The existence of the Electoral College became a major bone of contention in the 2020 election because it once again exposed the College’s bias against Democratic presidential candidates. To win, a Democrat must get at least 3,000,000 more popular votes than a Republican.
Democrats are on a warpath to abolish the College but that is neither simple nor easy. Because the issue has become politicalized, it is impossible to address change of this institution without invoking partisan wrath.
While we focus on the political implications, there are other principles involved, especially the worth we place on the importance of every human being. To have a genuine democracy, respect for the worth of human beings is an important principle.
The United States did not start out as much of a democracy with voting limited to white men who owned property or the equivalent thereto. However, the dignity of human beings could not be restrained and the right to vote was extended through the decades until today we better approximate a democracy,
While we have cast off constitutional provisions and legislation that have impaired equality in voting we insist on keeping the Electoral College even though it warps the equality that democracies are supposed to promote.
At the time the Constitution was codified, equality was far from the minds of the Founders. They were too busy negotiating and accommodating every state’s selfish interests. So we should expect that the Electoral College would reflect the aristocratic values of the day.
But today we have a different idea of democracy. We decided that the people ought to vote for the Electors; then we added voting for U. S. Senators. Because this drift toward democracy has become common coin, we now look at the Electoral College as an archaic monstrosity that warps our belief in the equality of all humans.
First, there is the formula for allocating Electors to the states, distorted by inclusion of the two U. S. Senators in each state’s allocation. If the Senate seats were not included, states like North Dakota, South Dakota, Wyoming, Vermont and New Hampshire would get only one Elector instead of three.
Is human equality worth the price?
Second, every state gets its allocation on the basis of the previous United States decennial census. That means the 2020 presidential election was based on the 2010 decennial census. Over that 10 year period, some states saw significant increases in their populations.
If the election had been based on the 2020 census, Texas would have received at least five more electoral votes; Florida would have had four more; several other states would have had one more. So equality was once again compromised by the system
Third, since the states get their quota of Electors without regard to the number of voters, we have Electors being chosen by a wide range of participants. In Minnesota, the system required 328,000 votes per Elector while in North Dakota it required only 120,000 votes and in South Dakota it took 141,000 votes,
The conclusion must be that the system is rigged against respecting the dignity and importance of every human being. Obviously, we are going to confess our low regard for human equality by choosing the political benefits.
Because of the political consequences of the Electoral College, many Democrats are now talking about direct election of the president. Direct election would better honor the equality of human beings but direct election is not without its pitfalls. But that is another column.
(In 1969, the House passed and President Nixon favored a direct election amendment to the Constitution. It perished in the Senate, the Boot Hill of Washington. Polls at the time revealed that public support was strong: Republicans 78%, Democrats 80% and Independents 83 %.)