Documentary filmmaker and liberal activist Michael Moore wrote an open letter calling on former Vice President Joe Biden to enact a laundry list of specific policy and institutional changes that would move the country far left. Among the demands: get rid of the Electoral College.
Getting rid of the electoral college has been a popular idea among Democrats ever since former Vice President Al Gore narrowly lost the 2000 presidential election to George W. Bush by 537 votes in the state of Florida while still winning the overall national popular vote count. Democrats argue that the Electoral College favors rural states and states with small populations. Which is true – it does. Slightly.
But the people who want to abolish the Electoral College have forgotten that the Founding Fathers intentionally designed the system to work this way, with good reason. They’ve forgotten our history.
Nation would not exist without the Big State/ Little State compromise
The United States today is one of the largest countries in the world, both in terms of population and geography. The mainland alone spans more than 3,000 miles from the east side to the west side of the continent. For cohesiveness, it’s important that all areas are represented.
The founders understood this.
Back when the constitution was being written, there was a dispute over how the individual states would be represented in the new government. The bigger states, unsurprisingly, wanted representation in Congress to be based purely on population size. The smaller states objected to that idea because then the government would be totally dominated by the bigger states. (Why did they just fight a war to free themselves from a king, only to give all the power to New York?) The smaller states predictably wanted to each get an equal vote, regardless of population.
The compromise (known as the Rhode Island Compromise) was to have a bicameral Legislature – a House of Representatives based on population and a Senate based on equal representation by state. Without this compromise, the small states never would have agreed to join the new union. The country would not have come together as one nation, and it would likely not exist today. The compromise has served our country well.
The Electoral College is similarly set up so that each state is allotted 1 vote per representative in the House (which is based on population), and one vote for each of the state’s two senators. This wasn’t an accident – it was a result of a deliberate process.
Many Democrats today object to the existence of the Senate for the same reason they object to the Electoral College: it slightly favors small states. But that was the exact point! It was a compromise so that the small states weren’t totally dominated by the big states.
Now, 230+ years later, Democrats are again making the Big State argument. They want to void the agreement. And they intend to break the agreement by bypassing the amendment process.
Plan requires amending the constitution – but there’s a workaround
Eliminating the Electoral College requires amending the Constitution, which isn’t going to happen anytime soon since it would require a significant number of small population states to ratify a plan that would give total power to a few states with the largest populations. But there’s a potential workaround whereby a smaller number of states (controlled by Democrats) could individually approve their own state law that requires their electors to be bound to whichever candidate wins the national popular vote. This would, in practical terms, have the same effect as eliminating the Electoral College.
It’s a partisan power grab and a bad idea
Just like Democrat plans to pack the Supreme Court by expanding the size and confirming liberal judges, the plan to get rid of the Electoral College is a partisan power grab. And it’s a really bad idea.
There’s something important to note here: Despite what Democrats claim, the Electoral College does NOT give an unfair advantage to Republicans; it just happens that Republicans are currently more popular with a large swath of the rural population. Instead of trying to rig the system to their advantage, Democrats should instead work to win support from those voters.
But if the Founding Fathers’ logic is not persuasive to Democrats who want to abolish the Electoral College, there’s another good reason they should think twice before trying to tear down this long standing institution: partisan power grabs work both ways. Under the constitution, states are not bound to follow the will of the people. States with Republican control could, in theory, ignore the vote altogether and choose electors who will vote for Trump. (This is an idea the president has floated.) It would be a radical move that Republicans should NOT attempt because it would have a devastatingly destabilizing effect on our system of government and citizens’ trust in the democratic process. But it would be constitutional.
Democrats who want to abolish the Electoral College should think long and hard before pursuing a strategy that could prompt Republicans to pursue radical strategies of their own.