The Electoral College … Keep, Abolish, or Circumvent?

One of the big debates in Washington and around the nation is whether it is time to get rid of the electoral college.  It’s funny in retrospect, but after President Barack Obama won his second term of office, Donald Trump tweeted this …

trump-tweet

But, when the electoral college put him, against the majority vote, into the Oval Office, suddenly he didn’t mind it so much anymore.  Funny how that works, isn’t it?

trump-tweet-2.png

One of Elizabeth Warren’s talking points as she campaigns for next year’s presidential election is the abolishment of the electoral college, and it seems a majority in this country are in agreement.  A Pew Research Center poll last year found that a 55% majority support picking presidents by popular vote, compared to 41% who prefer keeping the electoral college.  The usual 4% were asleep … again.

Most of the candidates from both political parties, a number of members of Congress, and others have opined on this issue in recent weeks, but I don’t really care about any of that right now.  I prefer to talk facts … you know, those pesky statements that are supported by hard data?  Let’s first take a look at the rationale behind the electoral college as it was first written into the U.S. Constitution.

There were two primary reasons for the electoral college.  The first was to ensure that only a qualified person becomes president (are you laughing yet?).  The framers of the Constitution believed that with the Electoral College no one would be able to manipulate the citizenry. It would act as check on an electorate that might be duped.  The founders did not trust the population to make the right choice. The founders also believed that the Electoral College had the advantage of being a group that met only once and thus could not be manipulated over time by foreign governments or others.

The second reason for the electoral college system was to mitigate the disadvantage of states with smaller populations.  That, however, is rather a myth, as I will show in a bit.

Now, the majority in this country believe the electoral college has outlived its usefulness.  I have to agree … it is obvious that in the 2016 election it did the exact opposite of what it was intended to do and put the candidate who actually lost the popular vote by nearly 3 million votes, or 2.1%, in office.  This was the least qualified candidate imaginable, yet he now sits in the Oval Office.  It is time for a change.

However, the only means to repeal or abolish the electoral college would require a constitutional amendment, which is not even remotely likely to happen at this point.  But … there is another option.

Contrary to popular belief, the Constitution does not mandate that the winner take all in each state … that was the decision of the individual states over the course of the 19th century.  A state can decide, as 12 states plus the District of Columbia have recently done, to essentially bypass the electoral college.  The states that have signed onto this plan, the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, are …

  • District of Columbia – 3 electoral votes
  • Colorado – 9 electoral votes
  • Connecticut – 7 electoral votes
  • Hawaii – 4 electoral votes
  • Illinois – 20 electoral votes
  • Maryland – 10 electoral votes
  • Massachusetts – 11 electoral votes
  • New Jersey – 14 electoral votes
  • Washington – 12 electoral votes
  • Vermont – 3 electoral votes
  • California – 55 electoral votes
  • Rhode Island – 4 electoral votes
  • New York – 29 electoral votes

If enough states pass the bill to account for 270 electoral votes, the bill will become law of the land and as a result, would ensure that every vote will be equal throughout the U.S. and that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election.  Not only would this bypass the electoral college, but would also make gerrymandering* pointless.  There are 8 additional states, totaling 72 more electoral votes, where the bill has passed one chamber of the state legislature.  If all 8 pass the bill and the governors sign it into law, added to the 181 electoral votes above, that accounts for a total of 253, a mere 17 short of the magic number.

Under the compact, states pledge to allocate all their electoral votes to the winner of the nationwide popular vote in presidential elections.  While this would not abolish the electoral college, it would guarantee that the candidate with the most popular votes would win the election.  Seems to me there can be no logical argument about that … it is as it should be.  We the People are supposed to elect a president, not the Republican Party nor the Democratic Party … We The People!

The argument against this compact mainly comes from the Republican Party, and their argument is that a popular vote system would encourage candidates to only campaign in the larger (population) states, and the smaller states would suffer.  The reality is that in 2016, two-thirds of the visits by both Clinton and Trump took place in just six states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia and Michigan), and 94 percent of the visits went to just 12 states. Twenty-four states plus the District of Columbia got zero campaign visits.  Kind of puts that argument to rest, don’t you think?

I’ve put together a chart showing each state’s population and electoral votes (electoral votes, by the way, are equal to a state’s representation in Congress).

State Electoral Population # of people represented by each elector
Number of Electoral Votes % of Total Population % of Total
Alabama 9 1.67% 4,874,747 1.50%          541,639
Alaska 3 0.56% 739,795 0.23%          246,598
Arizona 11 2.04% 7,016,270 2.15%          637,843
Arkansas 6 1.12% 3,004,279 0.92%          500,713
California 55 10.22% 39,536,653 12.14%          718,848
Colorado 9 1.67% 5,607,154 1.72%          623,017
Connecticut 7 1.30% 3,588,184 1.10%          512,598
Delaware 3 0.56% 961,939 0.30%          320,646
District of Columbia 3 0.56% 702455 0.22%          234,152
Florida 29 5.39% 20,984,400 6.44%          723,600
Georgia 16 2.97% 10,429,379 3.20%          651,836
Hawaii 4 0.74% 1,427,538 0.44%          356,885
Idaho 4 0.74% 1,716,943 0.53%          429,236
Illinois 20 3.72% 12,802,023 3.93%          640,101
Indiana 11 2.04% 6,666,818 2.05%          606,074
Iowa 6 1.12% 3,145,711 0.97%          524,285
Kansas 6 1.12% 2,913,123 0.89%          485,521
Kentucky 8 1.49% 4,454,189 1.37%          556,774
Louisiana 8 1.49% 4,684,333 1.44%          585,542
Maine 4 0.74% 1,335,907 0.41%          333,977
Maryland 10 1.86% 6,052,177 1.86%          605,218
Massachusetts 11 2.04% 6,859,819 2.11%          623,620
Michigan 16 2.97% 9,962,311 3.06%          622,644
Minnesota 10 1.86% 5,576,606 1.71%          557,661
Mississippi 6 1.12% 2,984,100 0.92%          497,350
Missouri 10 1.86% 6,113,532 1.88%          611,353
Montana 3 0.56% 1,050,493 0.32%          350,164
Nebraska 5 0.93% 1,920,076 0.59%          384,015
Nevada 6 1.12% 2,998,039 0.92%          499,673
New Hampshire 4 0.74% 1,342,795 0.41%          335,699
New Jersey 14 2.60% 9,005,644 2.76%          643,260
New Mexico 5 0.93% 2,088,070 0.64%          417,614
New York 29 5.39% 19,849,399 6.09%          684,462
North Carolina 15 2.79% 10,273,419 3.15%          684,895
North Dakota 3 0.56% 755,393 0.23%          251,798
Ohio 18 3.35% 11,658,609 3.58%          647,701
Oklahoma 7 1.30% 3,930,864 1.21%          561,552
Oregon 7 1.30% 4,142,776 1.27%          591,825
Pennsylvania 20 3.72% 12,805,537 3.93%          640,277
Rhode Island 4 0.74% 1,059,639 0.33%          264,910
South Carolina 9 1.67% 5,024,369 1.54%          558,263
South Dakota 3 0.56% 869,666 0.27%          289,889
Tennessee 11 2.04% 6,715,984 2.06%          610,544
Texas 38 7.06% 28,304,596 8.69%          744,858
Utah 6 1.12% 3,101,833 0.95%          516,972
Vermont 3 0.56% 623,657 0.19%          207,886
Virginia 13 2.42% 8,470,020 2.60%          651,540
Washington 12 2.23% 7,405,743 2.27%          617,145
West Virginia 5 0.93% 1,815,857 0.56%          363,171
Wisconsin 10 1.86% 5,795,483 1.78%          579,548
Wyoming 3 0.56% 579,315 0.18%          193,105
Totals 538 100.00% 325,727,661 100.00% ————–

As you can see, the smaller states are better represented in the electoral college than the more populous ones.  Take a look, for example, at California, the most populous state, that gets only 1 electoral vote for every 718,848 people, versus the least populous state, Wyoming, with 1 electoral vote for every 193,105 people.  Something doesn’t seem quite fair here, don’t you think?

It is my belief that the electoral college has been proven not only unnecessary, but a direct impediment to a fair and honest democratic election.  Since at this juncture it is virtually impossible to pass an amendment to repeal it, the next best thing is to pass legislation to make certain that every vote counts equally.  I also think this might go a long way in overcoming voter apathy, one of the biggest stumbling blocks we have.  Let us hope that enough state legislatures and governors will see this as the best way and choose to do the right thing.

* This small graphic explains the effects of gerrymandered districts as well as any I have seen.gerrymandering

37 thoughts on “The Electoral College … Keep, Abolish, or Circumvent?

    • First of all, the article contends that the reason for keeping the electoral college is to force candidates to campaign in all states. But that is not the purpose for which it was established, and as I said in my post, it didn’t work in 2016, when 24 states, nearly half, got no visit from either candidate. The electoral college isn’t going to force candidates to campaign in every state.

      Second … take, for instance, the example the article cites of Ross Perot in 1992. He won 19% of the vote and got no electoral votes. I’m scratching my head, and saying, “So?” He wouldn’t have won under a popular vote system either! The article says the electoral college stops those in the minority from getting their way, but isn’t that exactly what happened in 2016? And that was because of the electoral college.

      They say that without the electoral college the two-party system would collapse. No, it wouldn’t. What keeps the two-party system from becoming a multi-party system now is not the electoral college, but FEC rules that make it nearly impossible for a third-party candidate to even participate in the debates, let alone get on the ballot. Though in truth, I think a multi-party system would serve us better anyway.

      I strongly suspect that the writer of the article did not have a great understanding of our election process and how it works, but simply wanted to opine about keeping the electoral college.

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      • I happen to very much agree with you that a multi-party system would be better and I am always disappointed during the debate cycles when alternative party candidates can’t get either on the ballot or in the debates themselves. I actually voted third party and have for a number of presidential elections and there are so many people who tell me that I’m wasting my vote by doing this. I just got to the point where I ignore such people.

        Liked by 1 person

        • Well, it isn’t so much that by voting for a third-party candidate you’re throwing your vote away, for you are making a statement, and an important one. I have yet to find a third-party candidate who I felt was up to the task of running the country, but then … I don’t think the ‘man’ in the Oval Office today is up to it, either. Politics today is so much about … politics, whereas it should be only a venue to good governance. Sadly, the whole idea of good governance has gotten lost in the constant battle for power known as politics. Sigh.

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  1. I will never really understand the electoral college, but I can say with a feeling of certainty that politicians are very happy to advocate for changing/overhauling a voting system, until they win with it. Then it’s the best thing ever (happened here too….)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Don’t worry … I studied Constitutional Law for two years while doing grad work and I sometimes get confused about the electoral college! But you’re right … politicians love whatever works in their favour and shun whatever doesn’t. Always been that way, likely always will. Sigh.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Jill, regardless of its lack of veracity, it is too political to change. So Dems better do what HRC failed to do in 2016, go see people in states that matter and tell them your message. Keith

    Liked by 2 people

  3. As an outsider my vote would be for abolition. Whether it ever really served a purpose but in this World we know it’s mightily flawed and should go. A one vote per person ballot would show who the majority of people vote for.. Gerrymandering would be a thing of the past thus killing two birds with one stone.
    Cwtch Mawr

    Liked by 2 people

    • Well, I certainly agree that abolishing it would be the most permanent way. However, to do so would require a constitutional amendment. Yes, amendments have passed before, but most were largely popular and even then, it iis a long, extensive process. First, it would require a super-majority (67%) in both the House and the Senate (how likely is that???), and then it would also require ratification by 3/4 of the states … that’s 38 out of the 50. At this point, it would almost certainly fail in Congress, but if by some miracle it made it through Congress, it would never get the thumbs-up from 38 states. So, meanwhile we find a work-around.
      Cwtch Mawr

      Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! I’m glad I could help. I considered a more in-depth explanation of the electoral college, but it would have just made the post too long … and too boring for most. Five times in our history, two in recent years, a president has been elected who lost the popular vote. That tells me that it’s time to make changes to the system, but of course there is push-back by those who are benefiting from the system. Sigh.

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  4. It does seem bizarre and counter intuitive. By the time you guys to get an election I’m surprised anyone still gives a damm about who wins. Having said that our way involves the establishment people meeting in dusty closed rooms. You end up getting numpties like May. Last night was a prime example. A trump like TV address painting a bizarre reality world where she is in our side and we need to fight parliament. She is blameless and Brexit was brilliant until the MPs self indulged themselves. She is clearly self obsessed, deluded, stubborn and dangerously stupid. So maybe it’s irrelevant what electrical system you use if the same type of candidates enter into the game….

    Liked by 3 people

    • Ahhh … both of our countries have our troubles, don’t we? And both are a result of the populist movement and interference by Russia’s Putin for his own purpose of re-establishing a Soviet-style empire. Where/when does it end? I wish I knew, but one thing is for certain … the world will never be quite the same as it was. Perhaps at the end of the day, that isn’t such a bad thing. It’s been this way throughout history … just when we get comfortable with things the way they are, it all turns topsy-turvy.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. When el dumpo tweeted in 20120lbs that the college was a disaster for democracy, he got an idea. Play to that disaster. Buy the college if necessary, or find a way to subvert it. I think he found the way to subvert it, though I cannot imagine what it is. He convinced those electors to vote for him, and once he knew they were on his side, he predicted he would win the presidency, knowing it was already going to happen. The way he is predicting victory in 2020, I think he thinks that he already has it in the bag. He knows something the most of us don’t–how to cheat We the People.

    Liked by 4 people

    • Trump subverted election norms by playing to the insecurities and frustration expressed by the public. He never really cared for the ppl’s concerns, but listened and pretended to fight for them. Michael Moore captured the zeitgeist of the nation perfectly in his 2016 movie Michael Moore in TrumpLand. And in FAHRENHEIT 11/9, Michael Moore predicts Trump will win 2nd term…. if we continue taking our democracy for granted.

      Liked by 3 people

    • ‘Tis certainly true that one of Trump’s strong suits is knowing how to rig a system, how to cheat people. I think I already see his hand at work in some of the dirt being pulled out of the corners as regards democratic candidates. If you cannot win on your own merit, and he cannot, then sling mud all over the opponents, make them look as bad as possible. It’s going to be an ugly, stressful 20 months that I am not looking forward to.

      Liked by 1 person

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