Inequalities

Make Your State Matter

Because the presidential selection system currently consists of independent simultaneous statewide votes, state politicians in a single state logically conclude their actions will have little effect on the presidential election’s outcome in other states. 

Republican legislators in North Carolina, Michigan, and Wisconsin can act against the apparent desire of the majority of voters in last month’s election without worrying about the effect on their party’s ability to win a national popular vote — because no such vote ever matters. 

But things would be different if some states awarded some electors to the national vote winner. Then state officials in both parties (for the first time in American history) would have a ballot-based reason to be concerned about the reaction to their conduct from fellow Americans across the whole country. Anti-democratic moves by either party in any state might shift public opinion against that party in other states. Notorious bad actions by either party even in a single state then might cost the party a national popular vote majority and as a result lose the presidency. 

The anachronistic notion that what happens in a single state stays in that state would be eradicated. If the national popular vote mattered then the actions of officials in a single state might be subjected to meaningful judgment in the court of national public opinion. 


The History of America is the History of Race

The principal reason animating southern state opposition to direct election of the president at the time of the Constitutional Convention was slavery. To protect slavery, the southern state representatives had obtained the compromise that allocated them House seats according to population with slaves counted as three-fifths of a person.

If direct popular vote picked the president, the Three-Fifths gimmick would not have given southern states inequitable advantages in choosing the president.

Slaves of course could not vote, and the northern states had more eligible voters.

Founders from the slave states feared the outcome could be presidents unsympathetic to their "peculiar institution."

So they insisted on the electoral college system. By giving states two electors plus the number equaling the House members, the scheme extended the Three-Fifths Compromise to the process of choosing the president. It wasn't until 1860 that the unsympathetic president at last was elected. 


No Need To Dismantle

In reviewing George Edwards’ Why the Electoral College is Bad for America  (2004), Jeffrey Cohen of Fordham University concluded: “I do not think the Founders designed the electoral college with egalitarian ends in mind, but that does not mean that, over 200 years after the adoption of the Constitution, we should not promote political equality, even if it means dismantling institutions that undermine political equality.”

Of course the granting of suffrage to former slaves and women and people aged 18 to 21 all promoted “political equality” even if the electoral system denied true equality.

But it’s also worth noting that the Electoral College does not need to be “dismantled.” Any state can choose as electors those from the party slate whose nominee for president has won the most votes cast in the United States. That would make every vote count, or matter, equally.


Brennan Center: Voter Roll Purging Remains High in GA, NC, and FL

The Brennan Center for Justice released a report following up on their analysis of the widespread purges of voter rolls throughout the South leading up to the 2016 election. The report finds that in Florida, North Carolina, and Georgia, the exceptionally high rates of purges has not declined. The rates of purging continue to be alarmingly high in these 3 states when compared to those before the 2006 and 2008 presidential election and others.

In recent two year periods, North Carolina has purged 11.7% of its registered voters from its list, Georgia has purged 10.6%, and Florida over 7%. The timing of the increased purges coincides with the Supreme Court’s Shelby ruling which in 2013 that “struck down a part of the Voting Rights Act that required nine states with a history of racial discrimination to obtain federal approval when altering their election laws.

Would state officials have the same perverse incentives to trim their voting rolls of prior eligible voters if the winner-take-all electoral system were not in practice by all three of these states?


"Will Florida’s Ex-Felons Finally Regain the Right to Vote?"

“Across the country, more than six million people have lost the right to vote because of their criminal records. More than 1.5 million of them live in Florida, a higher number than in any other state,” writes Emily Bazelin for NY Times. Bazelin’s piece highlights the experiences of two advocates, one Republican, the other Democrat, fighting for “the expansion of the franchise to be a key pillar of the platform of both parties.” A proposed ballot initiative for this November, Amendment 4, would restore the voting rights of ex-felons (although Floridians convicted of murder and sex offenses would not be able to vote under the proposed law). And it's a popular reform, with 71 percent support according to a recent poll. So why would anyone want to oppose it?

In the winner-take-all system of electing the president, the stakes are potentially very high. If this law went into effect, it could possibly change the balance of voters favoring a Democrat or Republican for president in any given year. That might be of less concern in a red state or a blue state, but Florida is very often among the most closely contested states nationwide. in 2012 Florida was the closest state in the country in electing President Obama. In our last election, President Trump carried the state by less than 1.2 percent. And because Florida is among the most populous, it has a lot electoral votes to give.

But what if we elected our president by the winner of the most votes cast nationally? The overall impact of roughly a million more votes cast by ex-felons in Florida would be significantly less likely to determine the winner of the presidency alone, but citizens in every state as well as Florida would finally have a voice in electing our president because every voter would matter equally.

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Most Voters Favor Background Checks. 3-D Guns Bypass Them.

Most Voters Favor Background Checks. 3-D Guns Bypass Them.

94 percent of Americans responded that they supported background checks for all gun buyers. How would they feel about guns that can avoid them entirely?

Why Were Most Voters Left Out of the 2012 and 2016 Presidential Elections?

Why Were Most Voters Left Out of the 2012 and 2016 Presidential Elections?

Only in the 21st century did densification and polarization produce a situation in which each of the two major parties' candidates chose not to compete in a large number of states conceded to the rival.

THE "WINNER-TAKE-ALL" RULE ADOPTED BY 48 STATES WEAKENS VOTES

A state may not advantage its citizens as against citizens of other states as a general rule. For example, it cannot give its citizens greater access to public forums for assembly.

The Constitution gives citizens in small states more electors per voter than citizens in large states. But is it right for a state to exacerbate that extra power by adopting a winner-take-all rule for choosing electors? Such a rule enables voters composing a mere plurality to name all the states’ electors in the Electoral College.

The right to assemble includes the right to move to a state that upholds and supports the political and policy preferences of any citizen. For example, a citizen may choose to live with others who are willing to pay higher taxes in return for more funding for public schools, public transportation, or other public benefits. However, by not granting citizens the right to vote with equal weight for president, a state inhibits the right to assemble with like-minded people in a community.

To illustrate, in 2016, under the current system, a citizen who prefers Trump over Clinton lost weight in voting by moving from Texas to California, or a Clinton-preferring citizen lost weight in voting by moving from California to Texas. This loss of equal weight is not a result of any operation of the Constitution’s Electoral College system: it occurs because states adopt a winner-take-all-rule instead of pledging their electors to choose the winner of the national popular vote or, as second order solution, allocating their electors proportionally like Nebraska and Maine.