Friday, November 25, 2016

Emphasis on United or on States?

Votes are still being counted in California and perhaps a few other states. While that tallying has been going on Hillary Clinton’s popular vote advantage over the nasty guy keeps going up. At the moment Clinton leads by over 2.1 million votes.

Because of that and because of this being the second time in five presidential elections that the winner of the popular vote did not win the Electoral College there has been lots of discussion of the EC.

For instance, its racist roots. When the EC was created the South wanted to protect slavery. In determining the population for seats in the House, plus EC votes, blacks were counted as 3/5 of a person. But, of course, they couldn’t vote. That meant Southern white votes had more effect than Northern votes.

The next issue: The more uneven our population is distributed, the more the EC favors lower population states. Every state gets two senators and at least one representative. Thus all states have at least 3 EC votes. Wyoming is one of those with 3 EC votes. At the other end of the spectrum, California has 55 EC votes. If Wyoming’s ratio of population to EC vote were to match the same ratio in California, then Cali should have perhaps 198 EC votes (by my calculation based on 2010 census data). The EC favors rural states.

And since rural states tend to be white – Wyoming is 84% white – the EC favors whites.

To make the urban/rural divide visual compare the maps at the top of these posts. The first shows the normal American map with each county colored red or blue depending which prez. candidate it voted for. We see mostly a sea of red with blue dots and splotches. The second map is stretched so that the size of the county is proportional to its population. Now the red looks like a lattice squeezed between the large blue blobs.

So why do we have, and keep, the Electoral College?

Perhaps to prevent tyranny of the majority. Instead, we get tyranny of the minority.

Alexander Hamilton said the EC keeps “the sense of the people” but the members of the College can assure the future president is actually fit for the job. Which would mean straight white male landowner in Hamilton’s time. Since then most states have laws requiring their EC delegation to follow the outcome of the popular vote in their state, the EC vote is only a formality.

Perhaps it is to balance the interests of high population and low population states. Well, more like balance North and South (see above) or coasts and interior. Should the emphasis be on United or on States? When states rights is coded language for “we get to choose for ourselves how much we want to discriminate” I’m in favor of the United.

Though it might be hard to get rid of the Electoral College (it is in the Constitution) it does not have to be set up as winner-take-all. Time to make that happen.

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