America in dire need of electoral reform.

By Thomas Telford

“The electoral college is a disaster for Democracy” Donald Trump, November 2012

Let’s start this piece by saying this isn’t a progressive moaning about the electoral college just because the supposed progressive candidate lost the recent American election.

Why the Electoral college was established

This outdated system of electing a President should be abolished because it’s one of the last remnants of America’s slavery past. When the civil war ended, the southern states feared that they would be dominated by the Federal government because the North had a larger voter base. Not to mention the fact that there were more slaves in the south than registered voters. “So they fashioned a compromise that divided power based on counting the “whole number of free persons” in the states as well as “three-fifths of all other persons.” Thanks to this infamous deal, the Southern states were bolstered and given more seats in the House of Representatives as well as more “electors” who selected the president”. Out of the first 36 years, for 32 of them, the President was a white southern man who owned slaves. That’s supposedly Democracy at work. The President should be elected by the majority of people and not the minority, as with Trump.

Supporters of the status quo

Its supporters say that it gives a fairer reflection of the general populous and that if it wasn’t there then populations of big cities would decide every election for the foreseeable future. Let’s face it, there’s only one party scared of the big city vote and that’s the Republican Party.  And why are they afraid to let the city vote have too much power? Because Republicans never win the Hispanic or African-American vote. You’d think that Abraham Lincoln’s party would be very popular with African Americans and other minorities but they have veered so far to the Right in recent times that it will take a massive change in policy for them to get voters away from the Democratic Party.

Its defenders also say that if you get rid of the Electoral College then you’ll just have candidates focusing on states with large populations like Texas, New York and California.

But what they didn’t predict was the focus both candidates would have on just on 5-6 States that are called battlegrounds. These are states where the voter base is loyal to neither the Republican Party or the Democrats. So, in essence, you have 6 states deciding the President for 350 million people. An investigation by PBS Newshour found that both Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton made 90% of their visits to just 11 so-called battleground states. Of those visits, two-thirds were to just 4 states with the largest voter base -Pennsylvania, Florida, North Carolina and Ohio.  How would you feel if you lived in one of these swing states where every four years the world’s media and Presidential candidates descend on your town promising you the world only to never see them again once they’re elected?

the-united-swing-states-of-america
21st-century Democracy       Credit to Bryant Archway

 

 

                                               Presidents that never were

4 times since the foundation of the State, has the candidate who won the popular vote lost the election. In 1824, Andrew Jackson won the popular vote but received less than half of the electoral votes. He lost out to John Quincy Adams. Then again in 1888 when Benjamin Harrison won the election but lost the Popular vote to Grover Cleveland. Then again in 2000, Democrat candidate, Al Gore, won the popular vote by more than 500,000 votes but lost by a mere 537 votes in the crucial swing-state of Florida. And then just a few months back, Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by over 2 million and still lost the election to Trump.

 

                              Solutions

                                        Campaign Funding needs to be capped

Reform also needs to take place in how candidates fund their respective campaigns. Trump managed to raise $280 million with him also pumping in $66 million of his own cash. Clinton meanwhile raised over $1.2 billion dollars for her campaign with over 200 million being donated through what are known as Super-PACs.  These are donations from billionaires who want their candidate to either stick to the current system or make it more beneficial for their bank account. There are no limits as to how much the contribution could be. That is why so many people were drawn to Bernie Sanders campaign. Bernie Sanders rejected Super Pacs and still managed to get just short of 3 million donations from more than 1 million individuals averaging about $27 apiece.  Only when Super-PACs are abolished will the American people fell like they have an equal voice. According to USnews.com, “almost 80 percent of Americans believe that large political contributions are preventing the government from solving the important issues facing America today“.                                                     

                                                  Ranked Choice Voting

They need to introduce what is known in America as Ranked Choice Voting. This system of voting is similar to the Proportional Representation system that we have in Ireland. According to Fairvote.org, “Ranked choice voting (RCV) describes voting systems that allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference, and then uses those rankings to elect candidates able to combine strong first choice support with the ability to earn second and third choice support”. As of now, only the state of Maine uses RCV for State and federal elections and for cities in 10 US states. At the moment, Governors can get elected with as little as 35% of the vote in certain states.

 

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