Cross-posted from CommonDreams.org
The Electoral College rules give as much as three times as much weight to the mainly conservative and white Republicans in the rural states compared to states with large, racially diverse and majority Democratic populations. This is because even the tiniest state has a minimum of three Electoral College votes, based on the rule that each state is allocated Electors based on the size of its congressional delegation (Senators plus Representatives). The Constitution provides that each state has a minimum of two Senators and one member of the House of Representatives, even if its total population is less than a single congressional district in a large state. (There are approximately 710,767 people in an average congressional district.)
For example, this year just over 245,000 people voted in Wyoming yet it has three Electoral College votes: one for every 82,000 or so voters. By comparison this year more than 12 million people voted in California which has 55 Electoral votes. So California has one Electoral vote for every 218,000 voters. Thus a voter in Wyoming carries almost three times the Electoral weight of a California voter. Indeed because every state has two senators, the general rule is that the higher the population of the state, the less impact each voter in that state carries in the Electoral College.
And, since the Republicans carry all the small population states except Rhode Island and Washington D.C. (which also gets 3 Electoral votes), this rule strongly favors them. Blacks constitute about 36% of the Mississippi electorate, the highest Black voter percentage in any state in the country. About ninety percent voted for Clinton. But whites are 64% of the state’s voters, and about 90% chose Trump. Trump therefore handily won 58% of the state’s total vote and all of its Electoral College votes.
In 2016, as for decades, the Electoral College result was the same as if Blacks in all the southern states except Virginia and Maryland had not voted at all.
Similarly negated were the votes of millions of Native American and Latino voters who live in overwhelmingly white Republican states like Arizona, Nevada, Oklahoma, Utah, the Dakotas, Montana and Texas. Further, the peoples of Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa and Guam—territories ruled by the U.S.—get no Electoral College votes at all. The tyranny of the white, conservative majority prevails. Thus, the Electoral College system violates the principle of one person, one vote, drastically undermines the impact of the Black vote and gives the Republicans a major advantage in presidential contests.
Slaveholder Origins of the Electoral College
The Founding Fathers, led by slaveholders such as George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, James Madison and James Monroe, invented the Electoral College out of thin air to serve their interests.
They codified the notorious idea that slaves were non-humans, and thus deserving of no constitutional or human rights. The one exception to this rule was the constitutional provision that slaves were to be counted as three-fifths of a person, solely for the purpose of determining how many congressional representatives each state would be allotted. Thus, even though slaves had no right to vote, the three-fifths rule vastly increased the slave states’ power in the House of Representatives and therefore the Congress.
The Electoral College, in which each state receives a number of Electors equal to their congressional delegation, was invented as the institutional means to transfer that same pro-slavery congressional allocation to determining the presidency. Slaveholders held the presidency for 50 of the 72 years before Abraham Lincoln, who was elected in 1860, became the first U.S. president to oppose the expansion of slavery. The South, accustomed to wielding political power through the selective enumeration of slaves, promptly seceded. The Electoral College is one of the most powerful legacies of slavery in the U.S.
Bob Wing is author of The Battle Lines are Drawn: Neo-Secession or a Third Reconstruction and Notes Toward a Social Justice Electoral Strategy.
Bill Fletcher, Jr. is Executive Editor of The Black Commentator. He is also a Senior Scholar with the Institute for Policy Studies and the immediate past president of TransAfrica Forum.