2020 presidential election makes the case once again for ditching the Electoral College

By: - November 6, 2020 10:04 am

How much longer, America? How much longer are we going to continue to employ this archaic and obsolete system for selecting our president that makes absolutely no sense?

At this writing, Joe Biden leads Donald Trump by almost three full percentage points in the national popular vote with 73,803,730 votes (50.5%) to 69,685,325 (47.7%). By all indications, this is a gap that is almost certain to grow in the days and hours ahead. And while it looks increasingly clear that Biden will finally secure the 270 votes necessary in the Electoral College for victory, it clearly shouldn’t have taken this long to determine the outcome and that outcome shouldn’t have been dependent on a few thousand votes in a tiny handful of states.

Simply put, if it ever made sense (a highly dubious proposition), the Electoral College system is without merit at this point. If Trump had somehow managed to snake his way to victory, it would have marked the third time in the last six elections (and the sixth time in U.S., history) that the popular vote loser had been elected. Not only is this system antithetical to the basic principle of majority rule, it brings several other negative consequences — most notably the fact that only a handful of “competitive” states (like North Carolina) receive almost all the attention from the candidates, while noncompetitive states (like, say, Illinois, Oklahoma, Massachusetts and Tennessee) receive none.

This, in turn, brings on an effect essentially the same as political gerrymandering. For Republicans in Massachusetts or Democrats in Alabama, it’s as if their votes and voices are utterly irrelevant — just as is the case in for so many Americans unlucky enough to reside in gerrymandered legislative districts.

So, what should we do?

The most obvious solution would be to enact a constitutional amendment that simply abolishes the Electoral College and replaces it with direct popular vote system.

Until such time as that can be accomplished, however, a quicker and easier solution that deserves very careful consideration is the system that’s been touted by reform advocates for some time (and already enacted by several states) that would put in place a compact in which states would agree to award their Electoral College votes to the candidate who wins the national popular vote.

This is from the website National Popular Vote:

The U.S. Constitution (Article II, Section 1) gives the states exclusive control over awarding their electoral votes: “Each State shall appoint, in such Manner as the Legislature thereof may direct, a Number of Electors….” The winner-take-all method of awarding electoral votes is state law. It is not in the U.S. Constitution. The winner-take-all rule was used by only three states in 1789, and all three repealed it by 1800. It was not until the 11th presidential election (1828) that even half the states used winner-take-all laws.

The National Popular Vote interstate compact will go into effect when enacted by states possessing a majority of the electoral votes—that is, enough to elect a President (270 of 538). At that time, every voter in the country will acquire a direct vote for a group of at least 270 presidential electors supporting their choice for President. All of this group of 270+ presidential electors will be supporters of the candidate who received the most popular votes in all 50 states and DC—thus making that candidate President.

In contrast, under the current system, a voter has a direct voice in electing only the small number of presidential electors to which their state is entitled. Under NPV, every voter directly elects 270+ electors.

Is this system the answer or, at least an answer?

Maybe. At the very least, it sure seems as if it needs to be seriously considered.

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Rob Schofield
Rob Schofield

NC Newsline Editor Rob Schofield oversees day-to-day newsroom operations, authors and voices regular commentaries, and hosts the 'News & Views' weekly radio show/podcast.