Editorial: The flaws in the Electoral College

Daily Herald Editorial Board
Updated 9/18/2017 11:01 AM
  • An elector casts a ballot last year for president of the United States.

    An elector casts a ballot last year for president of the United States. Associated Press

Hillary Clinton is back on the book tour circuit, and among the many headlines she created last week was one in which she called for the end of the Electoral College.

Our immediate reaction was to resist the idea. Seemed like sour grapes. Seemed like an ends-justify-the-means political response by the Democrats who lost recent White House bids not just in 2016 but also in 2000 when the Electoral College overruled the popular vote.

We'd always viewed the Electoral College system as one that forces candidates to attend to the interests of the entire country, not just one region or special interest.

Get rid of the Electoral College, we thought, and urban American will dominate the conversation at the expense of middle America.

But if the Electoral College forces candidates to give attention to the whole country, why did Donald J. Trump and Hillary Clinton barely step foot in Illinois last year?

They paid virtually no attention to Illinois and for the foreseeable future, no presidential candidate will pay much of attention to Illinois. The reason? Simple. Illinois is not in play.

It was going to go Democratic last year, and it didn't matter whether Trump or Clinton spent weeks here or no time here because in this day and age, Illinois votes Democratic.

Same reason they spent no time in Indiana: Indiana always votes Republican and it was going to do so whether Trump or Clinton gave it the time of day or not.

Now, Ohio is a different story. Nobody ever knows what Ohio's going to do and so it always gets attention from presidential candidates.

If presidents were elected based on popular vote -- or through an Electoral College system that apportioned popular vote -- candidates would give attention to Illinois because the vote margin would matter here.

All well and good, you might say, but what about Wyoming? It wouldn't have enough votes to draw attention if elections were determined by popular vote. Good point. Except Wyoming doesn't have enough votes to draw attention in the Electoral College system, either.

Backers of the Electoral College will point to its long-ago Constitutional origins. It was designed to protect the states, they'll say.

But that's not quite right.

Historians clearly document it was designed to protect the interests of slave states. Pure and simple.

And it was designed to protect the republic from democracy.

As history buffs know, the framers didn't trust the people. They didn't think the common man was educated enough. And, well, we know how much they excluded women. They believed presidents should be chosen by elite property owners.

The concept of majority rule should outweigh such a flawed tradition.

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