ABOLISH the ELECTORAL COLLEGE
by Harvey Wasserman / November 9, 2016
“For the sixth time in our history, a candidate for President of the United States may have won the popular vote and lost the White House. This must end. While the nation—and much of the world—shudders at the thought of a Donald Trump presidency, our electoral system has once again failed to deliver a formal victory to the person who got the most votes. Hillary Clinton appears to have won the nationwide popular vote. (The exact numbers will change as the vote count continues.) But Donald Trump’s Electoral College tally has exceeded the 270 Electoral College votes needed to take the White House. There is much more to tell about this. This year’s vote has once again been stripped and flipped by GOP Jim Crow segregationist tactics that disenfranchised millions of primarily African-American and Hispanic citizens.
Suffragettes demonstrating in support of universal suffrage. The Electoral College allowed states to disenfranchise women without consequence; a popular election system would have encouraged and precipitated women’s suffrage much sooner.
But if the current vote tallies continue roughly they way they are, Donald Trump will join Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush as presidents who lost the popular vote but still took the nation’s highest office, in every case with huge impacts. The Electoral College was established at the 1787 Constitutional Convention to prevent the public from voting directly on our national leader. Ostensibly, it was meant in part to protect small states from being bullied by bigger ones. It also installed a “three-fifth bonus” that gave plantation owners a 60 percent headcount for their slaves. The ruse was counted into Congressional districting, giving the south a distinct advantage over the northern free states. That’s why every President from Jefferson to Lincoln either owned slaves or had a vice president who did.
In 1800, Jefferson beat the incumbent John Adams in an Electoral College swung by “bonus votes” that came from slaves who could not actually cast them. In 1824, John Quincy Adams made a deal with Kentucky slaveowner Henry Clay to steal the presidency from Andrew Jackson, who had beaten Adams by about 50,000 popular votes. In 1876, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes lost to Democrat Samuel Tilden by about 250,000 votes. But the GOP used federal troops in the south to shift enough Electoral College votes to create a deadlock. Hayes then became president by agreeing to remove those troops and end Reconstruction, a catastrophe for southern blacks and a triumph for the Jim Crow segregation that has defined our national politics ever since. In 1888, Republican Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote to incumbent Democrat Grover Cleveland but became president anyway. Cleveland won back the White House in 1892.
In 2000, Democrat Al Gore beat Republican George W. Bush by a nationwide tally of about 500,000 votes. Gore was also ultimately shown to have won the popular vote in Florida. But Bush’s brother Jeb, then governor of Florida, used a computerized system to remove voters from the rolls, to steal Florida’s electoral votes and put George in the White House. Much the same was done in Ohio 2004 to defeat John Kerry. Bush ultimately was credited with a victory in the nationwide popular vote.
This year, Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory will change history in unimaginable ways. But nationwide it appears he did not win the popular vote. Hillary Clinton did. There is much more to this story. But one thing is clear: There is no useful function for the Electoral College, a vile 230-year-old holdover from the bad old days of the southern slaveocracy. It poisons our electoral process. It will require a Constitutional Amendment to get rid of it. But if we are to have anything that resembles a democracy, the Electoral College must be abolished.”
SLAVE STATES VOTE TRUMP
The Troubling Reason the Electoral College Exists
by Akhil Reed Amar / Nov. 10, 2016
“The quirks of the Electoral College system were exposed this week when Donald Trump secured the presidency with an Electoral College majority, even as Hillary Clinton took a narrow lead in the popular vote. Some claim that the founding fathers chose the Electoral College over direct election in order to balance the interests of high-population and low-population states. But the deepest political divisions in America have always run not between big and small states, but between the north and the south, and between the coasts and the interior. One Founding-era argument for the Electoral College stemmed from the fact that ordinary Americans across a vast continent would lack sufficient information to choose directly and intelligently among leading presidential candidates. This objection rang true in the 1780s, when life was far more local.
But the early emergence of national presidential parties rendered the objection obsolete by linking presidential candidates to slates of local candidates and national platforms, which explained to voters who stood for what. Although the Philadelphia framers did not anticipate the rise of a system of national presidential parties, the 12th Amendment—proposed in 1803 and ratified a year later— was framed with such a party system in mind, in the aftermath of the election of 1800-01. In that election, two rudimentary presidential parties—Federalists led by John Adams and Republicans led by Thomas Jefferson—took shape and squared off. Jefferson ultimately prevailed, but only after an extended crisis triggered by several glitches in the Framers’ electoral machinery. In particular, Republican electors had no formal way to designate that they wanted Jefferson for president and Aaron Burr for vice president rather than vice versa. Some politicians then tried to exploit the resulting confusion.
Enter the 12th Amendment, which allowed each party to designate one candidate for president and a separate candidate for vice president. The amendment’s modifications of the electoral process transformed the Framers’ framework, enabling future presidential elections to be openly populist and partisan affairs featuring two competing tickets. It is the 12th Amendment’s Electoral College system, not the Philadelphia Framers’, that remains in place today. If the general citizenry’s lack of knowledge had been the real reason for the Electoral College, this problem was largely solved by 1800. So why wasn’t the entire Electoral College contraption scrapped at that point? Standard civics-class accounts of the Electoral College rarely mention the real demon dooming direct national election in 1787 and 1803: slavery.
At the Philadelphia convention, the visionary Pennsylvanian James Wilson proposed direct national election of the president. But the savvy Virginian James Madison responded that such a system would prove unacceptable to the South: “The right of suffrage was much more diffusive [i.e., extensive] in the Northern than the Southern States; and the latter could have no influence in the election on the score of Negroes.” In other words, in a direct election system, the North would outnumber the South, whose many slaves (more than half a million in all) of course could not vote.
But the Electoral College—a prototype of which Madison proposed in this same speech—instead let each southern state count its slaves, albeit with a three-fifths discount, in computing its share of the overall count. Virginia emerged as the big winner—the California of the Founding era—with 12 out of a total of 91 electoral votes allocated by the Philadelphia Constitution, more than a quarter of the 46 needed to win an election in the first round. After the 1800 census, Wilson’s free state of Pennsylvania had 10% more free persons than Virginia, but got 20% fewer electoral votes. Perversely, the more slaves Virginia (or any other slave state) bought or bred, the more electoral votes it would receive. Were a slave state to free any blacks who then moved North, the state could actually lose electoral votes.
If the system’s pro-slavery tilt was not overwhelmingly obvious when the Constitution was ratified, it quickly became so. For 32 of the Constitution’s first 36 years, a white slaveholding Virginian occupied the presidency. Southerner Thomas Jefferson, for example, won the election of 1800-01 against Northerner John Adams in a race where the slavery-skew of the electoral college was the decisive margin of victory: without the extra electoral college votes generated by slavery, the mostly southern states that supported Jefferson would not have sufficed to give him a majority. As pointed observers remarked at the time, Thomas Jefferson metaphorically rode into the executive mansion on the backs of slaves.
The 1796 contest between Adams and Jefferson had featured an even sharper division between northern states and southern states. Thus, at the time the Twelfth Amendment tinkered with the Electoral College system rather than tossing it, the system’s pro-slavery bias was hardly a secret. Indeed, in the floor debate over the amendment in late 1803, Massachusetts Congressman Samuel Thatcher complained that “The representation of slaves adds thirteen members to this House in the present Congress, and eighteen Electors of President and Vice President at the next election.” But Thatcher’s complaint went unredressed. Once again, the North caved to the South by refusing to insist on direct national election. In light of this more complete (if less flattering) account of the electoral college in the late 18th and early 19th century, Americans should ask themselves whether we want to maintain this odd—dare I say peculiar?—institution in the 21st century.”
STATE LAW WORKAROUND for NATIONAL POPULAR VOTE
The surprisingly realistic path to eliminating the Electoral College by 2020
by Chris Bowers /
“On Nov. 8, the American people spoke clearly, and chose Hillary Clinton for President. As of this writing, Clinton leads the popular vote by roughly 20,000 votes, with 92 percent counted. Further, her lead will likely grow, with most of the remaining votes coming from blue states California, Oregon, and Washington. However, because Clinton’s support was geographically concentrated, Donald Trump will win the Electoral College and become president of the United States. This comes only 16 years after Al Gore won the popular vote but did not become president of the United States, in a similar affront to democracy. It is long past time that we stopped using the Electoral College to choose our presidents and started using the national popular vote instead. Every vote should count equally. Every state should be a swing state. There is a realistic path to making an end-run around the Electoral College for the 2020 elections.
Rhode Island Governor Lincoln Chafee signs National Popular Vote bill in July 2013
This is because we don’t need a constitutional amendment to stop using the Electoral College. We only need the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact:
The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) is an agreement among several U.S. states and the District of Columbia to award all their respective electoral votes to whichever presidential candidate wins the overall popular vote in the 50 states and the District of Columbia. The compact is designed to ensure that the candidate who wins the most popular votes is elected president, and it will come into effect only when it will guarantee that outcome. As of 2016, it has been joined by ten states and the District of Columbia; their 165 combined electoral votes amount to 30.7% of the total Electoral College vote, and 61.1% of the 270 votes needed for it to have legal force.
If states and territories totaling at least 270 electoral votes pass laws joining the National Popular Vote Compact, then the next presidential election will be determined by the winner of the national popular vote. We are already up to 165.
If we can make eliminating the Electoral College a national issue broadly adopted by elected Democrats, and if Democrats can do well at the state level in the 2018 midterm elections—which is realistic in the event of an unpopular President Trump—then in 2019 we can pass laws that would make the 2020 presidential election determined by the popular vote. (Since you might be wondering, according to the compact, states do not change the way they determine their electoral votes until enough states join that the 270 electoral vote threshold is reached. So, for example, California will only start awarding its electoral votes to the national popular vote winner instead of the state popular vote winner once states equaling 270 electoral votes have decided to do the same.) So this is something we can actually pull off. It starts by telling all elected Democrats that you have had enough of the Electoral College, and that whenever possible they must pass laws to have their states join the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact.”
OPT-IN AGREEMENT on WINNER-TAKE-ALL STATE LAWS
Agreement Among the States to Elect the President by National Popular Vote
“The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the Presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. The bill has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions possessing 165 electoral votes—61% of the 270 electoral votes necessary to activate it, including four small jurisdictions (RI, VT, HI, DC), three medium- size states (MD, MA, WA), and four big states (NJ, IL, NY, CA). The bill has passed a total of 33 legislative chambers in 22 states—most recently by a bipartisan 40–16 vote in the Arizona House, a 28–18 vote in the Oklahoma Senate, a 57–4 vote in New York Senate, and a 37–21 vote in Oregon House.
The shortcomings of the current system of electing the President stem from state winner-take-all statutes (i.e., state laws that award all of a state’s electoral votes to the candidate receiving the most popular votes in each separate state). Because of these state winner-take-all statutes, presidential candidates have no reason to pay attention to the issues of concern to voters in states where the statewide outcome is a foregone conclusion. As shown on the map, two-thirds of the 2012 general-election campaign events (176 of 253) were in just 4 states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa). Thirty-eight states were ignored.
State winner-take-all statutes adversely affect governance. “Battleground” states receive 7% more federal grants than “spectator” states, twice as many presidential disaster declarations, more Superfund enforcement exemptions, and more No Child Left Behind law exemptions. Also, state winner-take-all statutes have allowed candidates to win the Presidency without winning the most popular votes nationwide in four of our 57 presidential elections—1 in 14 times. A shift of 59,393 votes in Ohio in 2004 would have elected John Kerry despite President Bush’s nationwide lead of over 3,000,000 votes. A shift of 214,393 votes in 2012 would have elected Mitt Romney despite President Obama’s nationwide lead of almost 5,000,000 votes.
The U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section 1) gives the states exclusive control over awarding their electoral votes: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….” The winner-take-all rule was used by only three states in 1789. The National Popular Vote interstate compact would not take effect until enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). Under the compact, the winner would be the candidate who received the most popular votes from all 50 states (and DC) on Election Day. When the Electoral College meets in mid-December, the national popular vote winner would receive all of the electoral votes of the enacting states. The bill ensures that every vote, in every state, will matter in every presidential election. The National Popular Vote bill preserves the Electoral College and state control of elections.”
States that have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact are in green. Those with legislation pending are shown in yellow. The National Popular Vote law has been enacted by 11 jurisdictions possessing 165 electoral votes — 61% of the 270 electoral votes needed to activate it.
- District of Columbia – 3 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
in FAVOR of SLAVERY
STILL in BUSINESS