Electoral College: Will History Repeat Itself

Today’s U.S. news is focused on national percentage rates of leadership approval and whether Americans plan to vote for Trump or Biden. However, the discussion of the elephant in the room is beginning – the Electoral College votes. In 2016 Hillary Clinton won the popular vote by 3 million but lost the Electoral vote. Will the same dynamic occur this year in the race between Biden and Trump? The Electoral College vote intends to stop candidates from being elected against each state’s positions. In other words, if Michigan residents vote for a Democratic presidential candidate, Michigan’s electoral votes must go to

the Democratic candidate. The framers created electoral votes so that the values of a state would be represented in presidential elections, a means of translating the popular vote into an electoral college vote. However, there's a bit more to it.

The electoral college has its origins in racism, normalized at the time. Slaveholders of the south welcomed the electoral system. Southern populations were predominantly Black, and the votes of freed slaves could upset Eurocentric political domination. Since the number of state electors is allocated based on population, the number of southern electors should have been lessened, as Blacks were only counted as three-fifths of a man. Instead, the slaveholder states of the south received a ‘bonus’ from Congress in the form of extra electoral seats to make up for the number of slaves across their counties. With more representation gained, the southern states were poised to protect their values through a vote more powerful than that of the general population.

How are electors chosen? Political parties select possible electors before the general public votes on a presidential candidate. Political parties or the national party sets the selection rules, which vary in each state. Electors are generally loyal to the party and have political affiliation with the presidential candidate. When state residents vote for president, they are also casting a vote for the elector selected by that candidate. Inconsistencies begin when electors who are not bound by state law don’t place their vote according to the party they were chosen to represent.

Prompted by the 2016 election, a Supreme court case of July 6, 2020 (Chiafalo et al. v. Washington, supported that “faithless electors” who vote outside of their pledge for a presidential candidate may legally incur immediate removal, monetary fine, and a substitute vote that follows the popular vote. Fifteen states currently follow this procedure, and thirty-two states pledge laws. But what about the remaining states that lack binding rules for electors?

2020 has been a record year of unrest, destabilization of the global economy due to a pandemic, climate disasters, internet hacking, and more. There’s a strong chance that we’re not done with this yet. Hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent on presidential campaigns with unprecedented speeches and proclamations of support for Joe Biden to bring stability back to the United States politically, socially, and economically. If the idea of a fair election is to bind electors to vote according to the popular vote, why is there no federal law mandating it?

Each state has one elector per member of Congress, i.e., California has 55 members of Congress, which translates to 55 Electoral votes for the state. The electoral count for critical states to watch includes Pennsylvania-20, North Carolina-15, Texas-38, Florida-29, Georgia-16, Illinois-20, Michigan-16, and Ohio-18.

The average citizen does not consider how being counted in the census may increase the number of electors for their state and tip the scales regarding who gets elected president of the United States. Moreover, the average citizen may not consider their abstinence from voting along party lines affects the electors selected to represent the state. But you know this already.

No matter the results, the repercussions will be far reaching. There will of course be reactions from domestic groups but also from international organizations, trade blocks, allies and competitors. No matter the case, this election in the United States will be critical in not only showing the world who the US is as a country but will also play a major part in either changing or solidifying the emerging international order. Given this, the effects of this election are not limited just to the United States but to the whole world.

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