The Popular Vote vs. The Electoral College

A Trump-Clinton-Election Epitaph Many ask, “Which is better, election by popular vote or Electoral College?”  That is The Question that many debate, in the wake of the Trump-Clinton election of 2016.  Although I once received the highest grade in a class of 300 in Constitutional Law, it was eons ago, and I claim no special expertise on the subject, but my memory of history and logic leave me with the following humble thoughts. The core question is, “Is the popular vote more or less important than the vote as cast by the delegates to the Electoral College, as the latter is mandated in the U.S. Constitution? Why the Electoral College?  The point of the Electoral College System is to avoid a handful of high density areas from controlling all elections.  The United States is a FEDERATION of SOVEREIGN States.  The Federal Government was much feared by America’s Founding Fathers.  The Fed’s powers were intentionally limited, and all powers not given to it were left to the INDIVIDUAL States. If there were no Electoral College system, presidential campaigns would be waged almost exclusively in NY and California.  The Urban Will would be jammed down the throats of the Sub-Urban and Rural.  Mass secessions might result.   Why? In early empires (Roman, Greek, Egyptian), all important decisions were made by those in the Capital Cities of each empire.  This is PRECISELY what the framers of the U.S. Constitution sought to avoid.  They even went so far as to make D.C. a very tiny geographic area and to deny it even one Congressman or Senator, although, via the 23rd Amendment, it was given 3 electoral votes. If it weren’t for the Electoral College system, many States would likely never have chosen to join “The Union” of Federal (SOVERIGN) States, as they would have lost effectively all of their sovereignty.   It can be no surprise that the EU is breaking apart before our eyes, as its members are increasingly chafing at the decisions being made by bureaucrats in Brussels, a ceding of sovereignty to those who do not understand the problems of each jurisdiction over which they exercise vast power.  History repeats itself endlessly, albeit not in precisely the same way. To remove the Electoral College system would require a Constitutional Amendment that was ratified by 75% of the U.S. States.  Such overt relinquishment of sovereignty, logic suggests, will not likely ever happen, thank heavens. As Lord Acton said, “Power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.”  History demonstrates irrefutably that, the more power that is concentrated in the fewest hands (or population clusters), the sooner tyranny erupts over those devoid, de facto, of a vote that matters.  So proves 4,000 years of recorded history.  In the eyes of our Founders and to a plurality of the States, ceding control to a few urban areas (and the demagogues that control them) would be the beginning of the end. To the sagacity of our Founding Fathers, the undersigned respectfully genuflects and says, “Thank you.” After two centuries of U.S. elections, only five losing candidates won the popular vote. As to the current election, a brief recap is worth noting.
  • Popular Votes: 137 million votes cast; Clinton won by 2.5 million, a 1.8% margin.
  • Electoral Votes: 322 to 232 electoral votes, a landslide 58% to 42% margin.
  • Counties: Of 3,184 Counties in the U.S; Trump won 3,084, a 98% to 2% margin.
  • Land Areas: Trump’s Counties comprise over 3 million square miles to Clinton’s 400, a devasting 99.99% plurality.
So what?  The people living in 99.99% of the county want their voices to be heard. If Trump had campaigned just a few days in California, he might well have picked up 1.25M more votes from California’s 40 million population and won the popular vote as well, BUT he knew that he couldn’t win a majority there; so, he ignored it totally.  The results prove the sagacity of this political neophyte. For those interested in the legalities: The Mechanics of the Electoral College:  The Constitution, Article I and the 12th Amendment, provide for the Electoral College, which consists of 538 electors, of which 270 are required to elect the President; if no candidate receives that many, the election is decided by the House of Representatives.  The Electoral College is comprised of reps from each State, which is given 2 votes for its 2 Senators and 1 vote for each of its Congressmen.  (Under the 23rd Amendment, the District of Columbia was accorded 3 electoral votes (as if it had 2 Senators and 1 Congressman), and is treated as “a State”.)  The number of electoral votes for each State can vary, based upon population changes.  How each Delegate to the Electoral College votes is left to the rules set by each State.  Some States rules on point are less clear than others, but, historically, 99.99% of Delegates to the EC cast their vote for the candidate chosen by the popular vote in their State. The votes of the EC are then sent to Congress, where both Houses confirm the votes and announce the winner.  From 1976 to date, while a few rogue Delegates have violated these historical patterns, the Electoral College has never failed to elect the candidate with the required electoral votes. That is, very few Delegates go against the popular vote in their State. The Electoral College votes roughly six weeks after the election, and the President-Elect is sworn in as President on January 20th, following the November election.