Washington, November 13 (www.vox.com) The defeat of Hillary Clinton in spite of her getting the popular vote is nothing new, even though liberals opposed to a Trump Presidency want people to believe this surprise overturn is unheard of.
The founding fathers built these checks and balances into the election process to ensure a fair result, says www.thetruthdivision.com. According to the website, four other times before the system of checks and balances for electing a president had come into play. Most recently, a similar outcry took place in 2000 when Al Gore won the popular vote and George Bush won the Electoral College vote. George Bush was declared elected.
In an interview to Sean Iling, published by www.vox.com, Prof.Akhil Reed Amar of Yale University, says that the Electoral College was introduced to give an equitable representation to the Southern States of the US which had a huge population of slaves who could not be counted for elections as slaves had no franchise.
Even later, when the ex-slaves were given the vote, their votes were given only a discounted value. Therefore, the Southern States had to be compensated by giving them a large number of votes in the Electoral College. According to Prof. Amar, but for this provision in the constitution, the South would never be able to elect a US President. The author of The Constitution Today said that eight of the first nine presidents came from Virginia (the most populous state at the time).
“This pro-slavery compromise was not clear to everyone when the Constitution was adopted, but it was clearly evident to everyone when the Electoral College was amended after the Jefferson-Adams contest of 1796 and 1800,.” Prof.Amar said.
But when asked why with the abolition of slavery and the adoption of the principle of one person one vote, the Electoral College system should continue to exist, Prof . Amar said: “ Well, inertia is one reason. It’s the system that we have. A constitutional amendment is a very difficult thing to accomplish.”
Asked if the framers of the constitution were distrustful of the wisdom of the popular vote, and therefore needed a check, Prof. Amar said the founders were not entirely contemptuous of democracy. From the beginning most electors were “nondescript potted plants” who simply ratified the choice made by voters on Election Day.
“They’re nobodies from nowhere. They’re not even on the ballot. The Constitution prohibits them from being real notables like senators or representatives. They have to meet on a single day, which means there’s no time for them to deliberate with each other.”
In many places, the law requires the members of the Electoral College to take a pledge to vote according to the popular vote, and the Supreme Court came very close to saying that those laws were constitutional. From the beginning, these electors have been understood as “obligated” to vote in accordance with their pledge.
Asked if voter turnout will increase if popular vote becomes the primary determinant, Prof.Amar said that it would encourage greater turnout in a couple of ways. First, it makes every State a swing State in that the margin of victory matters, and so every voter can make a difference. Second, it creates incentives for states seeking to maximize their clout to facilitate voting. In a direct election world, states that facilitate and encourage voting loom larger in the final count. So that gives states an incentive to experiment in ways that promote democracy.
Asked to spell out the best defense of the Electoral College, Prof.Amar said: “It’s the system that we have. There are always transition costs. Brilliant reformers never fully anticipate possible defects in their reforms, and there are always unintended consequences. We’ve managed to limp along with this system. It’s not highly skewed to either party today. The Democrats tend, in general, to win more big states. The Republicans tend, in general, to win more states overall. And these skews offset for the most part.”
“If we have a direct election, we’re going to need far more federal oversight over the process, and that’s a massive undertaking. States might also have incentives to push democracy too far, like lowering age to vote to 16, for example. Hence you’ll need more federal regulation over the process,” he added.
Asked if reform of this is in the offing, Prof. Amar said: “ There is one that’s afoot called The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact, and it’s an idea that several states have already endorsed. Under this idea, state legislatures have agreed that if enough other state legislatures agree, they will give their state’s electoral votes to the national popular vote winner.”
“Right now, only blue (Democratic) states have signed onto this. No red (Republican) states have, and that partisan divide may be likely to intensify because Republicans might think that the current Electoral College system favors them given the results in 2000 and this year.”
(The featured image at the top is of Prof. Akhil Reed Amar of Yale University)