It perhaps isn’t that surprising that some have responded negatively to Donald Trump being elected president, with protestors taking to the streets. The vitriol expressed by some of those protestors is disquieting, particularly with regard to threatening bodily harm to the president-elect and his supporters (I guess all that rhetoric of coming and being stronger together was simply window dressing…go figure). Included in that was the narrative concerning the Electoral College, specifically because Hillary Clinton appears to have gotten the most popular votes. This has caused some to call for abolishing the College, claiming that doing so will improve the presidential election’s democratic identity. Is such a thing the case?
Article II of the Constitution spells out the apparatus of the Electoral College, stating that each state appoints electors tasked with choosing the president according to their choice/s. Originally the system involved a separation of the choosing of president and vice president, but thanks to difficulties during the 1800 presidential election, the 12th Amendment was ratified in order to consolidate those votes. Each state has a number of electoral votes, which correspond to the number of Congressional representatives that a state has as well as the two senators. If no candidate gets a majority of those electoral votes (270 today), the election goes to the House of Representatives in order to be decided, where each state has 1 vote (this only happened in 1824, where John Quincy Adams was elected in a contingency election afterward). If the result holds, 2016 will join 1824, 1876, 1888, and 2000 as years where a candidate won the popular vote…but lost in the electoral count of votes. Debate concerns whether relying solely on the national popular vote would be better for democratic expression in the country. Depends on how one looks at it, but in my view…not necessarily.
At it’s heart, the Electoral College upholds a philosophical axiom that the Founding Fathers understood to be of paramount importance…the decentralization of federal power. They believed that the states should be the seat by which most power in the United States should reside, with only some expressed and defined powers being delegated to the federal government. In that vane, the Electoral College makes the election of the highest office in the executive branch…a position that many of founders had heavy distrust of…a decentralized, state-by-state affair. Making such a system just focused on the national popular vote just removes that focus to being further away from local and state communities where interaction should be taking place with the candidates, and further distances voters from their voice being noticed in the expanded national gorge…helped by the fact that a national popular vote focus would remove many election powers from the states themselves. Decentralizing such a system, as the Electoral College does, helps mediate that risk.
Granted, the Electoral College…like most institutions…isn’t perfect. There is still an emphasis on more populated, swing state demographic states as being the venues where candidates tend to visit…leaving other populated and homogeneous communities out in the cold. The “winner take all” system in many states also invalidates the voice of those who vote for runner-up candidates…making their effort be invisible in the final vote tally. Such a system, while not setting a two-party system up in it’s existence, does encourage it. However, such flaws don’t require removing the Electoral College in order to be dealt with (in fact, removing the EC requires a constitutional amendment, which is a tall order in any movement). Moving each state to a more proportional system with regard to how their electoral votes are counted would go a long way to validating other voters, including for third party candidates. It would also encourage candidates to travel to other states beyond just swing states in order to garner support. With such a state-by-state affair, it would also be easier to reform rather than hoping for a constitutional amendment, which is harder to enact (only 27 in the 240 year existence of the United States showcases this).
So for those looking to deal with the Electoral College, perhaps that would be a more efficient way to go rather than pulling for something that not only would be more difficult to undertake…but would also be hardly that much of an improvement in the end.
Well, electors cast their ballots today across the country…with over 270 of them voting for President-Elect Donald Trump. This assures him of the position for next year’s inauguration. 10 electors dissented (3 were invalidated), which is the most that any number of electors have revolted in over 100 years…and demonstrates how much this election really impacted the nation. 2 Trump electors voted for John Kasich and Ron Paul respectively, while 5 Clinton electors voted instead for Bernie Sanders, Colin Powell, and Faith Spotted Eagle (an activist from the Sioux tribe involved in the Dakota Access Pipeline protest movement). The 3 electors invalidated instead wanted to vote for Sanders and Kasich instead of Clinton, but they either were ruled improper or were replaced by someone who cast their vote for Clinton.
In all though, the Electoral College did it’s job…denying California the ability to dictate to the other 49 states what they deal with federally (Clinton won the national popular vote by almost 3 million votes…she also won California by over 4 million votes…do the math. A majority of voters in only 13 of the 50 states voted for Clinton). The Founders were wise to decentralize power, and the Electoral College embodies that prospect.
An interesting map that demonstrates how regional Hillary Clinton’s support truly was – http://www.againstcronycapitalism.org/2016/12/in-many-respects-the-democrats-are-now-a-regional-party-this-map-beautifully-illustrates-the-clinton-archipelago/