Fitrakis & Wasserman: Abolish the Electoral College!
For the sixth time in our history, a candidate for President of the United States may have won the popular vote and lost the White House.
This must end.
While the nation—and much of the world—shudders at the thought of a Donald Trump presidency, our electoral system has once again failed to deliver a formal victory to the person who got the most votes.
Hillary Clinton appears to have won the nationwide popular vote. As of about 1 PM eastern time, the tally was roughly 58,909,774 votes (47.6%) for Clinton, versus 58,864,233 votes (47.5%) for Trump. (The exact numbers will change as the vote count continues.)
But Donald Trump's Electoral College tally has exceeded the 270 Electoral College votes needed to take the White House.
There is much more to tell about this. This year’s vote has once again been stripped and flipped by GOP Jim Crow segregationist tactics that disenfranchised millions of primarily African-American and Hispanic citizens.
But if the current vote tallies continue roughly they way they are, Donald Trump will join Thomas Jefferson, John Quincy Adams, Rutherford B. Hayes, Benjamin Harrison, and George W. Bush as presidents who lost the popular vote but still took the nation's highest office, in every case with huge impacts.
The Electoral College was established at the 1787 Constitutional Convention to prevent the public from voting directly on our national leader. Ostensibly, it was meant in part to protect small states from being bullied by bigger ones.
It also installed a “three-fifth bonus” that gave plantation owners a 60 percent headcount for their slaves. The ruse was counted into Congressional districting, giving the south a distinct advantage over the northern free states. That’s why every President from Jefferson to Lincoln either owned slaves or had a vice president who did.
In 1800, Jefferson beat the incumbent John Adams in an Electoral College swung by “bonus votes” that came from slaves who could not actually cast them. In 1824, John Quincy Adams made a deal with Kentucky slaveowner Henry Clay to steal the presidency from Andrew Jackson, who had beaten Adams by about 50,000 popular votes.
In 1876, Republican Rutherford B. Hayes lost to Democrat Samuel Tilden by about 250,000 votes. But the GOP used federal troops in the south to shift enough Electoral College votes to create a deadlock. Hayes then became president by agreeing to remove those troops and end Reconstruction, a catastrophe for southern blacks and a triumph for the Jim Crow segregation that has defined our national politics ever since.
In 1888, Republican Benjamin Harrison lost the popular vote to incumbent Democrat Grover Cleveland but became president anyway. Cleveland won back the White House in 1892.
In 2000, Democrat Al Gore beat Republican George W. Bush by a nationwide tally of about 500,000 votes. Gore was also ultimately shown to have won the popular vote in Florida. But Bush’s brother Jeb, then governor of Florida, used a computerized system to remove voters from the rolls, to steal Florida’s electoral votes and put George in the White House.
Much the same was done in Ohio 2004 to defeat John Kerry. Bush ultimately was credited with a victory in the nationwide popular vote.
This year, Donald Trump’s Electoral College victory will change history in unimaginable ways. But nationwide it appears he did not win the popular vote. Hillary Clinton did.
There is much more to this story. But one thing is clear: There is no useful function for the Electoral College, a vile 230-year-old holdover from the bad old days of the southern slaveocracy. It poisons our electoral process.
It will require a Constitutional Amendment to get rid of it. But if we are to have anything that resembles a democracy, the Electoral College must be abolished.
Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are co-authors of The Strip & Flip Selection of 2016: Five Jim Crows & Electronic Election Theft (www.freepress.org / www.solartopia.org) and six other books on election protection.