Letter: There is good reason we do not elect presidents by popular vote

Editor:

For those who believe that Ms. Clinton should be president because she won the plurality of the vote (yes, she did not get a majority), they might consider the reasons the Founders embedded the electoral college in the Constitution.

It should also be considered that they invented a form of government that has not only lasted 228 years, but has seen a stable, peaceful change of the top office 43 times – the exception being the secession of the southern states.

Once the Civil War ended there has been an unbroken succession of peaceful transfers of that power and with it, the building of the most economically successful and most powerful nation in the world.

The genius of the Founding Document is that it spreads political change over both time (every 2 years for Congressmen, 4 years for president and 6 years for Senators) and geography, preventing chaotic change and protecting the minority from excesses of majority rule.

It created a Constitutional Federal Republic – not a democracy – a federation of states with Representative Democracy. The effect was to spread political equality across the vast geography of our country. The two party system that has evolved from this unique governing principle has been the vehicle for the checks and balances preventing unresponsive abuse of power.

But Ms. Clinton won the most votes. Shouldn’t she be the next president? Only 5 times out of 58 national elections has the elected president received less than the plurality of votes – two of the last three new presidents.

But, while Clinton won the popular vote by about 2 million votes (drop California’s vote and she loses), she lost the geographic vote – “…the vote that reflects the different ways that Americans live” – catastrophically.

Out of more than 5000 counties in the United States Ms. Clinton won barely 300. It is the function of the Electoral College system that levels the power field so that densely populated geographic areas don’t dominate the national will.

That is why our country is not called “The United People of America” but is, in fact, “The United States of America.”

Jim Barber

Mesa, AZ

Comments

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otto 1 year, 9 months ago

The current winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is not in the U.S. Constitution. It was not debated at the Constitutional Convention. It is not mentioned in the Federalist Papers. It was not the Founders’ choice. It was used by only three states in 1789, and all three of them repealed it by 1800. It is not entitled to any special deference based on history or the historical meaning of the words in the U.S. Constitution. The actions taken by the Founding Fathers make it clear that they never gave their imprimatur to the winner-take-all method. The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes became dominant only in the 1830s, when most of the Founders had been dead for decades, after the states adopted it, one-by-one, in order to maximize the power of the party in power in each state.

The constitutional wording does not encourage, discourage, require, or prohibit the use of any particular method for awarding a state's electoral votes.

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otto 1 year, 9 months ago

Under the current system, voters in just 60 counties and DC could have elected the president in 2012 – even though they represent just 26.3% of 2012 voters

With the current system of awarding electoral votes by state winner-take-all (not mentioned in the U.S. Constitution, but later enacted by 48 states), it could only take winning a plurality of the popular vote in the 11 most populous states, containing 56% of the population of the United States, for a candidate to win the Presidency with less than 22% of the nation's votes.

A presidential candidate could lose with 78%+ of the popular vote and 39 states.

537 votes, all in one state determined the 2000 election, when there was a lead of 537,179 (1,000 times more) popular votes nationwide.

Since World War II, a shift of a few thousand votes in one, two, or three states would have elected the second-place candidate in 5 of the 16 presidential elections

In the 2012 presidential election, 1.3 million votes decided the winner in the ten states with the closest margins of victory.

The 11 largest states, with a majority of the U.S. population and electoral votes, rarely agree on any political question. In terms of recent presidential elections, the 11 largest states have included five "red states (Texas, Florida, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia) and six "blue" states (California, New York, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Michigan, and New Jersey). The fact is that the big states are just about as closely divided as the rest of the country. For example, among the four largest states, the two largest Republican states (Texas and Florida) generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Bush, while the two largest Democratic states generated a total margin of 2.1 million votes for Kerry.

Voters in the biggest cities are almost exactly balanced out by rural areas in terms of population and partisan composition.

16% of the U.S. population lives outside the nation's Metropolitan Statistical Areas. Rural America has voted 60% Republican. None of the 10 most rural states matter now.

16% of the U.S. population lives in the top 100 cities. They voted 63% Democratic in 2004. The population of the top 50 cities (going as far down as Arlington, TX) is only 15% of the population of the United States.

Suburbs divide almost exactly equally between Republicans and Democrats.

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otto 1 year, 9 months ago

Because of state-by-state winner-take-all laws, not mentioned, much less endorsed, in the Constitution. . .

Candidates had no reason to poll, visit, advertise, organize, campaign, or care about the voter concerns in the dozens of states where they were safely ahead or hopelessly behind.

With the end of the primaries, without the National Popular Vote bill in effect, the political relevance of 70% of all Americans was finished for the presidential election.

In the 2016 general election campaign

Over half (57%) of the campaign events were held in just 4 states (Florida, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, and Ohio).

Virtually all (94%) of the campaign events were in just 12 states (containing only 30% of the country's population).

In the 2012 general election campaign

38 states (including 24 of the 27 smallest states) had no campaign events, and minuscule or no spending for TV ads.

More than 99% of presidential campaign attention (ad spending and visits) was invested on voters in just the only ten competitive states..

Two-thirds (176 of 253) of the general-election campaign events, and a similar fraction of campaign expenditures, were in just four states (Ohio, Florida, Virginia, and Iowa).

Issues of importance to non-battleground states are of so little interest to presidential candidates that they don’t even bother to poll them individually.

Charlie Cook reported in 2004: “Senior Bush campaign strategist Matthew Dowd pointed out yesterday that the Bush campaign hadn’t taken a national poll in almost two years; instead, it has been polling [the then] 18 battleground states.”

Bush White House Press Secretary Ari Fleischer acknowledging the reality that [then] more than 2/3rds of Americans were ignored in the 2008 presidential campaign, said in the Washington Post on June 21, 2009: “If people don’t like it, they can move from a safe state to a swing state.”

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Deva1961 1 year, 9 months ago

Trump himself has gone on record as a non-supporter of the Electoral College. But then, given his habit of flip-flopping, he might now believe that it's absolute genius. Regardless, everyone in this nation will now suffer, at the whim of unemployed coal miners and auto workers, just because they bought Trump's line of malarky. I will feel sorry for them, when the coal mines don't reopen and the auto plants remain shuttered. But I'll feel much worse for the rest of us.

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pattycake 1 year, 9 months ago

why not just let rich white men vote, that`s what the founding fathers wanted

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pattycake 1 year, 9 months ago

WHY THE ELECTORAL COLLEGE

by Marc Schulman The Electoral College was created for two reasons. The first purpose was to create a buffer between population and the selection of a President. The second as part of the structure of the government that gave extra power to the smaller states. The first reason that the founders created the Electoral College is hard to understand today. The founding fathers were afraid of direct election to the Presidency. They feared a tyrant could manipulate public opinion and come to power. Hamilton wrote in the Federalist Papers: It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations. It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief.

Hamilton and the other founders believed that the electors would be able to insure that only a qualified person becomes President. They believed that with the Electoral College no one would be able to manipulate the citizenry. It would act as check on an electorate that might be duped. Hamilton and the other founders did not trust the population to make the right choice. The founders also believed that the Electoral College had the advantage of being a group that met only once and thus could not be manipulated over time by foreign governments or others. The electoral college is also part of compromises made at the convention to satisfy the small states. Under the system of the Electoral College each state had the same number of electoral votes as they have representative in Congress, thus no state could have less then 3. The result of this system is that in this election the state of Wyoming cast about 210,000 votes, and thus each elector represented 70,000 votes, while in California approximately 9,700,000 votes were cast for 54 votes, thus representing 179,000 votes per electorate. Obviously this creates an unfair advantage to voters in the small states whose votes actually count more then those people living in medium and large states.

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