The Electoral College: Tyranny & Treason

Eleanor

Eleanor teaches Social Studies to 6th graders and spends the bits of time left over writing books that bring history -- and magic -- to life. She enjoys rock climbing, bullet journaling, & gardening focused on plants you can actually eat.

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20 Responses

  1. Thank you for sharing such an informative post! I regret how little I know about politics… Yet another thing I need to spend more time studying.

    • Eleanor says:

      I was actually talking to a friend about this not long ago at karaoke (lol). The cool thing about a representative republic is that it’s NOT your job to know everything about politics. If this were a true democracy, yes, you’d be failing to meet your responsibilities as a citizen if you didn’t keep track of things. But since this is a republic, all you have to do is try to have a reasoned opinion about things you care about, and once every couple of years, make a decision about who you think is best qualified to follow Wheaton’s Law (“don’t be a dick”)

  2. Renee Grace Thompson says:

    Very interesting article. I enjoy the different perceptions you pointed out. It gives me something to think about.

  3. Shellah says:

    Love the images you are using for your posts!

  4. kohler says:

    The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld state laws guaranteeing faithful voting by presidential electors (because the states have plenary power over presidential electors).

    Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1
    “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
    The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    48 states have winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes, 2 have district winner laws.

    Rather than being a deliberative body, the Electoral College, in practice, is composed of presidential electors who voted in lockstep as rubberstamps. Presidential electors are expected to vote for the candidates nominated by their party—that is, “to act, not to think.”

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson summarized the history of presidential electors as follows in the 1952 case of Ray v. Blair:

    “No one faithful to our history can deny that the plan originally contemplated, what is implicit in its text, that electors would be free agents, to exercise an independent and nonpartisan judgment as to the men best qualified for the Nation’s highest offices.…

    “This arrangement miscarried. Electors, although often personally eminent, independent, and respectable, officially become voluntary party lackeys and intellectual nonentities”

  5. kohler says:

    48 states have winner-take-all laws for awarding electoral votes, 2 have district winner laws.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld state laws guaranteeing faithful voting by presidential electors (because the states have plenary power over presidential electors).

    Unable to agree on any particular method for selecting presidential electors, the Founding Fathers left the choice of method exclusively to the states in Article II, Section 1
    “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….”
    The U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly characterized the authority of the state legislatures over the manner of awarding their electoral votes as “plenary” and “exclusive.”

    Rather than being a deliberative body, the Electoral College, in practice, is composed of presidential electors who voted in lockstep as rubberstamps. Presidential electors are expected to vote for the candidates nominated by their party—that is, “to act, not to think.”

    U.S. Supreme Court Justice Robert H. Jackson summarized the history of presidential electors as follows in the 1952 case of Ray v. Blair:

    “No one faithful to our history can deny that the plan originally contemplated, what is implicit in its text, that electors would be free agents, to exercise an independent and nonpartisan judgment as to the men best qualified for the Nation’s highest offices.…

    “This arrangement miscarried. Electors, although often personally eminent, independent, and respectable, officially become voluntary party lackeys and intellectual nonentities”

  6. kohler says:

    Support for a national popular vote is strong in every smallest state surveyed in recent polls among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group

    Among the 13 lowest population states, the National Popular Vote bill has passed in 9 state legislative chambers, and been enacted by 4 jurisdictions.

    In 2012, 24 of the nation’s 27 smallest states received no attention at all from presidential campaigns after the conventions. They were ignored despite their supposed numerical advantage in the Electoral College. In fact, the 8.6 million eligible voters in Ohio received more campaign ads and campaign visits from the major party campaigns than the 42 million eligible voters in those 27 smallest states combined.

    The 12 smallest states are totally ignored in presidential elections. These states are not ignored because they are small, but because they are not closely divided “battleground” states.

    Now with state-by-state winner-take-all laws (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), presidential elections ignore 12 of the 13 lowest population states (3-4 electoral votes), that are non-competitive in presidential elections. 6 regularly vote Republican (AK, ID, MT, WY, ND, and SD), and 6 regularly vote Democratic (RI, DE, HI, VT, ME, and DC) in presidential elections.

    Similarly, the 25 smallest states have been almost equally noncompetitive. They voted Republican or Democratic 12-13 in 2008 and 2012.

    Voters in states that are reliably red or blue don’t matter. Candidates ignore those states and the issues they care about most.

  7. kohler says:

    Pure democracy is a form of government in which people vote on all policy initiatives directly.

    A constitutional republic does not mean we should not and cannot guarantee the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes. The candidate with the most votes wins in every other election in the country.

    Guaranteeing the election of the presidential candidate with the most popular votes and the majority of Electoral College votes would not make us a pure democracy.

    Popular election of the chief executive does not determine whether a government is a republic or democracy.

  8. kohler says:

    Analysts already conclude that only the 2016 party winner of Florida (29 electoral votes), Ohio (18), Virginia (13), Colorado (9), Nevada (6), Iowa (6) and New Hampshire (4) is not a foregone conclusion. So, if the National Popular Vote bill is not in effect, less than a handful of states will continue to dominate and determine the presidential general election.

    The indefensible reality is that more than 99% of presidential campaign attention (ad spending and visits) was invested on voters in just the only ten competitive states in 2012.
    Two-thirds (176 of 253) of the general-election campaign events, and a similar fraction of campaign expenditures, were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa).
    38 states had no campaign events, and miniscule or no spending for TV ads.

    The predictability of the winner of the state you live in, not the size of the population of where you live, determines how much, if at all, your vote matters.

  9. kohler says:

    Support for a national popular vote is strong in rural states

    None of the 10 most rural states (VT, ME, WV, MS, SD, AR, MT, ND, AL, and KY) is a battleground state.
    The current state-by-state winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes does not enhance the influence of rural states, because the most rural states are not battleground states, and they are ignored. Their states’ votes were conceded months before by the minority parties in the states, taken for granted by the dominant party in the states, and ignored by all parties in presidential campaigns. When and where voters are ignored, then so are the issues they care about most.

    Of the Top Ten States by total agricultural receipts (by largest to smallest), which provided over half of the total of the U.S, Total Agricultural Receipts Ranked by State from StuffAboutStates.com which were surveyed recently, support for a national popular vote was CA – 70% (enacted the National Popular Vote), IA – 75%, NE – 67%, MN – 75%, IL (enacted), NC – 74%, WI – 71%, and FL – 78%.

  10. kohler says:

    With National Popular Vote, big cities would not get all of candidates’ attention, much less control the outcome.

    One-sixth of the U.S. population lives in the top 100 cities, and they voted 63% Democratic in 2004.

    One-sixth lives outside the nation’s Metropolitan Statistical Areas, and rural America voted 60% Republican.

    The remaining four-sixths live in the suburbs, which divide almost exactly equally.

    A nationwide presidential campaign of polling, organizing, ad spending, and visits, with every voter equal, would be run the way presidential candidates campaign to win the electoral votes of closely divided battleground states, such as Ohio and Florida, under the state-by-state winner-take-all methods. The big cities in those battleground states do not receive all the attention, much less control the outcome. Cleveland and Miami do not receive all the attention or control the outcome in Ohio and Florida. In the 4 states that accounted for over two-thirds of all general-election activity in the 2012 presidential election, rural areas, suburbs, exurbs, and cities all received attention—roughly in proportion to their population.

    The itineraries of presidential candidates in battleground states (and their allocation of other campaign resources in battleground states, including polling, organizing, and ad spending) reflect the political reality that every gubernatorial or senatorial candidate knows. When and where every voter is equal, a campaign must be run everywhere.

    With National Popular Vote, when every voter is equal, everywhere, it makes sense for presidential candidates to try and elevate their votes where they are and aren’t so well liked. But, under the state-by-state winner-take-all laws, it makes no sense for a Democrat to try and do that in Vermont or Wyoming, or for a Republican to try it in Wyoming or Vermont.

  11. kohler says:

    The powers of state governments are neither increased nor decreased based on whether presidential electors are selected along the state boundary lines, or national lines (as with the National Popular Vote).

    Most Americans don’t ultimately care whether their presidential candidate wins or loses in their state . . . they care whether he/she wins the White House. Voters want to know, that even if they were on the losing side, their vote actually was equally counted and mattered to their candidate. Most Americans think it is wrong that the candidate with the most popular votes can lose. We don’t allow this in any other election in our representative republic.

    In Gallup polls since 1944, only about 20% of the public has supported the current system of awarding all of a state’s electoral votes to the presidential candidate who receives the most votes in each separate state (with about 70% opposed and about 10% undecided).

    Support for a national popular vote is strong among Republicans, Democrats, and Independent voters, as well as every demographic group in every state surveyed recently. In the 41 red, blue, and purple states surveyed, overall support has been in the 67-81% range – in rural states, in small states, in Southern and border states, in big states, and in other states polled.

    NationalPopularVote

  12. kohler says:

    The presidential election system, using the 48 state winner-take-all method or district winner method of awarding electoral votes used by 2 states, that we have today was not designed, anticipated, or favored by the Founding Fathers. It is the product of decades of change precipitated by the emergence of political parties and enactment by states of winner-take-all or district winner laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution.

    The Electoral College is now the set of 538 dedicated party activists, who vote as rubberstamps for presidential candidates. In the current presidential election system, 48 states award all of their electors to the winners of their state. This is not what the Founding Fathers intended.

    The Founding Fathers in the Constitution did not require states to allow their citizens to vote for president, much less award all their electoral votes based upon the vote of their citizens.

    In 1789, in the nation’s first election, a majority of the states appointed their presidential electors by appointment by the legislature or by the governor and his cabinet, the people had no vote for President in most states, and in them, only men who owned a substantial amount of property could vote, and only three states used the state-by-state winner-take-all method to award electoral votes.

    The current winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is not in the U.S. Constitution. It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention. It is not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was not the Founders’ choice. It was used by only three states in 1789, and all three of them repealed it by 1800. It is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method. The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes became dominant only in the 1830s, when most of the Founders had been dead for decades, after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state.

    The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding a state’s electoral votes.

    As a result of changes in state laws enacted since 1789, the people have the right to vote for presidential electors in 100% of the states, there are no property requirements for voting in any state, and the state-by-state winner-take-all method is used by 48 of the 50 states. States can, and have, changed their method of awarding electoral votes over the years.

  13. kohler says:

    The current system does not provide some kind of check on the “mobs.” There have been 22,991 electoral votes cast since presidential elections became competitive (in 1796), and only 17 have been cast for someone other than the candidate nominated by the elector’s own political party. 1796 remains the only instance when the elector might have thought, at the time he voted, that his vote might affect the national outcome.

    The electors are and will be dedicated party activist supporters of the winning party’s candidate who meet briefly in mid-December to cast their totally predictable rubberstamped votes in accordance with their pre-announced pledges.

    The U.S. Supreme Court has upheld state laws guaranteeing faithful voting by presidential electors (because the states have plenary power over presidential electors).

  14. kohler says:

    With the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), it could only take winning a bare plurality of popular votes in only the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with a mere 23% of the nation’s votes!

    The precariousness of the current state-by-state winner-take-all system of awarding electoral votes is highlighted by the fact that a difference of a few thousand voters in one or two states would have elected the second-place candidate in 4 of the 15 presidential elections since World War II. Near misses are now frequently common. There have been 7 consecutive non-landslide presidential elections (1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2012). 537 popular votes won Florida and the White House for Bush in 2000 despite Gore’s lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide. A difference of 60,000 voters in Ohio in 2004 would have defeated President Bush despite his nationwide lead of over 3 million votes.

    After the 2012 election, Nate Silver calculated that “Mitt Romney may have had to win the national popular vote by three percentage points on Tuesday to be assured of winning the Electoral College.”

    In the 2012 presidential election, 1.3 million votes decided the winner in the ten states with the closest margins of victory.

  15. kohler says:

    Obviously the current system is not fair.

    The state legislature of each state has the power to decide how to award their electoral votes.

    The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding a state’s electoral votes.

    The National Popular Vote bill would guarantee the presidency to the candidate who receives the most popular votes in the country.

    Every vote, everywhere, would be politically relevant and equal in every presidential election. No more distorting and divisive red and blue state maps of pre-determined outcomes. There would no longer be a handful of ‘battleground’ states (where the two major political parties happen to have similar levels of support among voters) where voters and policies are more important than those of the voters in 38+ predictable states that have just been ‘spectators’ and ignored after the conventions.

    The National Popular Vote bill would take effect when enacted by states with a majority of the electoral votes—270 of 538.
    All of the presidential electors from the enacting states will be supporters of the presidential candidate receiving the most popular votes in all 50 states (and DC)—thereby guaranteeing that candidate with an Electoral College majority.

    The National Popular Vote bill has passed 34 state legislative chambers in 23 rural, small, medium, large, Democratic, Republican and purple states with 261 electoral votes, including one house in Arizona (11), Arkansas (6), Maine (4), Michigan (16), Nevada (6), New Mexico (5), North Carolina (15), and Oklahoma (7), and both houses in Colorado (9). The bill has been enacted by 11 small, medium, and large jurisdictions with 165 electoral votes – 61% of the 270 necessary to go into effect.

    NationalPopularVote

  16. norma says:

    another thorough, interesting blog. Well done. Good visual enhancement too.

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