And yet still more on the failure of the Electoral College


In my previous post about the Electoral College I pointed out that the problem with the Electoral College is not an unprecedented glitch in an otherwise well-functioning system for selecting our president. I assert that, if our goal is for voting citizens to choose our public officials, then we should just do it that way.

Here is an article from Vox that describes poll results to the effect that American voters favor doing away with the Electoral College by a ratio of 3 to 2. The reporter describes the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact (NPVIC) that our friendly and informed commenter, Ted S., describes. This is a scheme to achieve respect for the winner of the popular vote while bypassing the difficulty of amending the Constitution.

Ted reminds us that the United States began as an agreement between states, and those states crafted several compromises to protect the interests of the less populated states against the interests of the more populated ones. I know that Rhode Island even in those days was among the less populated ones, but, in the main, those compromises protected slave states from the more populous free states.

The original 13 states had been British colonies, and then states of a national government under the Articles of Confederation. With a few exceptions and peculiarities, all the other states are creations of Congress and were never separate, sovereign governments. How could they have had sovereign interests as opposed to those of the national government? Of course, before the Civil War apologists for slavery argued that they could and did have such interests. Of course, when citizens of those states asserted that the states had unique interests and rights separate from those that attached to themselves as citizens of the United States, what they meant was that white people had the right to own black slaves. Those Southern white citizens disapproved of states’ rights to ban slavery within their own borders.

This argument appears today in political and legal struggles. Chief Justice Roberts cited the supposed “dignity” of state governments, a word not associated with the states in the Constitution, as a reason for overturning the Medicaid expansion provisions of Obamacare. The right of working poor American citizens to health insurance and health care, according to the Chief Justice, depended upon in which state they lived. Evidently, it would offend the sensibility of some governors and legislators to be told that their citizens were also Americans.

Ted says that while he favors direct election of the president, we ought to be thinking about the consequences of a few states dominating the election of the president. We know the consequences of a system that arranges for a small portion of the citizens of a handful of states choosing the president for the rest of us. We know the consequences of a system that says that after the 50% plus one voter none of the rest of the voters in that state matter at all. Making the presidential election would only make the most important election the same as every other election, with the same goods and ills.

The states themselves are artificial and arbitrary creations. The colonies were drawn on maps by Kings of England who likely knew hardly a thing about the land they owned and were giving away. The other states are artificial and arbitrary. What reason is there today to accord those accidental entities with political representation?

Even the Senate, in my opinion, is artificial. Modeled after the Roman Senate, the top legislative body of the Roman Republic, our Senate supposedly represented the interests of the individual states. Today some conservative thinkers advocate repeal of the 17th Amendment. This amendment, a little over a hundred years old, removed the selection of Senators from state legislators and put it into the hands of state citizens. Naturally I think this is a good step, but if senators represent state citizens instead of state governments, why should the state citizens of Wyoming and Alaska have as much representation as those of California, New York, and Texas. Those thinkers believe we should move toward a situation in which a citizen’s rights as Americans depend upon where they live. This is Donald Trump’s proposal to repeal Roe v. Wade and throw the question of American women’s rights to control their own health care back to the states. Can a woman get a prescription for Plan B pills? It might depend on whether she lived in Kansas City, Kansas, or Kansas City, Missouri.

Ted mentions that if a national election were close, a recount would require a nationwide recount. Not just the one or two states that were closest. I don’t see that this is a problem. Why should the accuracy of the counts in other states not be just as important as in the close states? Get the count right in the first place, and do an accurate and nationwide recount if necessary. Every state has the mechanisms in place to handle a recount if necessary. If each vote were equally important, then each vote should be counted, and recounted.

That’s my opinion.

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