses of Congress—currently controlled by the GOP—and approval by three-fourths of state legislatures.
Red states aren’t going to agree. Neither are purple states because they soak up a lot of attention and campaign bucks as “battlegrounds.”
The chances of getting a constitutional amendment passed to elect a president by popular vote aren’t very good, so what are other alternatives?
The District Method. The states can choose any method they want for divvying up electors. Some would love to see more states use the “district” method like Maine and Nebraska, where two electoral votes go to the candidate who wins the popular vote statewide and the rest go to the popular vote winners in each congressional district.
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. In this plan, states award their electors to whoever wins the popular vote nationwide, not statewide. So far, 11 states (with 165 delegates) have signed on; to take effect, the compact needs enough states to total 270.
Perhaps the simplest and best alternative would be to adopt The Proportional Plan, sometimes called EQV (electoral vote equivalents). The states pass laws that dictate that instead of winner take all, electors are awarded proportionally based on the popular vote in each state.
The number of electors, as well as the way they are chosen, for each state doesn’t change, just the allocation of electors based on a percentage of the popular vote.
In the current system, nine or 10 states essentially dictate who gets the most electoral votes. If, on the other hand, you rely strictly on the popular vote, the major populated cities and states—New York, California, Illinois—will become the determining factor.
Any change to the election system would probably increase the cost of campaigning, which is already obscene; campaigning in the major population centers will cost a lot more. That, along with the length of campaigns, is part of another problem we’ll leave for another day.
In a nutshell, that’s why Democrats who dominate the population centers want to dump the Electoral College in favor of a straight popular vote and why, conversely, Republicans are against it.
I personally favor the Proportional Plan. You think California would give up winner-take-all?