Electoral College, Part II
Not long after the Presidential election on November 8, 2016, there was much discussion in the news and on social media about the Electoral College. I have been an advocate to abolish the Electoral College long before this election and continue to support that opinion. However, just like with most stories in this fast-paced world, something that is a hot topic one day is completely forgotten about the next. So, in this, Part 2 of this series on the Electoral College, I wanted to share some information and some interaction I had to keep this important issue on top of your mind.
The following is a video that was shared by a friend of mind on their Facebook wall and my response to that video.
I find this to be an interesting, if only semi-accurate, video that does somewhat explain the Electoral College. However, it doesn’t give a complete overview of how the Electoral College works but is selective on the methods. I’ve watched the video several times and have selected specific parts I want to discuss.
The video give a good overview until about 2:20 when the video states “And it is this December election among the states’ 538 electors, not the November election, which officially determines the identity of the next President.” That statement is true but what is omitted from the video is that the vast majority of these electors are legally obligated by state law to vote for the winner of the popular vote from that state. For example, in Virginia Secretary Clinton won approximately 50% of the popular vote but received 100%, or 13 total, electoral votes. The result, in effect, is that the vote of anyone other than those that voted for Secretary Clinton does not count. It’s as if you didn’t even go to your polling place because Secretary Clinton wins 100% of the Electoral Votes.
Why is this a problem? For the exact opposite reason that the video outlines. According to the video, the Electoral College (which, by the way, is never named in the US Constitution) encourages national campaigning. Nothing could be further from the truth. National Public Radio did a mathematical calculation to determine the minimum amount of the popular vote (based upon the total vote count in the 2012 election) and noted that it was mathematically possible to win only 23% of the popular vote yet still win the Electoral College. How does the fact that someone can win only 23% of the Electoral College vote equate to national campaigning?
In addition, if the Electoral College encourages national campaigning, why did Donald Trump visit Florida 26 times, Pennsylvania 19 times, North Carolina 18 times, and Ohio 16 times between July and November but didn’t have one stop in North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Kansas, or Oklahoma? If the Electoral College encourages national campaigning, why did Hillary Clinton visit Florida 21 times, Pennsylvania 19 times, North Carolina 11 times, and Ohio 15 times between July and November but didn’t have one stop in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, North Dakota, or South Dakota? The answer is that Florida, Pennsylvania, North Carolina, and Ohio have significant electoral college representation and by winning those states, even by the slightest amount, could result in winning the entire Presidency. (travel states from traveltracker.nationaljournal.com)
“The Electoral College also makes it harder to steal elections.” I don’t even understand this statement. An election isn’t a car from a parking lot or a candy bar from a convenience store. It isn’t something that you can pick up and take. “Votes must be stolen in the right state in order to change the outcome of the Electoral College.” This statement again doesn’t make any sense at all. The only way someone can steal a vote is to steal someone’s identity then there has been a fraud and we have an entirely different problem than the structure of the electoral college.
The fact that the Electoral College is part of a great document written nearly 230 years ago. In support of the Electoral College, Alexander Hamilton had a very good point in The Federalist No. 68 indicating that “the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities to the station”. When Mr. Hamilton published that statement in 1788 the common farmer from upstate New York would not have nor would be expected to have access to accurate information to evaluate the candidates for office. In fact, that common farmer may not even be able to read so how could they possibly know if Andrew Jackson was more or less qualified to be President than Henry Clay? These men that Hamilton wrote about (note it is men, not men and women, and certainly not anyone of color) would have access to the requisite information to make an informed decision.
The current mode of “winner take all” electoral votes as is the case in 48 of the 50 states was feared by James Madison. Madison advocated to allocate the electors by district instead of by what was then called “general ticket”. The founders believed electors would be named by the citizens and that the elector would analyze and deliberate regarding who was best suited for President. James Madison wrote to George Hay, “When they make their elections by districts, some of these differing in sentiment from others, and sympathizing with that of districts in other States, they are so knit together as to break the force of those Geographical & other noxious parties that might render the repulsive too strong for the cohesive tendencies within the political System.” Said another way, Madison was worried that the general ticket concept would create the exact system that we have today where a winner-take-all or “general ticket” would result in an individual being elected that did not win the popular vote.
In today’s climate that allows for nearly all of the voting populace to access to sufficient information to evaluate a candidate on their own there is no need to fall back on an Electoral College system that was designed to allow those who were informed elect the leader of our country. To fall back on the argument that it is the best system because it was supported by founding fathers such as Alexander Hamilton and James Madison is flawed because that would also mean that African-Americans and women would not have the right to vote. The Constitution was designed to be a living document and allow for amendments when we, as a Country, had outgrown the best wisdom of its time. We have long outgrown the system of electors that the framers devised and we have long outgrown the “general ticket” concept that most states have adopted. The Seventeenth Amendment stipulates that senators must be elected by direct popular vote. We need an amendment that stipulates that presidents are elected in the same way.
P.S. I was interested in the source of the video so I looked up Prager University only to be taken to a website of conservative radio host Dennis Prager. I’m don’t consider myself conservative or liberal but I was concerned that people seeing video might think they are seeing something produced by an accredited academic institution.
At the time I was viewing the video while formulating that response I didn’t know when the video was originally posted. According to YouTube, the original video was posted on May 18, 2015, nearly 18 months before the Presidential Election. Regardless, I hope this post at least keeps you aware of the issue and provides some helpful information. I hope to have at least one more post regarding the Electoral College before the electoral votes are counted on January 6, 2017 and we officially find out who our next President will be but I’m not making any promises I can’t keep, unlike Presidential candidates.