The Electoral College allows a minority of Americans to control us all | Opinion

Posted Nov 02, 2020

By Edward Monaghan and Jessica Friesen

The Electoral college is antithetical to the founding principles of this nation, that the people will choose who governs them. The winner-take-all approach by the Electoral College denies Americans their right to have each vote treated equally under the law, especially in more populous states, like New Jersey. Maintaining this system has drastic real-world consequences that long outlast the term of the president.

The Electoral College is a system in which each state is awarded a number of electors equal to that states’ members of Congress. Presidential candidates must receive at least 270 electoral votes to win. All but two states – Maine and Nebraska – give all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins a plurality of the state’s popular vote.

This process does not fairly represent all voters. For example, each elector in Wyoming represents three times fewer people than each elector in New Jersey. This means that a single vote in Wyoming is worth more than three times a vote in New Jersey.

The winner-take-all approach leads candidates to chase votes in swing states because they want their electoral votes. In 2012, campaign events were held in only 12 states, two-thirds of those events were held in only four states. Similarly, in 2016, 94% of all campaign events were held in 12 states. Two-thirds of those events were held in only six states, Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and Michigan. In sum, 12 states are choosing the president for all 50 states.

One of the most consequential decisions a president can make is nominating a Supreme Court Justice. Justices serve lifetime appointments on the Supreme Court and make decisions on cases that affect every aspect of life, from health care and abortion to civil rights. President Trump lost the popular vote by 3 million votes, yet Amy Coney Barrett is the third justice he has nominated to the Supreme Court. Judge Barrett will join four other justices nominated by presidents who lost the popular vote (President George W. Bush appointed two justices, John Roberts and Samuel Alito). These justices will serve for decades. Barrett is only 48 and could conceivably serve for 40 or more years.

In order for a Supreme Court decision to make law, only five votes from the nine-member panel are necessary. With Barrett’s appointment to the court, all five of those votes could now come from justices appointed by presidents who lost the popular vote. Trump was not elected by the will of the people. Yet his Supreme Court nominees will determine the rights of the people for decades.

The Electoral College underrepresents people in larger states and must be abolished or changed in order to ensure every person’s voice is heard and every person’s vote matters. Yet, there is nothing in the Constitution that states the Electoral College must be chosen by a winner-take-all approach. States can choose to take a different approach to determine how they allocate their electors.

Both Maine and Nebraska assign two of their electors based on the popular vote in their state and then allocate the remaining electors based on each congressional district’s plurality of votes. As of July 2020, 15 states and the District of Columbia have adopted the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, an agreement to award all their electoral votes to the candidate who wins the overall popular vote in the country. This approach has been opposed by many Republicans.

There is an Electoral College reform that could reduce voter inequality while maintaining bi-partisan support. Without the need of a Constitutional Amendment, states could award their electoral votes proportionally based on the popular vote. If a state’s popular vote is 70% for candidate A and 30% for candidate B, then they would split their electoral votes in the same manner. This would help ensure every vote is equally represented, regardless of the state’s history of being reliably red or blue.

Bottom line: Our Electoral College system allows a minority of Americans to control us all. The system has led to serious consequences that go beyond just determining the president but also who serves on the Supreme Court and who decides critical issues that will impact our lives, our children’s lives and our grandchildren’s lives.

Edward Monaghan and Jessica Friesen are third-year law students at Rutgers Law School, enrolled in the International Human Rights Clinic.

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commented 2020-11-03 11:32:37 -0800
A great Op-Ed, but it only scratches the surface. The EC severely insults the concept of taxation without representation. Red States (largely smaller rural/agricuiltural states) are doubly over-impowered by both the EC and the Senate in making decisions on taxation and MORE IMPORTANTLY how and where Federal tax dollars are spent. Red states are routinely returned significantly more federal tax dollars than than they send to the Federal Govt… and this imbalance is at the expense of more metropolitan/higher population generally blue states. POTUS and VPOTUS are the ONLY two federal elected officials that are intended to represent the entire electorate of the US without regard to state of residence; their election should not give disproportionate voting impact to citizens from different states. WY has 55 times the the EC power per citizen as California. The argument has been made that the EC protects against large population states “dictating” to small population states… or urban interests dictating to rural interests. Yet this is a logic flaw, since a) the EC outcome still depends on having numerous high population/urban states to read 270; furthermore, where is the reverse protection? Why isn’t their a demand that urban/high population states be protected from being overpowered by rural intersts. Also, there are very few purely rural states anymore, most have some degree of urban metropolitan concentration… yet states do not institute an EC model for the election of their governors do they? Importantly, one has to come to the fact that the EC is a vestige of America’s racist history. This is at two levels, one is that the origins of the EC was in great part a bribe to suborn the retention of the southern slave colonies to join/remain in the Union. Since today’s distribution of minority races is disproportionately urban, the EC is also a defacto retention of white priviledge. Lastly statisticians have determined (See Ian Millhiser Vox Article Sept 17, 2019) that the EC, given the distribution of Rs vs. Ds in rural vs. urban states gives a several percentage e;ectability advantage to Republicans in EVERY election because of the structural inequality of its design. SImply put it rigs the election before the candidates are even selected. This vestige of european aristocratic / oligarchic distrust of the overall electorate is an insult to modern enlightened concepts of democracy.
published this page in News and Politics 2020-11-03 03:30:08 -0800