2020 Shows Why the Electoral College Is Stupid and ImmoralBreaking News
tags: democracy, Electoral College, 2020 Election
Last year I wrote that the Electoral College, an archaic and outmoded system that runs contrary to our democratic principles and intuitions, was the “greatest threat to our democracy.”
Somehow, this was an understatement.
As recently as Wednesday, according to a report by my colleague Maggie Haberman, President Trump was pressing his aides on whether Republican legislatures in key states could overturn the results of the presidential election and pick pro-Trump electors, potentially giving him a second term. It’s not likely, but the fact that it is even theoretically possible is one of the most starkly undemocratic elements of the Electoral College. If it actually happened, in 2020 or the future, it would mark the end of American democracy as we know it.
If Americans chose their president by a national popular vote, the outcome would have been apparent from the time polls closed on the West Coast on Election Day. Late that night, Joe Biden held a strong lead in ballots cast, and since then it has only grown. As of Friday morning, the president-elect led the national tally with 77.8 million votes to 72.5 million for Trump, for a spread of 5.3 million votes. With plenty of outstanding ballots left to count in Democratic strongholds like New York and California, the gap will continue to grow.
Of course, Americans don’t choose their president by national popular vote. They choose him (still him, for now) in 51 individual elections, nearly all of them winner-take-all, with special attention paid to those states competitive enough to make a difference in the fight for 270 electoral votes. No one designed this system — it bears little resemblance to the deliberative, temporary legislature empowered to pick a president described in the Constitution — but it’s what we have.
It is because the outcome depends on results in individual states — and because those results are much narrower than the national tally — that Trump can claim there is path to reversing the outcome of the election, however ridiculous that claim is. Allege enough fraud in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania and Georgia and you might convince Republican state legislators to take matters into their own hands, embracing the view, first articulated by Chief Justice William Rehnquist in Bush v. Gore and then echoed in a recent opinion by Justice Brett Kavanaugh, that state legislatures have sole and exclusive power to decide election law and procedures.
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