The attacks on the Electoral College are rolling in from liberal 2020 presidential candidates.
Democratic candidates Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, and former Texas congressman Beto O’Rourke have indicated that they would like to see the method go.
There is a fundamental misunderstanding to the logic used to object to the Electoral College: The U.S. is not a democracy. It is a republic.
“And to the republic for which it stands,” said in the Pledge of Allegiance reflects this. So does Julia Ward Howe’s Civil War song titled, “Battle Hymn of the Republic.”
Out nation is composed of sovereign states which united with the understanding that states should be equal, not just the population.
The Founding Fathers were clear on this. For example, consider the following famous quotes:
Thomas Jefferson said, “A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where 51% of the people may take away the rights of the other 49%.”
Benjamin Franklin wrote, “democracy is two wolves and a lamb voting on what to have for lunch.”
“Remember,” John Adams warned, “Democracy never lasts long. It soon wastes, exhausts and murders itself.”
Alexander Hamilton said, “We are now forming a Republican form of government. Real liberty is not found in the extremes of democracy, but in moderate governments. If we incline too much to democracy, we shall soon shoot into a monarchy or some other form of a dictatorship.”
It’s still brilliant
The Electoral College essentially removes the presidential office from a direct vote of the people and gives it to 538 electors spread out throughout the U.S. based on the 535 seats in Congress (with three additional for Washington, D.C.).
Each state is entitled to two votes for their senators and then earn the rest based on congressional districts, which are based on population.
This gives each state competitive play into the election of president and even makes it possible for a candidate to lose the popular vote and still secure the presidency by claiming 270 electoral votes. This is how President Donald Trump was elected in 2016.
Trump won 304 electoral votes, winning 30 of the U.S. states. Clinton garnered 227 with 20 states won. However, Clinton received 2.87 million more votes nationwide.
Sounds unfair? It isn’t. Are votes not being counted equally? Not necessarily, but there is a good reason for that.
Think about this: Los Angeles County, Calif., alone has a population of more than 10 million, containing nearly an entire quarter of California’s population.
This single county has a larger population than 41 states. Alabama’s population is about 4.9 million, according to the 2018 Census estimates.
If the U.S. operated as a direct democracy, areas such as Los Angeles County would be able to dictate policies and choices in their own interest, while smaller states would be helpless.
Without the Electoral College, smaller states would be disenfranchised in the federal government.
Presidential candidates would only campaign and advocate policies which would make them more popular in highly-populated states, such as New York, California, Florida and Texas.
States with less voting influence like Alabama, West Virginia and Wyoming would be given little-to-no attention at all.
The Electoral College reinforces that each state is worth winning and that those seeking the office of president do not forsake sound, nationwide policy to appeal to an isolated mob.
Should population account for something? Absolutely. And it does.
California, with a population of 39.5 million, swings a commanding electoral force, garnering 55 electoral votes due to its size. That’s compared to Alabama’s nine.
Consider this: Half of the entire U.S. population resides in just 146 counties.
There are a total of 3,142 counties in the U.S. In other words, I could say that 5% of the counties in the U.S. hold 50% of the population. Under popular vote, the ideas and values of that 5% would have as much sway as the other 95%.
Interestingly enough, if you were to take a map of those 146 most populated counties and lay it over a map of the counties that were won by Clinton, they would appear fairly similar.
The Electoral College is the lifeline of states like Alabama. I would dare call it anti-Alabamian to support eliminating it.
How it all plays out
The way the Electoral College works is similar to how the NBA finals are structured: The individual with the majority of wins in a seven-game series wins the world championship.
The team that wins the series isn’t the team with the most scored points—it’s the team with the most wins. While many times the team with the most wins is the team with the most points scored, that is not always the case.
For example, in the first game of the series, let’s say that Team A annihilates Team B with a point spread of 100-46. But, Team B ends up winning the next four games. For the sake of the expression, let’s say Team B wins each of those games 80-78.
At the end of the series, Team B finished with 366 total points, while Team A finished with 412 total points. Does this mean that Team A should have won the national title? No.
Likewise, presidential candidates should be focused on winning electorate votes, not the popular vote.
Thoughts on changes
The only thing I can argue with our current system is that I am not a fan of the winner-takes-all method, which gives an entire state’s electoral votes to the winner of the popular statewide vote.
The popular vote in California gave Hillary all 55 of its electoral votes, though Trump won the popular in seven congressional districts.
I think states should consider a congressional district method, where the winner of the state’s popular vote would receive two baseline electoral votes and the remaining electoral votes would be cast based on the popular vote within each separate district.
Maine and Nebraska currently do just this. In fact, the process allowed a pro-Trump congressional district in Maine to cast an electoral vote in his favor, though Hillary took the other three.
More or less, “winner takes all” is how the majority of states work. Though, electors can be unfaithful to their congressional districts, and that is where things get even more convoluted.but I’ll save that for another time.