"More Than Just Musing" #8
ELECTORAL COLLEGE VS DIRECT POPULAR VOTE
The absence of one citizen, one vote, denies the will of the people. Direct election by the popular vote encourages our better angels to stand up and prevail.
Abandonment of the Electoral College and adoption of the simple and direct popular vote - one citizen, one vote -- will encourage civic responsibility and generate voter participation. The focus will be on the individual voter rather than a majority in individual states.
Such a change is not without precedent. Until a hundred years ago U. S. Senators were appointed by each state legislature. This was changed to direct popular vote by the Seventeenth Amendment.
Moreover, the Electoral College was born in controversy, confusion, and a distrust, not only, of the lower classes, including the business community from cobblers to cabinet makers, but also, of the fear of a sovereign presidency. At one point, the Founding Fathers thought about having Congress elect the president and even mulled over the Senate electing one of its own as president. What would that have done to the separation of powers?
Of the decision to settle on the Electoral College, Alexander Hamilton said that it is "not perfect," but "it is at least excellent." He believed "that the office of the President will never fall to the lot of any man who is not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications." (TFP #68) How has that worked out?
The EC also grossly violates individual rights - one citizen, one vote. With a population of 19.8 million New York gets one of its twenty-nine Electoral College votes for every 684,232 citizens. (19,842,724 / 29 = 684,232) While Montana with a population of 1,062,330 gets one of its three Electoral College slots for 354,110 citizens. (1,062,330 / 3 = 354,110). Does this make any sense in our 21st century democracy?
The masses, disparaged intellectually and unappreciated politically, can gain some solace in that Hillary, a candidate in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications, won the popular vote by 2,864,974 over an office seeker not in an eminent degree endowed with the requisite qualifications. However, solace doesn't emend the shortcomings. Amendments do.
The East Coast/West Coast vs middle America argument is bogus. I want my vote as a resident of Los Gatos to count as much as a resident of Grand Forks, North Dakota. The Presidency is one co-equal branch of government held in check by the other two. Whatever advantage the densely populated four West Coast states and ten East Coast states have in the House of Representatives is more than balanced in the Senate by the less populated thirty-four states. (I'm taking Texas and Illinois out of the mix.) If the less populated states put up the right candidates and vote them in, they will have control of two-thirds of the Senate, thereby controlling of the legislative branch.
It is also important to acknowledge that numbers are set by the ten-year census and six or eight years post census the numbers may be skewed. We are a peripatetic culture, going away to college, following a job path from Sunnyvale to Austin, retiring in Arizona, etc. And, let us not forget the "fracking" blip that changed South Dakota and I have read somewhere that Minnesota has been bleeding population.
All of this adds up to an electoral design that does not reflect the demographics of the country and the will of the people.
One citizen, one vote. Direct election by the popular vote encourages our better angels to stand up and prevail.
The 28th Amendment is a good place to start.