If former Vice President Joe Biden prevails in the 2020 election by scoring a victory in both the electoral and popular vote tallies, it will not curtail the clamoring nor the movement to send the Electoral College to a crematorium. The Washington Post editorial board, for example, recently renewed its call to abolish it.
Abolishing the Electoral College would be a disaster for freedom and the constitutional imperative to prevent the concentration and abuse of power. It would also likely open the door to greater election-result paralysis, as well as more voter fraud by big state and city machine politics.
The founders designed the Electoral College to moderate the influence of large states and big cities over small states and rural districts. Rhode Island, for example, with three electoral votes would hardly matter if the presidency were decided strictly by a national popular vote.
Presidential candidates could and would ignore states like Rhode Island and focus on states and districts with large population centers, offering more bang for effort and dollars. Small-state electoral votes have often affected the national outcome. Eliminate the Electoral College, and the voice of voters in small states all but disappears in the presidential election.
Equally important, a direct popular vote would further erode the power of the states in maintaining the intended constitutional balance between the national and state governments. The dispersion of power between the states, especially in relation to the federal government, is among the greatest protections against a concentrated national tyranny.
The states form the lifeblood of freedom and democracy. Fifty states, engaged in a hothouse of democratic experimentation and exploration for creative political solutions, has benefitted America throughout her history. Ending slavery, impossible at the founding on a national basis, began as a state movement. Likewise, states pioneered reforms and strengthened rights in a multitude of areas including civil liberties, voting, religious freedom, property rights, equality of opportunity, and many others.
America can currently tolerate a socialism-friendly Vermont right alongside a no-income-tax polity such as New Hampshire because the U.S. system does not promote nor demand cookie-cutter states. Abolishing the Electoral College threatens the voices, survivability, and creative freedom of all states.
All Americans benefit from a greater diversity of thought, action, and opportunities. If you don’t like the politics, economics, and cultural atmosphere of one state, you can move to another. The Electoral College protects that diversity and ensures that all voters matter, not just those who reside in urban areas or states.
The Electoral College also stands against the concentration of power and the potential for voter abuse. Witness where potential voter fraud has emerged in the current election. Fortunately, the potential litigation is only concentrated in a few states and big cities with possible voting irregularities. Most of the 2020 results across the country are complete. Abolish the Electoral College, and America could face strangulating litigation in every state in the Union, as victory would ride solely on the national vote.
We’d all like clean, quick, and decisive election results. Yet patience should be in greater demand. Getting elections as close to correct as possible is essential to democracy. It’s also important that the election system minimize the potential for corruption, demagoguery, and especially a concentration of power that invites tyranny.
The Electoral College preserves the constitutional checks and balances to power that the founders in their wisdom intended. Every four years, and across time, the college provides a valuable countrywide, state-by-state snapshot of the trends and diversity in political thought. Much of this rich checkerboard of American politics would be lost in presidential elections based purely on a popular vote.
Whatever the outcome of the 2020 presidential election or future contests, the Electoral College provides a potential challenge to either party claiming a clear mandate by a myopic focus on the national popular vote. The short-sighted ignorance represented by the movement to abolish or circumvent the Electoral College and constitutional limits will not enhance voter rights, but it will open the door to greater abuse, fraud, and tyranny of the majority.