November 16, 2016 by JImbo
After umpteenth online “petition” and scream fest on social media, here come the usual calls to get rid of the Electoral College. I expected it would be a Democrat from California, Illinois or New York. Liberal lion Barbara Boxer (California!) finally trotted out a “Abolish the Electoral College” law.
Don’t worry about it.
It’ll do nothing.
Just politics as usual.
If you want to know why the Electoral College will not be ended, you have to understand why it exists. To do that you must know why the Congress exists. To do that you must understand how the Constitution was created.
It makes perfect sense once you know the facts.
So easy even a Progressive could understand it….if they ever bothered.
I think most of us at this point we all know what the Electoral College is. For those few that DON’T: We don’t choose our President through a simple popular vote of the people. Instead, we vote in each state and each state gives its total votes towards the candidate that wins the majority in that state.
There are a couple exceptions such as Maine and the District of Columbia (which isn’t a state) but in general, that is how the system works. It has worked that way for over 200 years. Yes, there are reasons for it.
You may notice that the number of Electoral College votes are nearly identical to the number of Congressmen. There are 535 Congressmen (435 in the House of Representative and 100 in the Senate.) There are 538 Electoral votes. (Washington DC has 3 Electoral votes, even though it’s not a state. It was given the status of a state for voting purposes by the 23rd Amendment in 1961.)
That isn’t a coincidence. That is how the system was designed to work. To answer why you have to ask…Why do we have a Senate and House of Representatives?
Our Congress is what is called a “bi-cameral legislature.” That is, it has two different parts to it. That is for a good reason.
The US Constitution was never directly voted on by the citizens of the 13 colonies. Each State voted and then sent people to sign for the state. The US Constitution is not a contract with the people directly. It is a contract between the states to manage relations BETWEEN them.
That is why we don’t vote by popular vote. We are members of States…and those States are then members of the “United States.” Make sense?
It’s the same way that shopping malls are organized. You can have an independent local store anywhere. However, you can ALSO have stores join together into larger groups sharing a plaza or a mall. Those stores voluntarily join together to share the costs of parking or security, and benefit from increased foot traffic and location. The store employees run everything INSIDE their store, but between and around the stores (hallways, food court tables, sidewalks, parking lots, etc) they SHARE the cost and maintenance.
The store employees don’t work for the mall. The owners don’t work for the mall. The customers aren’t buying things from the mall.
The only function of the “mall” is doing those things OUTSIDE of the stores that they can’t or don’t want to cover on their own. The only “mall employees” are those doing those jobs OUTSIDE of the stores (security, parking, custodial, etc)
A key point to be made here is that the employees have no say in running the mall directly. The customers do not either. The only ones allowed to vote at the “tenant meetings” are the tenants…ie the stores.
If employees or customers want to vote on a change to the mall, they have to go to the store owners and convince THEM to argue for them at the monthly tenant meeting. The more traffic a store does, the more “voice” it has at the meeting, but every tenant has a voice by virtue of paying rent.
The United States works the same way.
You are not a direct party to the US Constitution. Hence, you don’t vote for the President directly. You are in a state, but that STATE has voting rights in the election and in Congress.
You do have a voice. You choose the way the STATE will vote by voting inside that state. However, at the end of the day you are just making the State’s mind up.
When the Constitution was being debated, it almost didn’t pass. There was an impasse over the value of a Democracy over a Republic. The larger states wanted a raw Democracy. The smaller states wanted a Republic.
What’s the difference? Simple. A raw Democracy is where the majority dictates what EVERYONE does. In a Republic, the minority retains rights even if they are voted against.
In a raw Democracy for example, if 51% of the people voted to make black people slaves again, they COULD because black folks are only 18% of the population. The majority rules…period.
In a Republic, the minority has rights. We have a Bill of Rights to delineate things which the majority can’t do… no matter what. No matter how many people WANT slavery, it’s not constitutional.
You can amend the Constitution, but it’s very difficult. We will get to that in a minute.
This idea of a Republic where minorities matter relates directly to why we have a two-part Congress. Just as we as individuals and minorities don’t want to be oppressed, neither do the small states! If we ONLY had a House of Representatives (based on population), the states with a lot of people would ALWAYS get their way. No one in the smaller states would have a chance to be heard.
That is why we have a Senate, where every state has two votes. A bill has to go through BOTH parts of Congress to become law. The larger states can push bills through the House based on population, but the smaller states can shoot them down in the Senate, where every state is equal.
A bill has to please BOTH large and small states to get past Congress. This “balance of powers” extends to the Electoral College too. The small states still have some power, even if it is much smaller than the large states. Instead of one vote for example, New Hampshire has three. That’s nothing compared to California’s 55 votes…but it’s at least something and adds up with MANY other small states.
The very reason we have a Senate (minority rights) is the same reason we have an Electoral College. That is also the reason we won’t see the Electoral College go away. There are simply too many small states.
The Electoral College is part of the Constitution, so it has to be changed by a Constitutional Amendment. That requires (per the Constitution) a PROPOSAL to be passed by 2/3 of the Congress…or 2/3 of the States.
More than 2/3 of the states are “small states.” Why would they vote to take power AWAY from themselves? For that matter, if you eliminate the Electoral College then you must also eliminate the Senate which is based on the same idea of protection for minority rights.
Once debated an amendment must be APPROVED by ¾ of the States in either case. There is simply no way that there are 38 states willing to give up their power to the 12 biggest states. Nor should they.
Hillary Clinton’s problem wasn’t the Electoral College. Her problem was that her influence didn’t extent past those few, HUGE states. Outside of New York, Chicago, LA and a few metro areas she LOST TERRIBLY. She had OVERKILL in the places she ALREADY won like New York City…and didn’t bother to campaign much in other places.
That sort of ignoring of the small states is the EXACT reason that the Founders created the system as it is. They didn’t want small states to be ignored. They didn’t want Presidential candidates to simply fly between the 5 largest cities and never set foot in “flyover country.”
Donald Trump for all his faults (I didn’t vote for him… or Clinton)… understood that. Most of his rallies were in the rural, less populated areas. Trump played the game as intended. Clinton simply failed to bother with the small states and lost…as the system intended.
What does whining about it now matter? You aren’t going to abolish the whole Electoral College. You won’t get rid of the Senate. So what, besides politics as usual is the point of the protests?
Well, rioting aside there could be tweaks to the system that might work if there were an ACTUAL, intelligent PEACEFUL political “protest” movement.
What COULD be done is that the Electoral College electors could be bound to the results in their states. Many states already legally bind Electors to vote as the popular vote goes or be punished under law. There are only a few states where Electors are free to “vote their conscience.”
On the positive side it’s much easier to do that than a Constitutional Amendment because since the States “own” the Electoral votes, they can simply change their rules on how to decide them by State law. It doesn’t require any other states to agree.
On the other hand, grassroots groups would have to spring up and convince the legislatures in all the states to adopt those laws. That could take a lot of work. It would be less work than an Amendment of course…which is virtually impossible to pass for the reasons outlined above.
In either case the actual “Abolish the Electoral College” protests are misguided. Most of the people at them aren’t even registered to vote, let alone conversant in how the system works. If you don’t understand how it works…how can you expect to know IF it is broke, let alone how to “fix” it?
It’s all a moot point because the system worked perfectly. The people split down the middle for Trump and Clinton. Trump actually went to the small states to include ALL Americans in his rallies..which tipped the Electoral votes his way. Clinton failed to connect with most of the states…and lost those states where she didn’t bother to campaign.
I you look where the riots are… New York, LA, Portland, Chicago, etc… you will notice it’s not in the “small” states. It’s in the states that stand to gain the most from “raw Democracy” and have the most to lose from respecting the rights of the people in smaller states.
Yet again the Democratic party tries to screw over the minority for the “greater good.”
The system worked, folks.
If it ain’t broke don’t fix it.