Abolish the Electoral College, Empower the People

Senator Elizabeth Warren is hell-bent on dismantling the systems that feed inequality in this country, including the Electoral College.

“Every vote matters,” she said at a recent CNN town hall. That’s why we should “get rid of the Electoral College” and institute “national voting.”

Americans don’t directly elect their president — states do. In most cases, states award all of their “electoral votes” to the candidate who wins the popular vote in those states. Whoever gets 270 electoral votes wins the election.

Because electoral votes aren’t awarded in perfect proportion to population, small states get more influence over the outcome. Which means you can win the electoral vote even while getting fewer popular votes than your opponent.

Abolishing the Electoral College would level the playing field. It would ensure that people, not parties or mechanisms, determine who leads the country.

Is that so bad? If you’re a Republican, yes.

The Electoral College helped the two most recent Republican presidents — Donald Trump and George W. Bush — win office despite losing the popular vote. Bush lost the popular vote by over half a million, Trump by nearly 3 million.

No wonder Republicans are now up in arms about protecting their advantage. After all, the Electoral College gives disproportionate power to smaller, rural states, which tend to vote for them.

For instance, red Wyoming gets one Electoral College vote per 195,000 people. Blue California gets just one per 712,000 people. In other words, your vote counts nearly 4 times more if you live in Wyoming.

“Swing states” that don’t vote the same way each election also wield disproportionate power, since even a narrow winner will get all of their electoral votes. That’s why candidates spend so much time at diners in small-town Iowa and Ohio, rather than New York or Alabama, which vote more predictably for one party.

Seems to me all Senator Warren is calling for is a country that respects its citizens enough to let them choose their own leader — and to do so without some centuries-old electoral mechanism initially designed to inflate the political influence of slaveholders.

Perhaps the most insincere response to Warren’s proposal was National Review editor Rich Lowry’s.

If the Electoral College “is tantamount to disenfranchisement,” he wrote, “California could immediately mitigate the problem by splitting its electoral votes by congressional district the way Nebraska and Maine do… Of course, California is loath to give up any of its solidly Democratic electoral votes.”

I’m sure California would gladly split electoral votes by congressional district the way Nebraska and Maine do, on two conditions.

First, the Supreme Court would have to vanquish partisan gerrymandering to prevent presidential elections from being infected with the same dysfunction currently befalling congressional elections.

And second, the rest of the country would have to agree to divide their electoral votes by the same methodology.

But Lowry doesn’t suggest that, because it would spell doom for Republican second place finishers. Were the roles reversed, you can bet your bottom dollar Republicans would be clamoring for an end to this deeply flawed system.

Abolishing the Electoral College is unlikely in the short term. But that doesn’t mean Americans have given up on the idea of a direct popular vote.

Fourteen states and D.C. have joined the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC), agreeing to give their Electoral College votes to whoever wins the national popular vote. Colorado, Delaware, and New Mexico are the latest to join the compact, bringing their collective electoral vote total to 189.

Similar legislation has passed one legislative chamber in eight more states, comprising 72 Electoral College votes, and has been unanimously approved at the committee level in two states, comprising 27 more.

They’ll need 270 votes to ensure the winner of the national popular election wins the presidency. Right now that’s more likely than a constitutional amendment requiring overwhelming bipartisan support.

Still, there’s no getting around the real solution: Abolish the Electoral College so the candidate with the most votes wins.

More articles by:


Weekend Edition
April 19, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Andrew Levine
What Will It Take For Trump to Get His Due?
Roy Eidelson
Is the American Psychological Association Addicted to Militarism and War?
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Time is Blind, Man is Stupid
Joshua Frank
Top 20 Mueller Report “Findings”
Rob Urie
Why Russiagate Will Never Go Away
Paul Street
Stephen Moore Gets Something Right: It’s Capitalism vs. Democracy
Russell Mokhiber
Why Boeing and Its Executives Should be Prosecuted for Manslaughter
T.J. Coles
The Battle for Latin America: How the U.S. Helped Destroy the “Pink Tide”
Ron Jacobs
Ho Chi Minh City: Nguyen Thai Binh Street
Dean Baker
Fun Fictions in Economics
David Rosen
Trump’s One-Dimensional Gender Identity
Kenn Orphan
Notre Dame: We Have Always Belonged to Her
Robert Hunziker
The Blue Ocean Event and Collapsing Ecosystems
Theodore C. Van Alst, Jr.
Paddy Wagon
Brett Wilkins
Jimmy Carter: US ‘Most Warlike Nation in History of the World’
Nick Pemberton
To Never Forget or Never Remember
Stephen Cooper
My Unforgettable College Stabbings
Louis Proyect
A Leftist Rejoinder to the “Capitalist Miracle”
Louisa Willcox
Aldo Leopold’s Land Ethic and the Need for a New Approach to Managing Wildlife
Brian Cloughley
Britain Shakes a Futile Fist and Germany Behaves Sensibly
Jessicah Pierre
A Revolutionary Idea to Close the Racial Wealth Divide
George Burchett
Revolutionary Journalism
Dan Bacher
U.S. Senate Confirms Oil Lobbyist David Bernhardt as Interior Secretary
Nicky Reid
The Strange Success of Russiagate
Chris Gilbert
Defending Venezuela: Two Approaches
Todd Larsen
The Planetary Cost of Amazon’s Convenience
Kelly Martin
How the White House is Spinning Earth Day
Nino Pagliccia
Cuba and Venezuela: Killing Two Birds With a Stone
Matthew Stevenson
Pacific Odyssey: Guadalcanal and Bloody Ridge, Solomon Islands
David Kattenburg
Trudeau’s Long Winter
Gary Olson
A Few Comments on the recent PBS Series: Reconstruction: America After the Civil War
Ellen Lindeen
What Does it Mean to Teach Peace?
Adewale Maye and Eileen Appelbaum
Paid Family and Medical Leave: a Bargain Even Low-Wage Workers Can Afford
Ramzy Baroud
War Versus Peace: Israel Has Decided and So Should We
Ann Garrison
Vets for Peace to Barbara Lee: Support Manning and Assange
Thomas Knapp
The Mueller Report Changed my Mind on Term Limits
Jill Richardson
Why is Going Green So Hard? Because the System Isn’t
Mallika Khanna
The Greenwashing of Earth Day
Arshad Khan
Do the Harmless Pangolins Have to Become Extinct?
Paul Armentano
Pushing Marijuana Legalization Across the Finish Line
B. R. Gowani
Surreal Realities: Pelosi, Maneka Gandhi, Pompeo, Trump
Paul Buhle
Using the Law to Build a Socialist Society
April 18, 2019
Gerald Sussman
Russiagate is Dead! Long Live Russiagate!
Lance Olsen
Perverse Housing Policy Perverts Forest Policy
Richard Ward
All Will be Punished