By Patricia H Kushlis
The Electoral College versus the Popular Vote
For the second time in 16 years and the fifth time since the founding of the Republic, the Electoral College vote will trump – pun intended - the popular vote for president of the USA. An archaic institution designed for the late 18th century is soon destined to turn the popular vote on its head by handing the presidency to an incompetent clown and accused sex offender likely floating on a mountain of debt topped by a summit of law suits. Meanwhile, the majority of American voters who did not vote for him is told to grin (or grit their teeth) and bear it – that this is how democracy functions: this is how power is meant to shift peacefully from one administration to another. That mantra is from what I can figure out, likely courtesy of the GOP.
Unfortunately the transfer of power at the top is based on the will of the Electoral College, a group of 538 individuals selected by the states composed mostly of individuals no one has ever heard of. On December 19 their decision will permit rural and rust belt states to determine the fate not only of the US but also the world over the next four to eight years.
What ever happened to one person, one vote? Forget it. Today’s Electoral College makes a mockery of the 1965 Voting Rights Act which was passed at the height of the nationwide non-violent Civil Rights movement which rocked the country during the early – mid 1960s. The Act negated the previously widespread suppression of the black vote in former states of the Confederacy.
Today, not only has voter suppression returned with a vengeance as a result of a 5-4 Supreme Court decision in 2013 that gutted the contents of the Voting Rights Act but even excluding that Supreme Court decision, the popular will of the voters is upended because of the way in which the Electoral College functions.
A voter who lives in Montana, the least populous state, has, for instance, almost four times (actually 362 times) the weight of a California voter in the selection of the president. That’s not democracy: that’s the tyranny of the rural minority over the urban majority. As America continues to urbanize this tyranny will continue to worsen: unless something is done to change it.
This is 2016, for heaven’s sake: over the centuries since the adoption of the US Constitution in 1789, its contents have been interpreted and reinterpreted to meet the changing times as the franchise has gradually widened from indirect vote restricted to white male property owners to all US citizens regardless of race, color, creed, property ownership, gender or sexual orientation.
Yet since 2008 with the election of President Obama the widening of the franchise has been challenged through rear guard actions by the Republican Party, the country’s minority party which simultaneously gained control of a majority of state governments and which has used stealth tactics to regain – and then to keep - the country’s political control in its own hands through the inherited weakness of with the Electoral College combined with massive voter suppression in critical states.
The latter has consisted most notably of restrictions of Early Voting locations and their accessibly which are particularly important to the working poor, rollbacks of laws allowing people to register and vote at the same time, and new photo-ID laws that placed strict limits on the types of identification are to be accepted at polls (in Texas gun permits held primarily by whites are acceptable, but not state school or employee IDs) according to The New York Times in 2015.