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The popular vote loser has won the U.S. presidency five times

MinnPost photo by Corey Anderson

Fun facts about the Electoral College, especially if you are a Republican.

So far in U.S. history, there have been five elections in which the popular vote loser has won the presidency via the Electoral College, two of them very recently. 

The first of the five, in 1824, occurred before the emergence of the national two-party system. 

Since 1824, all four were Republicans

Since then, and since the emergence of the Republicans in 1856 as one of those two parties, in all four cases it was the Republican who gained the presidency while losing the national popular vote.

They were: 

1876: Democrat Samuel Tilden got 51 percent of the national popular vote, compared to 48 percent for Republican Rutherford B. Hayes. This one, involving enormous voter fraud and theft, had to be decided by a special commission and involved a secret deal in which Republicans agreed, in exchange for allowing Hayes to be inaugurated, to remove federal troops from the post-Civil War south, which allowed white southerners to establish the post-slavery, post-Reconstruction system of Jim Crow laws and traditions that perpetuated “slavery by another name.”

1888: Incumbent President Grover Cleveland, a Democrat, narrowly won the popular vote but narrowly lost the electoral vote to Republican Benjamin Harrison.  That election is not as famous for corruption as some others, but at least one key state was almost certainly stolen by Republican fraud. Four years later, Cleveland, a famous reformer, became  the only president to come back from a defeat to win a second term four years later.

2000: This is the famous Bush v. Gore election in which Republican George W. Bush lost the national popular vote but narrowly won the Electoral College over Democrat Al Gore. As you may recall, this one came down to Florida, where enormous problems and irregularities led to an endless recount supervised by a corrupt Republican secretary of state and was finally decided by the Supreme Court on a 5-4 vote with no Democratic appointee to the Supreme Court voting with the majority.

2016: And then, of course, 2016, when Republican nominee Donald John Trump was chosen by a 77-electoral vote margin, which he likes to refer to as a “landslide,” despite having lost the popular vote by a 48-46 percent margin. There were many irregularities, plus foreign interference in this election, but it’s so recent and so controversial I won’t go into further details.

Proposals for change

There are various proposals to modify the system for electing presidents, including some that would not require constitutional amendments, such  as the “National Popular Vote” compact that would guarantee that the candidate receiving the most votes wins the election. Aside from the obvious benefit of having the president actually be the popular vote winner, this would have several other benefits for our system, such as removing the incentive for presidential campaigns to focus on a few swing states while virtually ignoring the majority of the country.

The Brennan Center has a good explainer of “National Popular Vote” here.

Obviously, given the history I’ve described above, there are partisan reasons for Democrats to favor a change in the Electoral College system and Republicans to oppose it. And that’s the case. But the fact that there are partisan reasons to be for or against it doesn’t remove the basic fact that the idea of “democracy” relies fairly heavily on the assumption that whoever gets the most votes wins the election.

Pew Research Center has asked the question several times of whether the Constitution should be amended to guarantee that the popular vote winner should be president. In the three most recent such polls, in 2018 Democrats were more favorable to such an amendment to elect the president by popular vote than Republicans by 74 percent to 27 percent. The partisan gap favoring such a change was 75-32 in 2019 and 81-32 this year. (Results viewable here.)

One can view that as predictable considering partisan advantage, but also shameful in terms of respecting the most fundamental principle of a democracy, that the person who gets the most votes should win the election.

Reasoning for resistance

When I discuss this with Republican friends, they generally defend the Electoral College system with arguments that (according to me) make no sense. For example, they say such a system would incentivize campaigns to focus on the big population states. True. But why is that any worse than having them focus on whichever states are considered “swing states”? 

Why is it better, in recent history, to have Ohio and Florida pick our presidents for us, or, in 2020, Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania? I’d be interested in hearing someone make that argument and hereby explicitly ask anyone who wants to explain that to do so in the comment section under this post.

And anyway, in the age of the internet, twitter and even just national TV audiences, campaign messages reach the whole country pretty efficiently.

To me, the obvious real reason is that Republicans understand that Democrats have won the plurality of the popular vote in four of the last six elections, but won the presidency in only two of those elections. And perhaps, if they are history buffs, they know that the record of popular vote losers winning the presidency via the Electoral College is Republican 4, Democrats 0.

Comments (70)

  1. Submitted by Mike Chrun on 06/16/2020 - 09:52 am.

    There are way too many people with power and money who believe that their vote should count more than someone who is poor. And if the person is poor and a minority, way too many people who believe they shouldn’t even be able to cast a vote. Well and good, to discuss the inequalities of the electoral college and reforming it; but it’s sort of a futile academic exercise when we have the shameless amounts of voter suppresion being conducted under the guise of protecting our democracy.

  2. Submitted by Bob Barnes on 06/16/2020 - 10:37 am.

    The US isn’t a Democracy. The Constitution was set up to ensure we did not become one either. Here is a good defense of the EC by Tom Woods (a Libertarian):

    As he points out, the EC prevents any one state from having too much power over the election. It forces the campaigns to be national instead of just focusing on a few populous states.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/16/2020 - 11:12 am.

      Nonsense. The US is, in fact a democracy. It isn’t a direct democracy (few governments are) but a representative democracy, with separation of powers. The idea that a Republic is not a democratic form of government is a nonsensical argument often made by electoral college apologists. The ignorance of this Woods guy, though, is really on another level.

      And, of course, its the current system that gives power to a few states. Most states get no attention in presidential elections because they are safely red or blue. Eliminating the electoral college removes states from the equation. Winning states doesn’t matter. Every vote, no matter where you live, counts the same. Its eliminating the electoral college that will make elections truly national, and not decided by a handful of swing states like it is now.

    • Submitted by Mike Chrun on 06/16/2020 - 11:25 am.

      And we can plat dueling articles all day. Here’s one that takes those arguments against abolishing it pretty much apart.

      And we’re not a democracy? As far as where the actual power is, I’d agree with you. However, to claim we’re not because a bunch of slave-owners and land-owners set it up that way several centuries ago is cynicism at its finest. A rancher’s views out in the middle of Wyoming should not have 60 some percent representation more than a person living in the middle of Los Angeles.

      • Submitted by John Evans on 06/16/2020 - 12:31 pm.

        The Senate is a completely different and peculiar form of representation. California has about 65 times as many residents as Wyoming, but still only two senators. DC has more residents than either Wyoming or Vermont, but has no Senate representation.

      • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 06/17/2020 - 09:07 am.

        Apparently you missed the capital D. We are democratic but not a Democracy (capital D matters). Our Presidential election is not a popular vote. If we were a Democracy? It would be.

        As for your article, a piece written by someone from England that has no real Constitutional credentials isn’t someone I’d bother reading. Tom Woods has written numerous books on the Constitution, has scholarly credentials and has debate some of the biggest names out there.

    • Submitted by LK WOODRUFF on 06/16/2020 - 11:42 am.

      The UNITED States of America is a republic democracy. Small ‘r’, small ‘d’. Not to be confused with the two dominant political parties, currently called Republican and Democratic. PS To the poster above, some clarification: the Republicans in Congress have put in great effort in recent years to suppress votes, call out unfounded voter ‘fraud’, cull voter rolls to remove folks who have moved or not voted in the last few elections, and more. Why? Because most of those voters are minorities who tend to vote for Democrats. This undercuts and undermines our democracy, a hallmark and shining example to other countries. We lose it…we lose everything. And we are balanced on the precipice about to fall over:( So do your homework and research and seek out news and data from reliable non-partisan sources because this Nov election will make us or break us.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/16/2020 - 12:20 pm.

      At the end of the day, your argument comes down to nothing more than valuing the powers of states – arbitrarily delineated land masses – over the will of the people who are actually to be governed by the leaders elected.

      Perhaps, once upon a time, it made more sense to place such great importance on the states. When the Constitution was ratified, there were sharper cultural, political, and economic distinctions between the states than there are now. Those differences have been steadily eroded over the years, to the point where the distinctions between states mean no more than a preference for Moon Pies over Tastykakes. The Founders felt justified in giving force to those differences, but I doubt that, were any of them to show up today, they would feel that the nation they created was bound by their view of governance.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/17/2020 - 11:49 am.

      In the eighteenth century, “democracy” referred to the Athenian form, where all non-enslaved adult males voted on every question. That *was* susceptible to becoming mob rule, and it also became impractical after you had more than a few hundred people participating.

      That’s why the New England town meeting is one of the few examples of direct democracy extant. I cannot think of any country, either now or in the past, that is based on direct democracy.

      Representative democracy was already centuries old when the U.S. Constitution was written. The American colonists were familiar with the example of the British Parliament, and the Icelandic Althing was even older.

      Yes, they established a republic, a country without a monarch, but “republic” and “democracy” are overlapping terms. A country can be one or the other or both or neither.

    • Submitted by Jada Hickman on 06/27/2020 - 05:47 am.

      America is NOT a Democracy and those stating so are historically ignorant. The United States would NEVER and should NEVER be a “mob rule” country, which is precisely what a Democracy is. The Republic was set up to give all citizens in all states a fair and equal voice.

  3. Submitted by Ray Schoch on 06/16/2020 - 11:40 am.

    Mr. Barnes’ first sentence is correct, though perhaps not quite as he intended, as we’ve seen from time to time in recent years.

    After that first sentence, however, we descend into failed 18th century arguments or more modern delusions. Gotta be careful with that Kool-Aid.

    As but one of several potential examples: “It forces the campaigns to be national instead of just focusing on a few populous states.” is simply not true, and hasn’t been true for a long time. If anything, the statement is a fine example of the “alternate facts” that the Trump White House has become so fond of dispensing. Campaigns spend enormous amounts of time and money (and volunteer hours) in the most populous states. To do otherwise is self-defeating. That said, campaigns, especially in the past couple of generations, as political views have hardened in the population, also spend enormous amounts of time and money in the relative handful of “swing states” that are perceived to hold the key to electoral college victory. Focusing on Michigan, Wisconsin and Ohio might have been effective in 2016, but it’s pretty much the antithesis of a “national campaign.”

    And on a broader note, I look forward – if this was never intended to be a democratic society – to Mr. Barnes’ explanation of why the first three words of the Constitution are “We the people…”

    Further, knowing full well that it’s a statement of intent, and not an actual governing document, I nonetheless look forward to Mr. Barnes’ explanation of what the founders intended with this bit from the preamble to the Declaration of Independence:

    “WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness—That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness…”

    Both logic and a couple centuries of practice lead me to believe that “government by consent of the governed“ pretty much requires some form of “democracy” in order to function according to its stated purposes.

    • Submitted by Bob Barnes on 06/17/2020 - 09:18 am.

      Democracy and democracy mean two different things. Democracy with a capital D means direct democracy ie whoever gets the most votes wins ie mob rule. The US is not such a beast. We have democratic elections but for President, it’s not the popular vote that matters. The Constitution was written that way for a reason.

      As is pointed out in Tom Woods’ article, the EC prevents large population states from dictating policy via voting. CA for instance only has so much say in the election even though they have 10% of the nations population. As Tom points out, without the EC, a politician could run on a platform to give all tax money to one or a few states (basically buy votes). Such a platform would be possible if you picked the right states to include in your give away. The rest of the states would be powerless to stop it because they wouldn’t have enough votes to block said politician from winning.

      • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/17/2020 - 10:58 am.

        “Democracy and democracy mean two different things.”

        No, they don’t. “Democrat” is capitalized when referring to a member of that political party. Otherwise, orthography has nothing to do with meaning.

        Is this something you picked up from Tom Woods? Because thinking like that is a big reason he is not taken seriously by non-zealots.

    • Submitted by Karen Sandness on 06/17/2020 - 11:55 am.

      One of the most common complaints of the EC proponents is that it forces candidates to pay attention to small states.

      The facts say otherwise. You will see candidates visiting Ohio and Florida dozens of times each and visiting North Dakota and Idaho maybe once, if that.

      In 2004, Dennis Kucinich had one of his highest primary vote totals in Hawaii, because he was the only presidential primary candidate EVER to campaign in Hawaii. (Of course, this was before Obama, who, despite Republican claims to the contrary, was born in Hawaii and mostly raised there.)

      Besides, what do North Dakota and Hawaii have in common other than having smaller than average populations?

  4. Submitted by Roy Everson on 06/16/2020 - 11:49 am.

    It’s bad enough when a democratically elected president goes wrong, but even worse when these popular vote losers create disastrous policies. It’s happened three times: the Reconstruction debacle, the war on Iraq, and the entire Trump presidency. Like there is some bad karma attached to violating the basic tenet of our system: government that “derives its powers from the consent of the governed.” The people are clearly better qualified than the Electoral College to choose leadership.

  5. Submitted by John Evans on 06/16/2020 - 12:19 pm.

    In 2000, the Florida vote count was halted by the Supreme Court, which disgraced itself by leveraging a tenuous technical argument into an absurd Catch 22. Members of the press later secured access to the collected ballots and counted them all. The fact is that Gore received more votes in Florida.

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/17/2020 - 08:44 am.

      Yup, and this doesn’t even take into account the 2,000 or so Palm Beach voters whose Gore votes went to Buchanan[!], due to a poorly designed ballot.

      There is simply no doubt that more Floridians thought they had voted for Gore than Bush in Nov 2000. But the 5 Repubs on the Supreme Court simply had to bend over backwards to ensure the nation had its first popular vote-losing president in 113 years, thus ushering in the catastrophic 21st Century.

      And rejuvenating the absurd electoral college to boot, since “conservatives” (like Trump) now do not even make the pretense of trying to win the popular vote, and take the (frankly immoral) position that winning (only) the electoral vote is “superior”. Then they whine that from day one that their governing legitimacy is somehow questioned!

      Of course, the “conservative” answer to the unjust debacle and perversion of our national fate in 2000 was the one given by “Justice” Scalia ever after: “Get over it!”. Yeah, I’ll bet conservatives would’ve done that if the shoe was on the other foot…

  6. Submitted by Kyle Anderson on 06/16/2020 - 12:25 pm.

    It is interesting to me that Adams and Bush were sons of presidents and Harrison was a grandson of a president. It could just be coincidence that the only direct descendants of former presidents who became presidents themselves won the office through the Electoral College without winning the popular vote.

  7. Submitted by William Duncan on 06/16/2020 - 03:04 pm.

    The founders of the country demanded, States rights matter. Some here in the comments have said the EC means some states don’t matter. But if we go to a strict popular vote winner, then a lot of States won’t matter either, and especially rural country, as urban areas will decide who the president will be.

    Democrats like to say the system is unfair. However it does not serve to just make it unfair instead for low population states or rural people.

    Democrats know the rules. If you are going to appeal only to professional class urban voters then you are going to lose the presidential election, guaranteed. Hillary Clinton lost in part because she ignored working class voters, particularly in the midwest.

    As for this being a democracy, that is somewhat laughable, insofar as it is well established, what the majority want they rarely get, what corporations, banks and billionaires want, they almost always get. So really, when it comes to elections in America, the only votes that really matter are the votes of the top 10%, and really only the top 1%.

    • Submitted by Pat Terry on 06/16/2020 - 03:21 pm.

      Nonsense. The idea that rural voters won’t matter in a popular vote election defies any and all logic. Literally every single vote will matter. All votes will count the same. You can can your votes from the city, from the suburbs or from rural areas. You just have to get more of them somewhere. It is completely fair, as opposed to a system where some votes count for more than others based on where people live.

      • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/17/2020 - 09:01 am.

        Hillary Clinton, if you look at an electoral map, was clearly an Urban candidate. That is neither “nonsense”, nor the “absence of any and all logic”, it is merely a fact.

        History shows, cities empty out rural lands, not just of people, but of resources. Much of the rural country of America is devastated economically and ecologically, by policies that emanate primarily from the cities. The more people flow to cities, the less power rural people have to decide the fate of the land around them. If most people in America live in cities then the people of cities will elect the president, under a strict popular vote count.

        • Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/17/2020 - 09:35 am.

          “Urban candidate” [?]

          Yes indeed. And a man born, raised and barely set foot outside the confines of the largest megalopolis on earth was (somehow) the “Rural candidate”? This is rather incoherent.

          And I doubt most rural people really see themselves as the hapless victims of urbanization you present. If they do, then any hope of trying to advance the common good by voting is pretty much doomed to failure.

          • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/17/2020 - 11:25 am.

            You don’t have to be rural to be a rural candidate. Trump was the first national politician to talk directly to rural country without talking down to them, in more than a generation. Is he a liar? Yes. Has he followed through with his promises to rural country? in a way, yes. Has his Admin been good for rural country, economically? I would suggest a categorical no, but some in rural country might disagree.

            So what would advancing the “common good” look like for rural America, if you are so certain there is no resentment of the urban in rural Minnesota? (I’m pretty sure though, long time observers of politics in Minnesota are aware there is a very long running complaint in rural country about how little of State funds are spent in rural country.)

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/17/2020 - 10:53 am.

          Why are people who live in rural areas more deserving of full representation than people in urban areas?

          When did the urban areas get together to develop this vast conspiracy to empty out rural America? To what end would they do that?

          • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/17/2020 - 11:16 am.

            It is not a “conspiracy”, it is the simple fact of every civilization that has ever existed. People gather in cities, they grow disconnected from the living earth, the denigrate the surrounding rural country until such time as it will no longer support the cities, and then the civilization collapses. Rinse and repeat. Coming to America. Wait for it.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/17/2020 - 01:42 pm.

              I’ve heard about a country that took aggressive steps to reverse the creeping urbanization of the populace, perhaps to prevent the inevitable collapse that you discuss. Pol Pot is not remembered fondly for his efforts.

              • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/17/2020 - 05:35 pm.

                Pol Pot was a mass murderer who killed 3 million people or more, would be why he is not fondly remembered. By contrast, our eternal war machine has killed that many at least, just since the end of the Cold War, to the cheers or silence of most Democrats and Republicans.

                By contrast I call to build an educational food forest, farm and restaurant on city property, to teach people you can have an economy and take care of the land and waters, and restore biodiversity, and to provide opportunity for young people to start farms while putting less emphasis on corporate. So, equally tongue in cheek as your comment, thank you very much for that grotesque false equivalency.

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/18/2020 - 07:13 pm.

                  Cities have grown up as an expression of the preference of the people. It’s the true free market at work, for whatever reason, people would rather live in urban areas even if they express nostalgia for some never-known Arcadia, and even if they do it for economic reasons alone (working in a cube farm may be preferable to milking cows twice a day, every day, for the rest of your life).

                  • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/19/2020 - 10:31 am.

                    Keep telling yourself that; it is a common conceit among modern urban democrats, that people only leave rural areas because they choose to. (The extension of that thinking is, rural life is backward and ignorant living.)

                    That ignores how America’s industrial communities and farming communities have been taken over by Capital, by Finance, hollowed out, dismantled, and otherwise destroyed, the “creative destruction” of Capitalism. All the human misery as the result becomes just “regular people making choices,” or “the market evolving.”

                    Here is an article in The American Conservative, where you will find more class consciousness than you will find at Minnpost. This is a quite honest assessment of the human misery so thoroughly ignored by both major political parties, while the consolidation of capital and power is ever celebrated. All hail income inequality!


                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/19/2020 - 12:02 pm.

                      “[T]hat people only leave rural areas because they choose to . . .”

                      It’s called Hobson’s Choice. People leave rural areas because the alternative is staying in a rural area with reduced economic opportunities. It’s not a great choice, but it is preferred by corporate America, their enablers in both political parties, and the mainstream media, all of whom meet periodically to advance their fiendish plans.

    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/16/2020 - 04:04 pm.

      According to the Constitution, states do not have “rights.” Individuals have rights. States have powers which, according to Mr. Jefferson, are derived from the just consent of the governed.

      • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/17/2020 - 08:48 am.

        The Tenth Amendment, of the Bill of Rights, in the Constitution of the United States of America:

        “The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.”

        • Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/17/2020 - 09:27 am.

          “powers” vs “rights” is the precise distinction RB made.

        • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/17/2020 - 09:57 am.

          “Powers” and “rights” are not the same thing.

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/17/2020 - 10:51 am.

          “Bill of Rights” is the popular terminology for the first ten amendments. Calling the Tenth Amendment a “right” based on that moniker is, at the very least, a stretch.

          • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/17/2020 - 11:13 am.

            Google state’s rights vs federalism and you will see, “state’s rights” is a concept long discussed in America, in relationship to the ever expanding powers of the federal government. No one gets to edit that out of history just by quibbling about the difference between “powers” and “rights”.

            • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/17/2020 - 01:47 pm.

              The term first came up with reference to a supposed “right” of the states to nullify federal legislation. It later was used as a justification for destroying the union to protect slavery, or to deny civil rights to individuals. It is editing that unsavory heritage out of our history to pretend that the concept is a benign one.

              The difference between “rights” and “powers” is hardly a “quibble,” but goes to the foundational ideas behind the creation of the nation state. While most of us may agree that individuals are endowed with rights, to say that states or nations have “rights” is to pretend they have an existence apart from the people who create or acquiesce in them.

              • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/17/2020 - 06:33 pm.

                No doubt the idea has been used to defend the indefensible. At the same time, we Minnesotans could assert states rights to prevent foreign corporations from plundering our resources while leaving the mess for future generations. But WTO global trade rules basically say corporations can do as they please, which then makes our elected officials waffle.

                • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/18/2020 - 01:17 pm.

                  I will keep a copy of this remark in case I am ever asked for an example of a “jeremiad.”

                  Why is it worse for foreign corporations to “plunder” than it is for local companies to do so? Before you start in on the moral superiority of state and local government, remember that the ease with which extractive industries could buy state legislatures was one of the main impetuses behind the adoption of the 17th Amendment.

                  • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/19/2020 - 08:16 am.

                    It should go without saying that no one should be able to plunder the resources of Minnesota. I bring up foreign corporations, because lately it has been foreign corporations preying on our legislature. But otherwise, yeah, local corporations do to, thinking mainly of the likes of Cargill to RD Offut. Plunder, make a mess, exterminate species, remove the majority of profits. At least in theory, local corporations are more easily held accountable than some giant multinational from a different continent.

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/19/2020 - 10:17 am.

                      “At least in theory, local corporations are more easily held accountable than some giant multinational from a different continent.”

                      Having studied more corporation law than is healthy, I can say that is absolute nonsense. Corporations are accountable to their shareholders, full stop.

                    • Submitted by William Duncan on 06/19/2020 - 11:31 am.

                      True. Which is why I sometimes say, a corporation is an entity designed to make a few people exceedingly rich, while absolving them from any and all responsibility (even up to killing people.)

                    • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/19/2020 - 01:31 pm.

                      I can’t argue with that. While corporate officers have been held criminally liable for the acts of their corporations, it is a rare enough occurrence that I can’t think of any examples off the top of my head.

  8. Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 06/16/2020 - 03:19 pm.

    I think we should follow the constitution when it comes to the electoral college and every State having two Senators.

    If not – have a democratic candidate for the presidency campaign against both items.

    • Submitted by Paul Brandon on 06/16/2020 - 05:03 pm.

      Once more — no where in the Constitution of the United States will you find the term ‘Electoral College’; just vague references to Electors chosen by States.
      And of course the only individuals with voting rights were white male landowners.

      • Submitted by Ron Gotzman on 06/17/2020 - 09:53 am.

        Once again – have the dem nominee for President run on the agenda of abolishing the electoral college and two senators for each State.

        What are you so afraid of making this a campaign issue?

        • Submitted by RB Holbrook on 06/17/2020 - 10:48 am.

          No one is “afraid” of it. While most Americans favor abolishing the electoral college, it really isn’t an issue most people would call critical.

        • Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/18/2020 - 12:20 pm.

          I agree with you at least in part, Ron.

          If abolishing the absurd EC isn’t and hasn’t been in every Dem party platform since 2000, it certainly should be. Repubs often propose constitutional amendments (however bad) and Dem should be doing more of the same. The American idea that the Constitution is “almost perfect!” is a real problem.

          The recent EB Black Ink thread on the egregious Hugh Hewitt makes plain that nothing can be done about structural change in the senate, the “equal senators” provision is not amendable. So that’s a dead letter.

      • Submitted by Ron Quido on 06/19/2020 - 10:50 pm.

        I’m not sure adding women and minorities to the voting pool have produced better results. Of course, our presidential candidates are only as good as the party process for picking nominees.

    • Submitted by Ron Quido on 06/21/2020 - 10:16 am.

      Two-thirds of the states have to approve a constitutional amendment. Even mid-sized states are unlikely to support abolishing the Electoral College.

  9. Submitted by Constance Sullivan on 06/16/2020 - 04:19 pm.

    The easiest thing to do would be to go around the problems presented by the Electoral College, with a compact among the states to give all their EC votes to the winner of the national popular vote. All we need is a majority of EC votes among a number of states to elect the candidate with a popular majority.. Each state could change its own rules, and there’s no need to modify the US Constitution.

    By the way: Has Minnesota made any move to democratize our presidential balloting in this way, by joining the group of states that will award their EC ballots to the national popular vote winner?

    A historical note to add to Eric’s piece: The Electoral College was instituted precisely because the Founding Fathers did not trust the general male populace to be either intelligent enough, or informed and educated enough, to vote sensibly.

    The EC was, in its creation, meant to deflect democracy from dominating our government. They didn’t want a national popular vote to determine our president. Inherent in that? That each and every Electoral College member could vote differently from their state’s choice for president, and not to be “held to” what the mass of voters chose.

    The Constitutional provision giving two Senators to every state, despite population count, was to ensure that the slave states agreed to join the Union. It was also, of course, another way to ensure that the “demos”–the masses of voters–did not control the government. [Senators were not elected: they were chosen by the state legislatures.]

    • Submitted by Ron Quido on 06/19/2020 - 10:46 pm.

      Holds true to this day: ” general male populace to be [n]either intelligent enough, or informed and educated enough, to vote sensibly.

      • Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/20/2020 - 09:26 am.

        Should you be entitled to vote? Why?

        Serious question, not snark, since limiting the franchise appears a superior system to you.

        • Submitted by Ron Quido on 06/21/2020 - 09:45 am.

          Just making fun of males, no serious intent in my post. To paraphrase Mark Twain, ” “Everybody talks about the [Electoral College], but nobody does anything about it.”

  10. Submitted by Chas Dalseide on 06/16/2020 - 07:17 pm.

    Why don’t we deal with the swing states by taking them out of the election? Declare a tie in advance, if the popular election, four years previously, was close. If they still have to have electors, give them observer status only. No vote.

    I think we need a little history on the concept of Electors. I would guess that the founders were looking at the German system. Electors were representatives of the various German principalities, duchies, etc. that made up the “Holy Roman Empire”.
    They were either inherited, or appointed by the Emperor or the Pope or in concert with each other. Their main duty was to elect and support the Emperor, who I guess had the job to keep order and settle disputes between the nobility and their personal fiefdoms. There was a lot of trouble during the Reformation, but the system stuck until Napoleon.
    Can someone trace the concept to its inclusion into the US Constitution?

  11. Submitted by Edward Blaise on 06/16/2020 - 11:16 pm.

    If you look at the “National Popular Vote” map, getting Florida and Ohio over the hump (and they are both in process) and the finish line is in sight: 196 In the bank right now, FL & OH gets us to 247 leaving MN, VA and a few other Blue/Purple states to get over the hump.

    One problem solved.

    Time for potential blue states Puerto Rico and DC to be given statehood: a counter balance to red state low pop. lands like ND and WY.

    Second problem solved as best can be hoped for.

    Constitution makes adding new states a straight forward proposition. Try to divide a state into 2 or more states is not going to happen short of a Constitutional Amendment I believe.

  12. Submitted by Daniel Hunt on 06/16/2020 - 11:58 pm.

    ….which allowed white southerners to establish the post-slavery, post-Reconstruction system of Jim Crow laws and traditions that perpetuated “slavery by another name.”

    You meant to type “Democrats” but your fingers slipped on the keyboard and you inadvertently typed “white southerners”.

    Oddly, it seems to happen often.

  13. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/17/2020 - 06:06 am.

    The electoral college doesn’t make presidential elections go national. Our presidential elections today are mainly conducted in the high population swing states like Ohio, Pennsylvania, Michigan and Florida. In those states, the campaigns are waged with incredible intensity elsewhere they barely exist at all. Does that really have much to do with the founders intent? Does it make any sort of sense at all?

    • Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/17/2020 - 08:24 am.

      The idea of the “swing state” was almost certainly an unintended consequence of the Framers and their “electors” idea. Hell, they couldn’t even conceive of “campaigns”, and thought the US could/should avoid parties as divisive “factions”.

      There is simply nothing more ridiculous and nauseating than watching the current spectacle of US presidential campaigns focus on whatever states are decided to be “swing states” in a particular election. No self respecting nation/democracy would put up with it, but we are most definitely not a serious nation.

  14. Submitted by Brian Scholin on 06/17/2020 - 08:48 am.

    Not that it matters to most politicians, but a scientist would tell you that, to strive for “truth”, you first need to describe it as well as you can. In fact, pretty much all scientific advances in the history of man have come from advances in measurement/observation abilities. Precision makes all the difference.

    In the 1700’s, the most precise measurement of the will of the people was at a state level. In the last 300 years, our ability to measure the will of the people has improved immensely. There is no reason we cannot now measure to the precision of each person. Yet we are stuck with 300 year old rules that do not allow us to get that close to the truth on the will of the people.

    Without making use of our improved ability to measure, we are blocking progress. And that’s always a bad thing.

    • Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/19/2020 - 07:25 am.

      The framers weren’t that interested in the will of the people. They created a system of government in which only one half of one branch was popularly elected. The fact that each state gets two senators no matter what it’s population is in total conflict with any sort of idea that the will of the people concerned them. Even today, we live with a Supreme Court as a law making body whose members aren’t elected by voters. Whatever the merits of that particular idea might be, it displays massive indifference to any idea of Republican or even Democratic governance.

  15. Submitted by BK Anderson on 06/17/2020 - 09:57 am.

    Can one imagine what would happen in American cities if (by a quirk of fate) the “traditional Americans” were the more populous urban demographic and the rural areas were populated by a leftist, pluralist political minority who were granted the ability to indefinitely rule the country by the antiquated procedures of an 18th Century constitution which (effectively) couldn’t be amended?

    That today’s “conservatives” not only cannot see this injustice but do everything they can to defend the (indefensible) sclerotic system makes plain that the there is no remaining common ground between the competing factions.

  16. Submitted by Tom Anderson on 06/19/2020 - 09:36 pm.

    So, or maybe, so what? All but one of the winners of the U.S. presidency was white. so what? Some of the winners of the presidency were adulterers, so what? I’m not sure what the point of the column is other than the usual Trump bashing.

  17. Submitted by Hiram Foster on 06/20/2020 - 05:32 am.

    From the very beginning of the republic, the system the founders crafted for choosing a president has not worked out at all well.It just was not thought through. The first contested presidential elections were disasters, and the fact that the frequency of disasters has lessened is mostly a matter of luck. Luck has been running our recently, which may have something to do with the development of sophisticated campaign techniques unforeseen by the founders.

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