The Problem with the Electoral College

Our democracy has been hijacked and our founding fathers are at fault.

It all begins with the Constitutional Convention of 1787 where one of most difficult questions was deciding how to elect a president and vice president. Half of the congress believed that the people could not be trusted, especially in the rural regions and that congress should vote for the best candidates. The other half believed that the congress could not be trusted and that the president should be determined by popular vote, something that no county in the world had established at the time.

In frustration, a compromise was created wherein state-appointed electors would cast the actual ballots for the presidency. The founding fathers assumed that the electors would vote according to their individual discretion. Today, most electors are bound to vote for their party’s candidate.

More importantly, 48 of 50 states award electoral votes on a winner-takes-all basis. For example, in 48 states, if one candidate wins 50.1 percent of the popular votes, he or she wins all the electoral votes. In other words, the election choice of 49.9 percent of the voters would be ignored.

Keeping in mind the nature of the Electoral College, let’s take a look at the 2016 supporters of Donald Trump. The thirteen states that most favored Trump—ranging from a high of 70.1 percent of the state’s voters to 58.1 percent of the state’s votes—were, from high to low, Wyoming, West Virginia, Oklahoma, Alabama, North Dakota, Kentucky, South Dakota, Tennessee, Arkansas, Nebraska, Idaho, Mississippi, and Louisiana.

Now, what characteristics do these states share? There are certainly not all aligned in their values, but there are trends. Here are the most striking.

  1. Level of education. Within the Unites States as a whole, 31 percent of the adults hold a four-year college degree. In comparison, Trump’s thirteen states score an average of 25 percent college graduates. Within that group of thirteen, are included the first through fifth least educated states in the union: West Virginia, Mississippi, Arkansas, Kentucky, and Louisiana.
  2. Gun ownership. With the United States, 30 percent of the population owns at least one gun. Within Trump’s thirteen states, the percentage is 44 percent. The second, third, and fourth highest gun-ownership states are, in order, Arkansas, Idaho, and West Virginia. As a side note, the state with the highest number of gun owners is Alaska, which also voted for Trump in 2016.
  3. Poverty level. On the average, the percentage of people living in poverty in the United States is 12 percent. The average within Trump’s thirteen states is 16 percent, including Mississippi with the highest level of poverty at 21 percent.
  4. Evangelical protestants. According to a Pew Research poll, 24 percent of Americans are evangelicals. In comparison, Trump’s thirteen states are 36 percent evangelical. The seven highest evangelical states within the United States all fall within Trump’s thirteen states. They are, from high to low Tennessee (52%), Alabama (49%), Kentucky (49%), Oklahoma (47%), Arkansas (46%), Mississippi (41%), and West Virginia (39%).
  5. Incarceration ranking.According to the Department of Justice, the three states with the highest incarceration rates are Trump states, which are, from high to low, Louisiana, Oklahoma, and Mississippi. Alabama is not far behind as the sixth highest state in the union for incarcerations.
  6. Single mothers. Within the United States, the average number of single mothers with children under the age of eighteen is 7.5 percent. Within Trump’s thirteen states the average is 7.6. That is a small margin, but it includes the first and second highest single-mother states: Louisiana (12%) and Mississippi (11%).
  7. Hate groups. According to MSN, six of the Trump states fall within the top eight states beleaguered by hate groups: Idaho (2nd with 5.8 million members), Tennessee (3rd), Alabama (4th), Arkansas (5th), Louisiana (7th), and Mississippi (8th). Among those six Trump states alone there is an estimated 29.5 million hate-group members or nine percent of the total American population.

I would like to return to our founding fathers. The Declaration of Independence reads:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.

The declaration goes on to say:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it.

I posit that indeed all men (and women) are equal and that the powers of the government must be derived from the consent of the governed.

In other words, every voice is equal and essential and each voice must be heard and counted for it is by the consent of every voter that we shall be governed.

Currently, we are at risk. Because 48 states award electoral votes on a winner-takes-all basis, our Declaration of Independence has been violated. That system does not honor equal rights for every citizen.

In 2016, the thirteen states that most favored Trump do not represent the nation as a whole. They are below average in education and above average in gun ownership, poverty, evangelical Protestants, incarcerations, and hate groups.

That is not to undercut the people within the Trump’s thirteen states. Their virtues and shortcomings are a product of a myriad of social and cultural issues, neither of which should be discounted or devalued. For example, they certainly have a right to choose their religion and their right to bear arms. However, it is equally important to honor the leanings of those who choose another religion (or no religion at all) as well as those who choose not to bear arms. Likewise it is important to hear the voices of those who are more educated and untarnished by hate groups.

As another example, according to a Pew Research Institute survey only 27 percent of Republicans (Trump country)—compared to 84 percent of Democrats believe in the threat of global climate change. Again, all voices have the right to be heard: those who are alarmed by the threat of global warming as well as those who follow Trump’s lead by calling climate change a hoax.

The Electoral College system is a travesty to our democracy. It discards half of the hearts and minds of its people. It is time to be ruled by a popular vote.

I’ll finish with one last word. Honoring the voice of all people is not limited to the Declaration of Independents. It is also biblical. It was Paul the Apostle who wrote in Romains 2:11 “For God shows no partiality.”

It is time for our nation to show no partiality.

Let the next president—Democrat or Republican—be the victor for all Americans and not merely the victor by virtue of political maneuvering.

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