Friday, December 11, 2020

Do we need the Electoral College?

Roger Carlton, newspaper columnist

This article first appeared in the Cherokee Scout newspaper published weekly in Murphy, NC/

The debates are debated. The conventions have convened. The election is over. The canvassing boards have canvassed. Frivolous litigation has been adjudicated. Yet we still don’t have a final decision on who our next President will be. Something is wrong with this picture and it is not Hillary’s e-mails or President Trump’s unwillingness to accept reality.

What is wrong is an anachronism that our Founders named the Electoral College.

The Electoral College is made up of 538 members. With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, each state is a winner takes all situation. Whoever wins in the general election gets all the votes for that state. To win in the Electoral College, 270 votes are needed. The vote will be held December 14, 2020. That is eight days after the deadline for the states to certify their elections and more than a month with a lame duck POTUS. If a state doesn’t certify, the decision goes to Congress so states always meet the deadline to certify.

The Electoral College origins come from fear by the Founders that the big population states would overcome the smaller less populous rural states. That theory certainly bombed in 2016 when some bad strategy on the part of Hillary Clinton led her to ignore some of the smaller states and she ended up winning the general election and losing the Electoral College vote. Winning one and losing the other is not like eating a box of Cracker Jacks. There is no guaranteed prize for the loser of the Electoral College vote.

The big population fear was compounded when the Founders compromised on the slavery issue. Slaves were counted in the population of the southern states but only 40 percent of the actual number of 400,000 slaves were included in the count at the time the Founders worked on the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. That number had grown to nearly 3.5 million by the time the Civil War ended.

There was great concern that if the slaves were freed and allowed to vote in the future, the numbers would shift in a popular election to give more power to the South. 

To avoid this potential from happening, the Electoral College was originally created to balance the popular election outcome with an elite process wherein the voters were a small number of hand-picked folks. After all, why should we trust the unwashed masses to vote for their President? Let’s control the rabble by setting up a second-tier process with voters whose numbers and loyalties reflect the distribution of U.S. Senators and Representatives.

We need to do away with the Electoral College and let the plurality of votes be the end of the $14 billion dollar exercise in the democracy we call the 2020 Presidential election. That is what was spent on the 2020 election. That number is appalling.

Joe Biden and Kamala Harris will win the Electoral College with 306 votes which is the same number President Trump got in 2016. We already know the outcome, so why waste the time and money? Let’s move on with bringing our country back together and regaining our leadership role in world events. There is too much to do to wait even one unnecessary day.

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