What is the Purpose of the Electoral College? Is the Electoral College Fair? Is the Current Voting System Fair?
The Electoral College is meant to protect minority voting interests against the tyranny of the majority, and to prevent special interests, not in the public interest. However, while its purpose is virtuous and fair on paper, in practice, state-based rules and customs have largely undone its purpose. State-based rules and customs can be shown to be unfair in practice using the same exact logic that is used to justify the framer’s creating a Republic with an electoral college in the first place.
- In our current winner-take-all system 48 states and D.C. award all their electoral votes to the party that won the state’s popular vote even if that state wins by only 1 vote. The majority of each state matters 100%, the minority not at all. It isn’t that their vote doesn’t count; it does in many ways. It doesn’t win the election much like the national popular vote doesn’t win the election.
- Consider red district/blue district and gerrymandering. Here we often get maps that have been drawn to ensure majority interests. Minorities aren’t protected. Just look at “the black belt.”
- Consider strict voter ID which favors those in demographics who are more likely to have IDs and excludes those who aren’t. Minorities aren’t protected.
Much like the three-fifths compromise, a ruling that was originally meant to protect the minority has become a special interest over time. And thus, where the College satisfies the Federalist #10 and #68 written by Madison and Hamilton respectively, the system in practice arguably doesn’t.
To those who support the system, consider, neither 2016 Presidential Candidate got 50% of the vote. There was no minority or majority win, just a divisive duopoly driven by special interests. In words, neither majorities nor special interests were really prevented against in 2016, nor was this the case in 2000.
How the Electoral College Works.
IS IT FAIR? Should small states have more power? Yes, certainly. But, should those states be forced to vote with the state majority? No, of course not, especially in a close race. The winner-take-all approach is an arguably corrupt custom that breaks the same rule-of-reason-and-fairness that the national popular vote would. The problem seems obvious, but a perfect fix is difficult. The current system simply says “if things are close, Republicans win.” That isn’t fair, but it has resulted in about 50% of Presidents being Democrats and 50% being Republicans, which is “fair in some ways.” Likewise, it wouldn’t be fair to let populous states decide the Presidential election while disenfranchising rural voters. The current system isn’t fair; it disenfranchises minority voters in regions and states.
The Popular Vote vs. the Electoral College. The right-wing likes to advocate for our Republican system. And rightly so. At its core, it offers vital protections. However, they rarely ever tell the full story of strict voter ID, gerrymandering, and the fact that the winner-take-all custom favors Red states, sometimes even unfairly. It treats their state majorities in the same way they don’t want the national majority treated. This is a states’ rights issue, but it sets a double standard.
How Might we Change With Voting in the United States?
It is easy to see that the College is fair and smart on paper, and the founder’s documents make it clear that their intention was to prevent majority rule and special interests. However, with state-based winner-take-all custom, is not the system the founders intended and is arguably not “fair.”
The founders didn’t intend the people to vote for the President or Senators, hence the electors. So, acting as though the founders invented the winner-take-all approach is a little disingenuous.
Rather, the current system favors Republicans in elections where neither party can pull off a landslide. However, favoring majorities isn’t necessarily a better solution. Going by the national popular vote would simply flip the injustice from red-team to blue-team. Nothing about that is more fair.
TIP: The simplest way for a special interest to exert power is to participate in democracy. Think about that for a second. For a fringe faction to take power from a King requires enough force to best their military and stage a coup. Taking it from a Democracy requires political action and more votes or money than the opposition. The President used to be elected directly and so did Senators. Party bosses used to have more control over parties (although, Bernie). Now more power is held by the people in the primaries. The States’ Rights factions and Progressive factions have moved us toward a more democratic and less aristocratic form of government since the 1820’s. I’d like to tell you we are better off for it, and we are in some ways but the founders and Plato’s Republic would suggest that things aren’t as simple as that. See The American Party System: A Lament Progressives’ effort to weaken parties has harmed our democracy. Keep in mind this is also true for the progressively socially conservative States’ Rights factions. See Plato’s How Democracy leads to Tyranny. Or see Why the founders choose a Republic. The Populists sometimes want collective democracy, and sometimes want states’ rights democracy, but the founders thought there was more wisdom in Republican aristocracy at the highest levels of government. Time will show us who was right. In my opinion, our move toward democracy (be it ALEC, Citizens United, Winner-take-all, or the weakening of Union Power and Party Bosses) has negatively effected on our democratic ideals (paradoxical effects).
FACT: 1824 was the first election in which the majority of states used a statewide winner-take-all voting method for choosing their presidential electors. Please note that this was one of the most destructive elections in history and it divided our country. Soon after, the country entered the Civil War. Red team/blue team politics has been divisive ever since. Before 1824, the country had been in “an Era of Good Feelings” in a nearly unified one-party system.
FACT: Only the youngest founders were still around when the system was put in practice. Jefferson died in 1826. The second generation of Americans like Clay, Calhoun, Adams, Jackson, Van Buren, etc. put the winner-take-all system in place. Even today, many “northern” states still reject the state-based custom. The custom is on weaker footing than most people believe.
Adam Ruins Everything – Why the Electoral College Ruins Democracy. The right-wing likes to advocate for our Republican system. At its core, it offers vital protections. However, they rarely ever tell the full story about strict voter ID, gerrymandering, and the fact that the winner-take-all custom favors Red states sometimes even unfairly as it treats their state majorities in the exact same way they don’t want the national majority treated.
How Can We Make Voting More Fair?
Fair voting solutions include ideas like improving primaries, addressing strict voter ID and gerrymandering, run-off voting, and no-confidence voting. Another thought is that electors could vote proportionally to the state popular vote in instances where no clear majority is won. Again, we have to deal with the will of majorities and minorities instead of what is best for the nation.
There is a lot of wiggle room to make elections fairer, but that requires getting both parties on board. Historically agreement between parties has been problematic. The problem is that there is little incentive to change a system that is working. We don’t need reactionary solutions that focus on the popular vote; we need more safeguards to ensure those elected represent the general will of the people as a whole and not just the will of a particular minority or majority.
Winner Take All vs. Proportional Primaries – STUFF YOU SHOULD KNOW.
MPR News: Instant Runoff Voting Explained. People should be able to vote for more than one candidate to express their order of preference.
Labour’s No Confidence Vote In Jeremy Corbyn (using the U.K. voting system as an example). People should be able to vote “no confidence.” More than half of voting eligible Americas didn’t vote in the past 2016 election.