A couple of weeks back, MSNBC’s Chris Hayes went on a bit of a tirade on his show “All in with Chris Hayes”, denouncing the electoral college in all its unfair, undemocratic glory. Hayes said that in the past seven elections, the Republican party only acquired the popular vote on a single occasion — during former president George W. Bush’s re-election in 2004 — and yet due to the electoral college the Republican party managed to secure three presidential wins out of those seven. These wins are the primary strategic reasoning behind the Republican party’s love and support for the electoral college.
Hayes went on to state that had the electoral college not specifically been written into the Constitution, it would be unconstitutional on the grounds that having a minority of the United States overtake the majority is perverse and brings great shame upon our democratic system. Hayes’s focus was in response to the backlash congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) received over her twitter criticism of the electoral college.
Put simply, the electoral college allows the loser to win. Does that sound reasonable — or even sane? Imagine a sport that allowed the loser to win, even if only a small percentage of the time. A team outscores another team only to lose because some judges arbitrarily agree that the loser should win.
We aren’t talking about a game of chance here, though the electoral college appears to play out like one from time to time. The idea is so preposterous that you never hear anyone suggest any new democracy adopt our electoral college. The electoral process itself was designed with the purpose of limiting democracy in an attempt to prevent tyranny by the people, while at the same time attempting to prevent tyranny from the government. Such limitations were never properly implemented in the first place; even the 12th amendment was amended to the Constitution to help alleviate some of its issues.
Proponents for the electoral college argue that it prevents large city populations from dominating over rural areas. This is simply not the case: states such as Ohio have a nearly 50/50 split between Democrat and Republican voters — with a slight edge in favor of the Democrats — yet the Democrats gather around Columbus and Cleveland, leaving the rest of the state and electoral districts to the Republican voters. Depending on how the electoral districts are currently drawn, it would create a faux-win for Republicans by allowing Ohio’s electoral votes to go toward the Republican ticket. Normally gerrymandering would be to blame in an instance like this, but it’s not the case.
Another argument for the electoral college is that the populations of larger cities and metropolitan areas would somehow outweigh those of rural areas, but the populations of many of the greatest American cities still is only a small fraction of the U.S. population as a whole. Even the top 10 cities combined only account for 8% of the total voter population in this country.
A possible solution exists that might resolve this matter without a constitutional amendment — which might be virtually impossible to pass — and that is the National Popular Vote compact. It would see states agreeing to give all their electoral votes to whomever gains the popular vote across the nation. The compact already has fifteen states participating in it and has more on the way. It needs a majority holding of the electoral votes — at least 270 — to gain the legal force needed to enact it. It currently stands at 196.
Range/score voting would be the most fair of all voting systems but is seldom used anywhere, and would likely never be used in a presidential election due to the degree of uncertainty that comes along with it. Regardless, there is evidence that suggests range voting could be just the ticket to alleviate many of the woes faced in modern presidential voting, namely gerrymandering. A candidate from another party or a larger sampling of a single party could have a chance of winning.
If the pursuit of this country is an exceptional democracy, then range/score voting should be considered for all elections, especially the presidential elections. It gives all candidates a fair chance of being voted upon based on a voters personal feelings and insights.
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