Monday, November 21, 2016

Electorally Collegiate

We’re not a democracy. That seems to come as a surprise to some Americans. Democracy is rule—or tyranny—by majority. The axiom is that it’s two wolves and a lamb voting on what’s for lunch.

What our founders designed was a constitutional republic. Democratic voting happens in parts of it—to choose our representatives, and directly choose many local leaders. But the federal government is limited, on purpose, so that coercive force, like fire, does the good it’s intended to do but does not go further and burn us free individuals to the ground.

Federal: relating to a type of organization that is made by joining together separate organizations or states
State: a politically unified people occupying a definite territory; a nation
When the thirteen original colonies declared independence from England, they were a loosely joined group of separate states (i.e., nations), a confederation. The document joining them, the Articles of Confederation, was weak and imperfect. That’s why, a few years later, representatives from these separate but confederated states worked out a new Constitution, “in order to form a more perfect union.”

They did not give up being their own sovereign statehoods, but they united with the other states in a stronger union. It’s important to remember that it was states joining together, and not merely a few million unaffiliated individuals suddenly becoming a new single nation. The nature of America is that it is the United States (nations) of America.

One of the major debates in the Constitutional Congress related to insistence, mainly from the large states, that representation should be by population number and, on the other hand, the insistence, mainly from the smaller states, that representation should be by state. What was the incentive for a small state, like Delaware, to join the union if it was simply to be ruled by whatever bigger states, like Virginia, enacted?

The brilliant compromise of the Constitution was to divide the representative branch, the legislature, into two houses: one representing population number—the House--and one representing each state equally—the Senate. Until the 16th Amendment, the two senators from each state were chosen by the state legislatures, rather than by direct election as they are today. The idea was that the House represented the interests of the people from their home district, and the Senate represented the state’s (nations) interests. Even with the change in how senators are elected, they are still supposed to represent their state’s interests while working together on federal issues.

Over time, with inadequate history and civics being taught, too many people think of the states as just provinces.

Province: any one of the large parts that some countries are divided into
America didn’t divide itself into provinces that it called states; states united together to form America. We’re all Americans, but we’re also members of our respective states. You might forget that in some states, but you don’t forget it here in Texas.

Now that we’re clear on what United States are, we can talk with a better understanding about the election—and specifically the Electoral College.
The 2016 Electoral College Map,
image found here

Direct election is what some (many) voters think they’re doing in a presidential election. But they’re not. They’re actually voting for a slate of electors from their state who have promised to vote for a particular candidate. It seems complicated, but its purpose is to preserve both the voice of the people and the voice of each state.

If the popular vote directly elected the president, the campaign would look very different. It would concentrate on areas with the highest populations—big cities mainly, like New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, and Dallas. Add in Florida and DC area. Ignore the rest of the nation, because you can’t garner enough votes in any particular place to sway the election. Flyover country gets flown over.

So, the system allots electors per state based on population (1 per representative in the US House of Representatives) and state (2 senators per state). Each state decides how its electors will be chosen, but most give all the state’s electors to the vote winner in the state.
Without Electoral College illustration
by Ramirez for The Daily Signal

If the vote is decisive in the state, it’s possible not all the votes will be counted. Don’t cry foul. All the cast ballots on election day are counted. All early voting ballots are counted. It used to be that absentee ballots were only counted if the number could sway the election, but since ballot by mail has become more prevalent, those are usually included in the voting day tally. (That’s what showed up in my county’s tally within 24 hours of the polls closing.)

However, there are provisional ballots—paper ballots cast by people who are not showing up as registered but whose registration was turned in on time; those votes will be handled individually, and if they are valid, they will be counted eventually.  Sometimes these have to do with providing proof of residency or some other detail that didn’t happen in time to show up in the books, but the voter has five days in which to provide documentation. But most provisional ballots end up being people who went to the wrong polling place, because they moved and didn’t go to the place where they are still registered, or because they just showed up at the wrong place and don’t have time to go elsewhere. These votes are not valid and will not be counted.

Anyway, the final tally on these votes may not show up in the original tallies, or even official tallies within 24 hours. If they will not change the outcome, there’s a good chance no one will change the count later. In other words, the popular vote count, because it doesn’t matter, isn’t always the count of all valid (and only valid) votes.

There’s also voter fraud to think of. In the last election, the difference was an average of about 10 votes per precinct. I was a poll watcher at a heavily democrat precinct that ended up with 20 extra votes on the machine that weren’t included on the voter list—the handwritten list of each voter that signs the book, used to verify the count. If one party decided to add votes from non-voters at a rate of 10-20 per voting place, they could turn a national election. If there was a corrupt party not being watched in some state, they could purposely add hundreds or thousands of fraudulent votes. As it is, at least they can only affect no higher than the state level.

So the Electoral College is a protection against tyranny of the majority, against tyranny of urban over rural or suburban areas, against large states over small, against populous regions over sparsely populated regions, and against tyranny by voter fraud.

Rarely has the Electoral College chosen a different president than the popular vote. When it has done so, that means the election was close. And in a close election, we ought to be glad the decision was made with the input of all states and all regions, instead of just the most populous cities.

There’s been a fair amount of conversation about the Electoral College the past couple of weeks. It’s a good time to get more educated on the subject.

I suggest this PragerU video:

Then there are these additional brief video explanations:

·         Mark Kaye, "Why the Electoral College Sux!"
·         Larry Arnn interview, and opinion piece he wrote in the Wall Street Journal November 14, “The Electoral College Is Anything but Outdated

And if you’d like to learn a little more in depth, I recommend a book I read about a decade ago that has been updated in 2012: Enlightened Democracy: the Case for the Electoral College, by Tara Ross, the presenter on the PragerU video.

It keeps happening that, when we look at what our founders thought through, they did a remarkable job of working out how to get just the right amount of government, with limits to safeguard our liberties. They deserve something much better than an ageist assumption that they’re outdated. Chances are they thought it through and came up with a brilliant idea.

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