Wednesday, December 2, 2020 : By John Simmons
The integrity of the voting results for the 2020 election has come under immense scrutiny. Now, several states want to completely change the way the voting process is conducted in the next presidential election.
Currently, the president and vice president are elected through the Electoral College, which was created by 12th Amendment to the Constitution. It states, “The Electors shall meet in their respective states and vote by ballot for President and Vice-President.”
This was an alternative to having the majority of the popular vote or Congress elect the president because it allowed for every state to have a legitimate voice in the election and forced presidential candidates “to conduct national campaigns to reach ‘the people,’” according to Thomas Jipping, deputy director of the Center for Legal and Judicial Studies at the Heritage Foundation.
Each state is given a number of electoral votes that equals the sum of its two senators plus the number of representatives each state sends to Capitol Hill, the latter being determined by the state’s total population. This calculation “incorporates both the equality and the diversity of the states,” according to Jipping. Texas, for example, has 2 senators and 36 representatives, giving it 38 total electoral votes, while Wyoming has 2 senators and 1 representative, so it has 3 electoral votes. Each state essentially holds a popular vote among its own citizens to determine how electors will cast the state’s electoral votes.
A political movement underway is trying to change that. Over the last decade, 15 states and the District of Columbia have passed legislation to abide by the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, which would allow those states to award their Electoral College votes to the winner of the national popular vote in future presidential elections — regardless of which candidate their own citizens picked.
The current number of electoral votes between the states that have agreed to the compact so far is 196, and once the total number of Electoral College votes reaches 270, the agreement would take effect. According to nationalpopularvote.com, the bill has passed at least one chamber in 9 additional states with 88 more electoral votes (Arkansas, Arizona, Maine, Michigan, Minnesota, North Carolina, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Virginia), and a total of 3,408 state legislators from all 50 states have endorsed it. The compact is designed to ensure that whichever presidential candidate wins the total popular vote is elected president.
Sylvia Bernstein, the coalition coordinator for the Yes on National Popular Vote campaign, said that this proposal should be accepted by politicians regardless of their party.
“It shouldn’t be a partisan issue,” Bernstein said. “The reason why people should support the national popular vote is pretty simple…. The candidate with the most votes should win, just the way it happens in every other election in this country.”
While this might seem like a strategy that makes every vote count, it could actually have disastrous consequences and eliminate the voices of many Americans.
The Electoral College decentralizes power and gives every vote validity. Naturally, states with larger populations will have more votes than states with smaller populations, but this system means that a state like Delaware or Wyoming, with only 3 electoral votes, could have the same power in determining an election as California, which has 55 electoral votes.
However, there are still loopholes through which this can be exploited, and the majority can still decide the outcome of state elections. Several states from the 2020 presidential election clearly illustrate this principle as major metropolitan areas often dictate the outcome of an election.
In New York, for example Joe Biden won the popular vote by roughly one million votes. However, the voter map of New York shows that President Trump won approximately 75 percent of the counties, while Biden won the counties that were home to the state’s biggest population centers, including Buffalo, New York City, Albany, and Rochester. These four areas alone provided Biden with more than one million popular votes, which was almost the margin of victory. Minnesota and Michigan displayed similar trends.
While this is acceptable on a statewide scale, it highlights a startling truth about having a nationwide system where the popular vote decides the president. All a candidate must do is win a handful of cities in key states to gain an advantage in the popular vote, and then the Electoral College votes of the states in the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact would be theirs. They will be free to ignore rural America. They wouldn’t even have to take the time to hear their concerns or try to earn their support because those votes won’t matter to the outcome of a presidential election. Those voices will have been snuffed out before they’ve even had a chance to speak.
The Electoral College is designed to give less-populated states like Nebraska, New Hampshire, Alaska, and Hawaii the chance to have their voices count in the decision of who will run the country. A handful of major cities in a few states that hold most of the country’s population should not speak for the rest of the country on this matter.
The Electoral College has always been a point of contention. Over the past 200 years, lawmakers have crafted 700 proposals that would revise or eliminate the Electoral College, according to the Heritage Foundation.
This latest effort to remove the Electoral College, however, has a lot of momentum behind it, and if it succeeds, it would shift the balance of power within the voting system to a potentially tyrannical majority. Eliminating the checks and balances of the Electoral College and letting a few areas of the country decide who becomes president would only serve to further remove the “united” out of the United States.