❝ Every four years, we elect a president in this country, and we do it in a strange way: via the Electoral College. The reasons for the Electoral College are unclear to most people. On the surface, it appears anti-democratic, and needlessly complicated.
Why not rely on a popular vote, as almost every other democracy does? If a popular vote makes sense for gubernatorial elections, why doesn’t it make sense for presidential elections? What did the American founders have in mind when they erected this ostensible firewall against majority will?…
Why does the Electoral College exist? Is it exclusively about federalism and slavery?
❝ There are several standard stories that I learned in school, and then there’s an emerging story that I find more explanatory. I learned in school that it was a balance between big and small states. But the real divisions in America have never been big and small states; they’re between North and South, and between coasts and the center…
So what’s the real answer? In my view, it’s slavery. In a direct election system, the South would have lost every time because a huge percentage of its population was slaves, and slaves couldn’t vote. But an Electoral College allows states to count slaves, albeit at a discount – the three-fifths clause – and that’s what gave the South the inside track in presidential elections. “And thus it’s no surprise that eight of the first nine presidential races were won by a Virginian. Virginia was the most populous state at the time, and had a massive slave population that boosted its electoral vote count.”
What’s the greatest argument against it?
❝ Again, it’s in tension with a basic idea of one person, one vote. The problem with most of the arguments for the Electoral College are that they prove too much, because if they were good arguments, every state is stupid, as no state has a mini-Electoral College. And if that’s good enough for the governorship of Texas or California, why not for the presidency of the United States?
History’s a bear, ain’t it? There is a current legal tweak circulating in an attempt to work around the Electoral College. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact is what it’s called and only blue states have signed on. Republicans are confident the current Electoral College system favors them. No red states have supported the idea.
So, Congress ignores civil rights one more time. The mindset of slave-owners ain’t about to leave town.