January 6, 2021
On this date in 2021, this could be the possible headline announcing Joe Biden's election as President by the Democratic controlled House of Representatives. Few people really know about the process to elect the President and because of two men who received a minority of the popular vote in the last twenty years but became President, this is the only possible scenario that concerns people. Because of that, however, there has been a movement that is getting stronger to have the state legislatures change the way their Electoral votes are cast to make the outcome of the election reflect the actual will of the people.
There have been all kinds of arguments about the role of the Electoral College as a fight between large and small states being the reason this system was set up by the Founding Fathers in the first place. Earlier, I posted an article about why the Electoral College was actually founded. To a certain extent it had to do with large and small states, but the main reason this system was set up was to provide a system free of the partisan power struggles between the states trying to get their "favorite sons" elected to this powerful position. At that time political parties did not exist; in fact the Founding Fathers never dreamed that the struggle for power between large and small states would become a partisan struggle between the red and blue states. In fact, George Washington, in his Farewell Address, seeing the beginnings of separation into parties by Federalists and Anti-Federalists warned against the formation of political parties. Therefore, the Electoral College was set up to elect the President.
What few people know, however, is that there is another consideration provided in the Constitution. Should neither candidate receive a majority of Electoral Votes, the House of Representatives then decides who will be President. Why the House of Representatives? Because in 1787 the House of Representatives was the only House of Congress elected by the people. Senators were not elected by popular vote until 1913 when the 17th Amendment was passed. " The Seventeenth Amendment to the Constitution was ratified in 1913,
making the election of senators by popular vote. However,
presidential elections still operate under the Electoral System. The
Electoral College is made up of representatives who are generally
selected by the political parties at their state conventions." And it is the state legislators who make the rules about how the votes are cast. By tradition, although this was never part of the design, states follow the winner take all method of assigning Electoral Votes. This is what has allowed the election of two minority Presidents in the last 20 years of American history.
The only President to be elected by the House of Representatives was John Quincy Adams in the election of 1824. https://history.house.gov/Historical-Highlights/1800-1850/The-House-of-Representatives-elected-John-Quincy-Adams-as-President/#:~:text=About%20this%20object%20John%20Quincy%20Adams%2C%20the%20only,Secretary%20of%20State%20John%20Quincy%20Adams%20as%20President. If you will read this article, you will see that his opponent was Andrew Jackson. Andrew Jackson was a war hero and touted as the hero of the "common man." John Quincy Adams was a Federalist who believed in a strong federal government. It is interesting that John Q. Adams only served one term and in 1824 Andrew Jackson, the founder of the Democratic Party, was elected to the White House, ushering in the age of the common man and "universal suffrage." At this time universal suffrage referred to giving white men over the age of 21 who were uneducated and didn't own property the right to vote.
It is interesting that Andrew Jackson, the old Indian fighter, laid the foundation for ridding the Indian problem east of the Mississippi and by taking away all their lands, he was, indeed, able to help the common man own property. This part of history has been ignored and even the people who promote teaching about the Trail of Tears have little understanding of the importance of that event in the eventual decline of the Indian population under Manifest Destiny. Poor teaching of history combined with students' blatant disregard for history have led to a country that is ignorant, segmented and divided and vulnerable to any myths used by either partisan side in truly understanding the reforms that need to be made in this country to achieve social justice and liberty for all.
There is a movement in almost all the state legislatures to join what is called the National Popular Vote Interstate CompactAct. https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/written-explanation. To date, 16 states have passed this agreement and the vote is being considered by many state legislatures. The purpose of this article is to illustrate the effect on the vote if only those 16 states implemented this system of electing the President - keep the Electoral College but apportion the Electoral votes according to popular vote - not winner take all. This is used for illustration only because the Compact will not go into effect until enough states approve it so that the total number of Electoral Votes reaches 270 - the number of votes needed to elect the President. The article is actually an attempt to debunk the myth that without the Electoral College "California would elect the President." Hopefully, you will read to the end.
The states that have already approved the National Popular Vote Interstate Compact Act represent 196 Electoral votes and everyone of these states is considered a blue state. https://www.nationalpopularvote.com/ Political experts have put all these states in the blue category meaning it is a Democratic win. The Electoral vote count in these states is 308, meaning that if the Democratic candidate wins in all those states under the current system, the Democrat would win the election. Let's assume for a moment that these states used the popular vote as a method of assigning Electoral votes. That means that Donald Trump would win a share of the Electoral votes in all these states, enough to drop the total to around 210 (this is only guesswork). Now, what happens.
Donald Trump's Electoral vote count in red states is only 167. If he picks up a share of the Democratic votes his total might even come close to the Democratic total. There is one set of Electoral votes that has been left out of the equation. Those are the swing states, those states that have voted for both Democrats and Republicans at one time or another and this is really where the candidates focus their attention. These states are Iowa, Wisconsin, Ohio, Virginia, Florida, North Carolina and possibly Nevada. The Electoral vote total is 91. Capturing these states becomes critically important to both candidates even more so to the Democrats if they lose some of their Electoral votes to Trump. Again, this is hypothetical to make a point. Attention has always been focused on these states and that is why it is important to know that they are the key in electing any President. So, what if neither of the candidates win enough Electoral votes to hit the magic 270? Then, in January of 2021, the Democratic controlled House of Representatives would choose Joe Biden as President. Again, this is just hypothetical in order to make a point. Big states such as California, Illinois and New York have always had an impact on the election, but the point being made is that if the vote is determined by the Popular Vote this will not happen. It can only help everyone make sure their vote is counted when it comes to electing the President of the United States no matter where they live. The National Popular Vote Interstate Compact will be on the ballot this year. Please consider voting for it and get rid of a system that no longer serves its purpose.
* Just a side note. Why is it that Donald Trump has suddenly held a briefing on the status of the Corona virus and his Administration's success at flattening the curve for the first time in two months? Vice President Pence's claims about the curve being flattened are only partially true and many of the states experiencing a surge as serious as the one in New York are badly needed by Trump in the upcoming election - two swing states - Arizona and Florida- and the traditionally Republican state of Texas with 34 Electoral Votes. Both sides are playing politics and the American people are caught in the middle.