Not Quite Right

In What Happened, Hillary Clinton, at page 387, wrote that the Electoral College was an “archaic fluke of our constitutional system….that…gave disproportionate power to less populated states and therefore was profoundly undemocratic. It made a mockery of the principle of ‘One person, one vote.’”

This is the way she and most lawyers and politicians were taught, but it is inaccurate in three ways.

First, the winner-take-all system, and for that matter, even the phrase “Electoral College,” are not in the Constitution. Any state can change the way it chooses electors, and if even a few states allocated even a few electors to the national winner, then both campaigns would seek national pluralities.

Second, if campaigns had to win national pluralities to get to 270 electors, then by definition every vote would count equally. The Constitution does not block this move, or thwart the principle of ‘One person, one vote.’ States can make this the fundamental principle in choosing the president if even one or two of them decided to award electors to the national vote winner.

Third, the “system” is not undemocratic because it empowers “less populated states.” These states in fact are almost without exception taken for granted and ignored by both parties in the general election. What’s undemocratic is the way the residents of virtually all states, and especially small states, have no say on what the major party candidates say, promise, and, when elected, do. The system is undemocratic because the vast majority of voters live in non-swing states and so are taken for granted and ignored in the general election.