Twice in the past 16 years the will of the people as expressed through the national popular has been blocked by the Electoral College, an invention by the Founding Fathers that many now think is obsolete. Others, most especially those who voted for Donald Trump this year, want it to remain even though he now trails his opponent by over 2.5 million votes.
Fans of Trump, who won the Electoral College vote this year 306 to 232 for Hillary Rodham Clinton, make a statistical argument based on geography that mocks the popular vote. Here’s the logic of how the pro-Trump crowd see it:
There are 3,151 counties in the United States. Trump won 3,084 of them. Clinton won 57. There are 62 counties in New York State. Trump won 46 of them. Clinton won 16. Clinton won the popular vote by approximately 2.5 million votes. In the 5 counties that encompass NYC, (Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Richmond & Queens) Clinton received well over 2 million more votes than Trump. (Clinton only won 4 of these counties; Trump won Richmond). Therefore these 5 counties alone, more than accounted for Clinton winning the popular vote of the entire country. These 5 counties comprise 319 square miles. The United States is comprised of 3, 797,000 square miles. When you have a country that encompasses almost 4 million square miles of territory, it would be ludicrous to even suggest that the vote of those who inhabit a mere 319 square miles should dictate the outcome of a national election. Large, densely populated Democrat cities (NYC, Chicago, LA, etc) don’t and shouldn’t speak for the rest of our country.
A solution Ohio Could Be Part Of
A solution to the problem that does not require passage of a Constitutional Amendment to do away with the Electoral College is the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact. Ten states plus the District of Columbia have signed on to this plan whereby state electors—Ohio has 18 [16 Congressional Districts and 2 Senators]—would cast their votes for whomever won the nation’s popular vote.
Ohio isn’t one of the ten, but it could be if or when a bill introduced by Democrats Rep. David Leland and Dan Ramos would make it through the current Republican legislature and be signed by Ohio’s Republican Governor John Kasich. The odds for this happening are unlikely in this lame duck session or even a new one starting next year.
In a statement Monday, Leland and Ramos said they believe Democracy is best served when the winner is the candidate with the most votes of the American people. “Not only will the passage of this legislation assure that every American citizen’s vote counts equally; it also ensures that candidates will take their message to all parts of the Nation – not just to a few battleground states,” they said. Their concern is that while Ohio has enjoyed battleground status in recent years, that can change quickly as it almost did this year when otherwise reliably Republican states like Arizona or Georgia were suspected of ditching the Donald for Mrs. Clinton.
States joining the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact agree to a legal agreement with each other to honor the national popular vote. The compact becomes complete when states totaling 270 electoral votes agree to join the compact, obviating the need to abolish the Electoral College through the rigorous process of mounting a successful constitutional amendment campaign. Strict constitutionals should fear not, for the duo of Democratic lawmakers say these type of interstate compacts exists in many forms and are expressly provided for in the U.S. Their example for precedent arises in the legally binding compact among states known as the Colorado River Compact, which allocates water to seven western states.
Leland, who said he’s been working to promote the National Popular Vote Compact since 2011, and Ramos say the NPVIC is not a repeal of the Electoral College, but just states deciding how to allocate their Electoral College votes, as they do today.
“I realize that this will not be acted on in the final weeks of legislative session, and therefore will need to be re-introduced in the next session,” Rep. Leland said in a media release today. “However, since the Electoral College will be meeting in the next few weeks to elect a President, I believe it is important to propose this alternative while the 2016 election results are still fresh in everyone’s mind.”
Debunking 319 Square Miles
Debunking the mathematically correct but absolutely false square-mile argument pro-Trumpsters make is the fact that the Electoral College gives less populated states a higher weight, per capita than it gives more populated states. America does not have a one-person-one-vote system as many think, but a system of electors who decide for the masses who the best candidate is. Demographic shifts are making prejudices more conspicuous, writes Steven Johnson in his New York Times article “Why Blue States Are the Real ‘Tea Party’.”
According to Johnson’s mathematics, a voter in rural Wyoming has more than three times the power of a voter in New Jersey, the country’s most densely populated state. “But those imbalances have become far more glaring, thanks to a filter bubble more pronounced than anything on Facebook: the “big sort” that has concentrated Democrats in cities and inner-ring suburbs, and Republicans in exurbs and rural counties,” he says.
A favorite metric for conservative Republicans has to do with return on investment. The gap between states that pay the most into the national treasury but receive less when compared to states that pay little but receive a lot is staggering. His example is South Dakota, Trump territory, versus New Jersey, Clinton territory. South Dakota, one of the most empowered states in the country, he writes, received almost twice the return on taxes as California, the country’s most populated state, while also commanding nearly twice as much power per capita in the Electoral College.
“If anyone should be declaring themselves the heirs to the Boston patriots who rebelled against the unjust taxation of King George, it’s the big city blue state citizens who are funding a system that by law undercounts their votes.”
Ohio could do the right thing and take up the bill Reps. Leland and Ramos just introduced. But for a state that’s in retrograde motion on so many other front, doing the right thing, as in morally right not politically right, would be a refreshing change.