Jack Rakove tells League of Women Voters Electoral College needs to be abolishedHistorians in the News
tags: election 2016, Trump, Jack Rakove, League of Women Voters
Back in 1787, the framers of the U.S. Constitution chose the Electoral College as a compromise between election by will of the public and election by “electors,” political insiders they considered better informed.
Contrary to popular belief, the framers did not fear demagoguery but local biases, Rakove said.
“It’s the idea that a popular election would just be ineffective,” he said. “The most it could do would be to identify a subset of favorite son candidates, and then you’d have to come up with some contingent form of election.”
Under the Electoral College system, Americans don’t actually cast a vote for a presidential candidate but for electors who do so for them. The 538 available electoral votes up for grabs are divided based on congressional delegation: Each state gets two votes (one for each of its two U.S. senators) plus a single vote for each of its House of Representatives members (determined by state population). Populous California has the most electoral votes with 55. Seven states and Washington, D.C., have the fewest electoral votes, three.
With the exception of Maine and Nebraska, states operate on a winner-take-all basis, meaning the candidate with the most popular votes in that state wins all the state’s electoral votes. In the 2016 election, Clinton earned nearly 3 million more popular votes than Trump, but she lost the presidency because he received more electoral votes, 306 compared with 232.
Critics of the Electoral College say it allows for overrepresentation of small-population states due to the “senatorial bump” allowing two Senate-based electoral votes despite a state’s population.
Smaller states do not need or warrant added protections, and a vote should count the same no matter where it is cast, Rakove said.
“The population of the states in which we live has no value in explaining our political preferences, our political desires or how we’re going to vote,” he said. “We vote on the basis of the interests, the opinions and the passions that we feel individually.” ...