In the beginning, there were big states and little states. Virginia and Delaware. Pennsylvania and Rhode Island. Georgia and New Hampshire. The little states want to make sure that their voices weren’t drowned out by the big states, that they couldn’t be marginalized or pushed out of the way altogether, and that they could see themselves as equal parts of the American Government.
So, the Framers of the Constitution put protections for the small states into that document – giving them a little bit more say, actually, on a per-capita basis, than the big states. One was that each state, even if it was so small it only had one representative in the House of Representatives, would get two full senators. And the second was that each small state would also get an additional two votes – representing those senators – in the Electoral College.
For most of our national history, the minority never abused these privileges. Though we have recently seen a series of abuses of the Senate filibuster by the Conservative minority.
But, the Electoral College wasn’t created just to protect the minority. It was also, just like the Second Amendment, put in place in part to protect the institution of slavery in the Southern states.
The political problem slave states were facing when the Constitution was written was that there were very few white males – the legal voters of the day – living in those states. There were lots of slaves in those states, but they weren’t allowed to vote.
So, if the president was elected by the national popular vote James Madison originally argued for, very few votes would be coming out of slave states to elect the President of the United States.
And the Southern slave-owners lived in constant fear that some northerner President might try to undo slavery – sorta like Lincoln actually did.
So, the slave states and the small states got the Electoral College to select the President, giving them those extra votes they would have lacked if it was just a national popular vote.
Which brings us to today.
Now that the Republican Party has been hijacked by the Billionaire Class, a very small one-percent sliver of our nation, they’ve taken unprecedented steps to abuse the Electoral College.
In the first election after the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, hundreds of millions of dollars in outside spending by oligarchs like the Koch Brothers and Sheldon Adelson put Republicans in control of the traditionally blue states they’d targeted, including Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Ohio, and Michigan.
Once they got charge of the state legislatures, Republicans gerrymandered congressional districts to increase the number of safe Republican seats and fracture safe Democratic seats. That’s one reason why House Democratic candidates received more than a million votes more than House Republican candidates around the nation last November, yet Republicans still hold a majority in the House of Representatives.
And Republicans are now using these gerrymandered states to push their boldest step yet to rig the next presidential election. It looks like it’s going to happen first in Virginia.
Instead of a winner-take-all system, Republicans want Virginia’s Electoral College votes doled out based on which presidential candidate won each congressional district, with an extra two votes going to the state’s popular vote winner. Republicans in Wisconsin, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Michigan are considering similar changes. And, RNC Chair Reince Priebus recently threw his support behind the idea.
Just how big of an advantage will Republicans have thanks to these changes? Consider this: President Obama swept the six main battleground states of Florida, Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and Wisconsin last election. Since it’s a winner-take-all system, the President got 106 Electoral College votes, and Romney got zero.
But had this new scheme been in place before the last election, then the President would have only gotten 47 Electoral College votes, while Mitt Romney would have won those states with 59 votes, even though he got trounced in the popular vote in each of those states. And had all the states in the nation made these changes, then Mitt Romney would be our president today, even though he lost the national vote by millions.
Billionaires and the Republicans they own know they’re a minority in America. Their hard-right bigotry toward gays and women turns off young voters. Their xenophobia and mistrust of non-whites have turned off a growing minority electorate. And Reaganomics has been exposed as a scam.
So, today, the majority of us have to do something before the billionaires take over completely. And the best way to do this is to embrace more democracy.
When it comes to the Electoral College, we need to scrap it altogether. Republicans in these states mentioned earlier are trying to pervert the Electoral College so they can steal future Presidential elections.
It should be replaced with more democracy – a national popular vote model that elects our President based on which candidate got the most votes nationwide, plain and simple.
Nine states have already passed National Popular Vote laws, so their electors will vote for whichever candidate wins the national popular vote, even if that candidate lost the state’s Electoral College vote. Those nine states that have passed national popular vote laws – including California, Maryland, and Illinois – account for 132 electoral votes among them, nearly half of the 270 needed in the Electoral College to win the White House.
So, if this trend continues, and enough states sign up to bring their combined Electoral College votes to 270, then the Electoral College, which Republicans are currently trying to rig, dies just like that.
This should be the game plan moving forward. Average working people in America are the majority, not the billionaires and their Republican toadies. And it’s up to us to aggressively push back against this corrupt Conservative minority that’s trying to rig the game.