WHY THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE?

Democracy Versus Donald Trump

Why all the gaming and waiting for a clear presidential winner? Well, it’s all about the Electoral College, an historical ritual once needed to make American democracy seem legitimate and legal in the eyes of our masters in Great Britain. Also, some of our elitist founders believed certain citizens lacked the intelligence to pick a president. Their intent of keeping demagogues and bullies from attaining the highest offices in the land was clear.

House of Commons

There has always been a “raised-nostril attitude” about some things in England. The fact that they had to say it was “Great” when talking about Ireland, Scotland, Wales and the Colonies showed an arrogance that drove some people to the new land in America. They weren’t too subtle either, with the House of Lords and the House of Commons as balancing forces. Oh, yes, they allowed those commoners to discuss things, but the lords were always present to make sure things didn’t go totally wrong.

This distrust of the common man drove our founders to devise a system in which votes of “the “people” in each state became somewhat of a guide to how “special people” would cast the “real” votes for the President and Vice President. It looked good on paper, but they had already weeded out the “riffraff and undeserving.” Only white men who owned land could vote. African slaves could not vote, children and immigrants could not vote and women, no matter what color, could not vote.

The Fifteenth Amendment, passed in 1870, granted all US citizens regardless of race the right to vote, but it took another 54 years before the Snyder Act of 1924 granted voting rights to US born Native Americans. White women didn’t get the right to vote until the 19th amendment to the Constitution came along on August 26, 1920. That amendment promised women that their right to vote would “not be denied” on account of sex, but it wasn’t until 1965 that the Voting Rights Act directed the Attorney General to enforce the right to vote for African Americans. So, yes, the right to vote in America was a long, hard struggle and disenfranchisement was in place all along that route.

The Republican party has made voting difficult for certain people in America. That’s not an unfair indictment. Voting suppression is an evil act, even when enshrined in the term “state’s rights” and used to write bad laws. One of my friends had moved several times. When he went to vote in 2018, the registrar said he was at the wrong polling location and needed to go to another. When he arrived there, he was told there was no record of his registration. They allowed him to fill out a provisional ballot but imagine how he felt. To this day he has no idea if his vote was counted, and that’s precisely how Black people in this country have felt for years.

So, we vote, our ballots are counted, and this becomes what is known as the popular vote. Over the years, we’ve had some real problems with differences between the results of the popular and Electoral College votes. Perhaps you, like many others, wonder why the Electoral College continues to exist.

I believe the word “college” was used to give the process intellectual credibility. It might have been a compromise between the election of the president by a vote in Congress as opposed to a popular vote of qualified citizens, but its actual intent was giving less populous states more of an equal voice in presidential elections. Back in 1776, Rhode Island wanted a pie slice as large as Virginia’s, which was the most populace state at the time. Our founder fathers were worried about Congress becoming deadlocked with election debates about states’ equality that would drag on for weeks.

The Electoral College is a process, not a place. In fact, the electors meet in each state after the popular vote to cast their votes according to the laws of the Constitution and their state mandates. It still is not clear if an elector can legally be “unfaithful” and vote for whomever they want or if they must vote according to the popular vote. Then there’s Maine and Nebraska who have “split electoral votes,” meaning they allocate two electoral votes to the state popular vote winner, and one electoral vote to the popular vote winner in each Congressional district, of which there are two in Maine and three in Nebraska. Are you confused yet?

One might ask that if more states split their electoral votes why even have the Electoral College. Then again, perhaps all states should adopt the “winner takes all” policy. It’s also reasonable to question the need for electoral voters. By the way, if you wondered what would’ve have happened if all states used the “split electoral vote” system, well, in 2016, Trump would have still won, but by a smaller margin, 292 to Clinton’s 246 electoral votes.

The electoral results go directly to Congress, and then, on January 6, 2021, they will be officially received. Some far right radicals are planning to interfere with the process, another aspect of this that should be forbidden. Questions such as these should be addressed before the next federal election, but what happened yesterday was remarkable on a couple of levels.

First, the current president is such a sore loser and cry baby there was suspicion he might cause last-minute political skullduggery with the Electoral College. Because of the possibility of corruption, the major news networks treated the college vote as a major event. The good news is people now have a much better understanding about how the process works.

The Electoral College took place and produced the known result. As I joked on social media, it was like recording a football game, knowing its outcome, then sitting down to watch the recording with full knowledge that the replay would reveal the forgone conclusion. The electoral voting process was mostly boring TV but spiced with a dash of drama because the votes were staggered and there was at least a small possibility of things going sideways. Just as it should have happened, however, Trump lost… again.

Call it regulation, ritual or reality, but the Electoral College is probably no longer necessary. What is the justification for keeping it? Look at it this way. Montana has 3 electoral votes, whereas California has 55. Pennsylvania holds 20 electoral votes, but Rhode Island possesses only 4. The US Census happens every ten years, mainly to recalibrate the voting value of each state according to population. So, any premise that the Electoral College gives smaller states more leverage is poppycock.

Is the Electoral College just a safety net to prevent a totally corrupt election? No, because were that true we wouldn’t have so many elections where a candidate won the popular vote but not the Electoral College vote. US voting is a game of not just winning but winning the right combination of states. If a candidate wins Texas, Florida and Ohio, which Donald Trump did, in most years that candidate would win the presidency. However, Trump failed to take Georgia, Arizona, Nevada, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Michigan. What person in their right mind would think they won the election with such losses? Oh, I almost forgot, Donald John Trump is not in his right mind. But one thing is certain, he’s a certified loser.

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