Cha-Cha-Cha Change the Electoral College?
I am not going to spend a whole lot of time today on the reasons and workings of the Electoral College. Others, like Tara Ross, have done a pretty good job of that, and we have twice covered the reasoning’s for the system in two different episodes of Constitution Thursday which you can listen to below:
2010 – Let the Traditional Whining Begin:
2013 – Dave & John – Let’s Elect a President!
So let’s look at some of the discussions today over the Electoral College.
Dave, I have a question for you. What are your thoughts on apportionment of electoral votes nationwide instead of just in two states? Could that solve some of the angst over the Electoral College?
This idea gets kicked around every four years or so, usually in States that are firmly locked in favor of one party, such as California. The thought being that it is a way to re-enfranchise voters who are outnumbered and overwhelmed in an entire State by one party or the other. So the theory would be that in California, based on the last results, Clinton would have received a maximum of 29 Electoral Votes instead of 55. Trump then gets the other 26 based on his “winning” in those districts. In effect, it steps down the scale of the election into a district rather than a statewide State race.
Obviously there is some logic to this, enough that two States (Nebraska and Maine) have adopted some form of apportionment for Electoral Votes. But before you get really excited, understand that half of those two States EV’s are allocated based on the ToTaL popular vote. The other half are allocated to the Congressional Districts (Nebraska gives 2 to the popular vote winner and one to each of the District winners). The overall effect on the States electoral votes since 1972 (Maine) and 1996 (Nebraska) has been nothing. There has been no split in the EV’s at all.
In smaller States, it’s easier to split the EV’s with little effect on the actual outcome. The larger the State the more likely it would be to effect things, at least in appearance, IF – and that is a big IF – you “simply” changed the way the EV’s are apportioned.
But that ain’t gonna be “simple” and really, it ain’t gonna happen.
California is a Democrat Party State with an irrelevant GOP that holds zero statewide offices and thanks to Prop 14 is likely to continue to lose both races and influence. So what are the chances of the nearly 2/3rd’s Democrat Legislature passing a bill to change the apportionment of her EV’s and having that bill signed by a Democrat governor?
Roughly the same as me ever going to Mars.
The same is true in other States. There is no way in heaven or hell that the legislatures are going to change the system. You could, theoretically, in California, have a ballot initiative, but then you’re back to the popular vote on that. How many Democrats are willing to vote to give the States EV’s to a GOP candidate? And how many Texans would be willing to give their EV’s to a Democrat?
So we’re back to the original system with the winner taking all. On the surface, the Maine/Nebraska system seems like a “more democratic” process. The truth is that we are still not a democracy and neither party (or me for that matter) is truly interested in becoming one. So short of a Constitutional amendment, which is unlikely to pass Congress or be ratified, this is the system, no matter how much complaining there is about it.
Which brings us back to what I say every four years – EVERYBODY knows the rules. If your strategy is to just run to the population centers and pick the low hanging fruit, you’re probably gonna lose. Case in point, 2016. Whatever analysis you apply to 2016, the fact is that the Clinton team strategy was flawed and it failed.
The complaint that “Clinton/Gore/Tilden/Cleveland/Jackson got more votes” is a red herring. IF the rules had been different, that is if the election were only based on the popular vote at the time, you cannot predict what would have happened. We can guess, but we simply do not know. In the latest election, given the dynamic in play, it is just as likely that a million or more additional Trump voters would have showed up in locked out States like California or New York as it is that Clinton would have won. You can’t say because there is no way to know.
What we do know are the rules that have been in place since 1788. There is nothing hidden here, no trickery, nothing complicated or intentionally misleading. And everybody knows it.
The second issue has become the so-called “Faithless” Elector. This would be one of the electors who essentially flips and decides not to vote for the candidate he/she is pledged to support. You’ll have seen numerous posts about this and how “all we need to do is flip x number of electors and Trump will lose” on your Social Media page.
My best friend has a phrase that really applies here – it’s just grasping at straws.
First off, the electors are what you are actually voting for on the second Tuesday in November. They ran as surrogates for the candidate, meaning that they support that candidate. Usually rabidly. So good luck changing their mind. Secondly, believe it or not, the Party has to certify the electors and is NOT required to certify any elector who does not commit to the Candidate. So if an elector tried that, they’d be replaced by the Party. This was actually a Supreme Court case back in 1952 when a party refused to seat an elector who was faithless. The elector lost. So good luck with that plan.
Lastly we have the National Popular Vote movement. This is an idea touted by now deceased GOP Senator Fred Thompson, in which States pledge that they will commit their votes to the winner of the popular vote, REGARDLESS of how their State actually voted. The State of Maryland recently agreed to do this, but it doesn’t take effect until a certain number of States (270 Electoral votes worth) agree.
It sounds nice on paper. But lets scenario this rosily, shall we?
As it stands right now, depending on where you look, the range of “victory” in the popular vote for Clinton is a somewhere between 300,000 and 700,000 votes. If things went just a tad differently, and if you were to believe the fake memes spreading across the internet, Trump could very well have won the popular vote. Is California really going to throw its 55 EV’s to Trump when 60%+ of its people voted for Clinton? Can you imagine the screeching and yelling when California flips its EV’s back to her Candidate despite the agreement? It will make 2000 look like a kindergarten playground fight.
The NPV might pass, but it will only last until that happens. And it will happen.
So we’re back to the system we have, the Electoral College, which forces Candidates to seek votes from all corners of the country, not just the urban mercantile elite segments. How odd that in 2016, the system proves that it still does exactly what the Framers wanted it to do exactly how they wanted it to do it.
And the Candidate that either forgot that or never understood the single largest divide in this country is not racial or social or religious, but urban vs country – and it always has been – lost. Because that is what is supposed to happen. A Candidate must reach out to all of America, not just the parts they like.
Instead of criticizing the Electoral College, we ought to be amazed at the prescience of the Framers. And be aware that attempts to change it that bypass the amendment process will lead us to a pure democracy, which is doomed to become a tyranny.