A long time ago, about three decades I'm guessing which would put me in my early teens, I was sitting on the floor of the family cabin trying to puzzle through one of the board games that my brother and I dredged out of the collection. It was a "race to the presidency" back when Iowa had ten votes (so I guess the game was from the 60's?). Neither my younger brother or I understood the reason for the points. The only thing we knew is that Illinois, California, and New York were important to winning. He always went for California, I went for Illinois because that was our "home state" (even though the cabin is in Wisconsin).
I remember that game because my grandma had us move the game to the table with the red checkerboard cloth and explain the electoral college to us. I don't remember how old I was at the time but that lesson stuck with me.
Later, in Junior High, we had a Constitution class where our teacher reiterated those lessons, and the reasons he explained was the same as my grandmas. It was the same teacher who explained why we had fiat currency and we had to memorize the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.
Last week, as me and my wife watched the map of the country turn heartbreaking with red all over the place, I was reminded of those two points in my life. There was a system in place and both Hillary and Trump (and the DNC and RNC) were fully aware of the rules. As a strategy, Trump won the right states.
The idea of Trump being president fills me with dread, it's given me nightmares for a week and I'm still upset about it. I believe we should be moving toward a world of tolerance and acceptance, not sexism and racism. Trump's method for gaining power has been in direct conflict with those desires and he is responsible for me getting far more emotionally charged about this election than any other one in my life. Well, that and Bernie, but that's a separate topic.
The Electoral College
I've seen a lot of hatred toward the Electoral College in the last week, mainly because Hillary firmly won the popular vote but lost the electoral. It is painful to see that happen, more so because of the horrible spate of hate crimes that have happened since the election results. Those were some of my beginning fears (I have far worst ones, which is actually why I'm writing this) of Trump winning and why his actions were the reason I've gotten emotionally involved with this election.
As much as I hate the results, I never blamed the Electoral College. I still don't. It is functioning as designed and I think it should remain.
The college has a rather racist history from the beginning. It was created to balance out the states with a high number of slaves but less voters with the states that had a great number of free men. This was also before women were given a vote (the Nineteenth Amendment is the second greatest one in my opinion, the First being the hallmark of this country).
Despite slavery not being part of our culture anymore, I still feel that the college has a purpose. The problem I've been struggling with is to how to describe this without upsetting anyone and I realized I can't. So, I'm going to say that the college protects a specific class of minorities.
The Quiet Half
Since the late 1800s and early 1900s, this country has rapidly moved toward cities. You can see that in the map below where half of the population lives in 146 of 3000 counties.
It would point out that I don't live in those 146 counties right now but I used to. That said, I believed the same thing about the college when I did live in Kane County, IL.
If you look at the map, there are states that don't have a single county in the 50th percentile. However, there millions who live there that grow our foods, produce goods and materials, and struggles through their lives like everyone else.
The other thing that is important is that they are a minority. It is more than just race, it is a different between the more urban dwellers (I live in a large city in Iowa) and the more rural ones. They have a different view of the world and they have different needs, ones that are difficult to see.
The Popular Vote
The most common suggestion to fix the college is to get rid of it and switch completely to the popular vote. Senator Boxer's bill is one of the drives for me writing it, mainly to express my opinions. There are also a couple people in my social network who are vocal about getting rid of the college. I disagree but I like to disagree in debate and discussion instead of saying it just sucks. I also have suggestions at the bottom.
The college gives a higher weight to the rural voters in the less populated 2,854 counties. If we switch to a purely popular vote, then simply becomes the person who wins the highest number of votes. Of course, being that most political parties focus on winning, that means they'll hammer advertising for those 146 counties—maybe 250 at most—and ignore the rest. Why would they? They just need that 50%.
If you don't think that is true, ask people from Montana what they think about the elections. Make sure you ask what impact they have on it? Better yet, look at the stops both Hillary and Trump made on their election trail. Or how many presidents have visited all fifty states while in office? (Four.) Those states are already being ignored by most federal politics. They have the same sense of hopelessness and powerlessness as I do right now when their candidate doesn't win.
The electoral college has been balance to favor the states with higher population. That is why California has 55 votes and Utah has 6. Hillary almost won with a lot fewer states than Trump but those states had a lot more impact on the election. Seeing the jump when California was called for Hillary was an intense rush, the brief moment of hope it was possible.
Switching to a popular vote will change the less-populated state's voice in the government from a small one (Montana's 3 votes) to effectively none. It would be telling forty or so states that their voice has no place in the federal government. That their opinions and needs don't have to be considered. I'll be generous and say fifty million people would be completely disenfranchised in a single blow while others would struggle to let their needs to be known.
The only thing this does is move to power from one group to another. The difference is that it takes two weaker voices (less votes in the college verses less impact of individual votes) and puts it all in one group. It flips the roles we are feeling now and the other half of the country will be feeling the same despair when their candidate loses (much like they felt when Obama won).
And for those who say "rural votes don't need a say"? Yes, they do. They are party of this country. They may have a fair amount of power but they still have the right to be part of it. And I think it is reasonable to give them a chance to speak up and have a chance for their needs to be addressed by the elections.
There has to be another way that doesn't silence one half to benefit the other.
Okay, now that I'm done pissing off one group of readers, let me talk about the other side.
The perceived failures of the college is a symptom of a group of people abusing the existing systems to ensure their own power base. I think the college itself is functioning as designed and is important, however the underlying situation in the individual states is wrong.
Before this election, we had a recent spat of voter suppression laws and efforts to prevent people from voting. This includes the voter ID requirements that Wisconsin enacted, the purging of voters in Texas and Ohio, and even stripping of the Voter Rights Act which allowed states to reduce polling locations and remove protections that are critical.
The idea of "voter fraud" is a joke, a thin excuse to enact some of these laws. If it was that common, there would be a significant number of cases that are reported to the federal government or even at the state level. The only one I've heard of in this election was the Iowa woman voting for Trump repeatedly.
Reducing polling locations was important because not everyone can afford to stand in line for ten hours to vote. Me, on the other hand, can easily hire a babysitter to watch the boys and call my boss to say I'm late. I can take three or four hours off to get my driver's license and fill out the needed paperwork. I can afford to order my birth certificate and have it delivered. That privilege is why I don't feel voter suppression laws. They aren't directed at me.
No, the reason voter fraud and the other laws were put into place was to prevent others from voting. Given that most of the people who were directly harmed by those laws and rulings were of color and poorer, it disenfranchised them from exercising their right.
The whole reason they were there was to keep the Republicans in power. It was a massive effort across the board but done in relatively small steps including gerrymandering to help ensure control over the state (most state governments are Republican for a reason) and the above laws.
Unlike the electoral college's results, I consider this a direct attack against the United States. It is a group of people using their power to suppress disadvantages voters to prevent them from exercising their right. I also strongly feel that it was these suppression efforts that made it feel like the election was stolen.
Conflict of Interest
The problem is the people who are in power are allowed to make laws and decisions that keep them in power. Whoever wins the census elections gets to gerrymander the hell out of their states. They can pass voter suppression laws in the guise of "preventing fraud" when everyone knows it is to prevent votes.
This is a conflict of interest, much like what our president appears to be leading toward with his unwillingness to keep his personal fortunes separate from the government.
The conflict of interest is also where I think we, as a country, need to address.
I feel that I need to mention I'm against any party taking control of the country. Single party systems are subject to significant corruption and abuse. Our current (effectively) two-party system is also subject to abuse because it can form a stable conflict. We just have less of a chance because there is oversight and prevention from the other party.
I don't like to rant about something this much without coming up with alternatives. The biggest one is that voter's rights should be protected at all costs from all parties. It should be as neutral of a process as possible, much like there are poll watchers to ensure voting is legal and free, double-checking to make sure the results are in line with expectations.
Federal Control of Voting Rights
I don't think any state can be trusted with controlling voter rights. I think it should be controlled by the federal government and written to address everyone equally. That means no voter suppression laws, accessible and timely voting, and a clear system of verification of the actual results.
Actually, I don't think any party should be responsible for voters. It needs to be an organization that has no direct control or influence from the parties. I would have picked the Judicial Branch as the most neutral branch but the recent Supreme Court decisions would make this difficulty; we are in the middle of an epic battle for control of that.
There are organizations that have demonstrated neutrality, the IRS being a good example. It can be done.
Yes, this could mean a separate organization or even branch, but one that is very focused on a single purpose. I have ideas but something I would consider. Even if this wasn't an option, I'd probably lean toward the Judicial Branch as driving it.
The idea of a national holiday to vote is a fantastic one. Making sure there is a common baseline for requirements to vote protects everyone and ensures they have a clear voice, be it a rural or urban.
Absentee and Mail In Voting
There needs to be a federal standard for voting not in person. We have the Internet. We have a lot of hard science to prove out votes and well-established systems. If we treat it like the IRS, then we could also have a federal vote processing locations that handle it and update the results efficiently.
Voting Machine Auditing
Voting machines should be treated as slot machines. Bruce Schneier has a really good expansion on that idea, but effective voting machines have their code in escrow, can have their code audited rapidly, and have a rapid response team.
Gerrymandering is at threat to voters. Every ten years, we have parties fighting over the right to organize their districts to ensure they remain in power. There are some rather impressive programs that let them build up optimal maps that maximize their effort, save results, and compare the results of how much political power they would gain.
The process of gerrymandering is pretty much down to a science.
That same science could be used to create fair districts. If the code that does it is put in the public where anyone can review it (and it produces consistent results), I think it would be fair to create voting districts that don't favor one party over the other.
To paraphrase Linus' Law:
Given enough eyeballs, all abuses are obvious.
If every single person could download the census data and a program and prove out the results, it would prevent much of the bias. Everyone would be able to analyze the source code (we have millions of coders, scientists, and statisticians in this country) and identify where it has been skewed toward one party or the other.
Also known as the "I'm writing too much." While the Electoral College has many flaws including its inception, it provides a voice to a group of the population that is rapidly becoming a minority. It is functioning as designed even if it creates terrible results.
I feel that the root cause is that we don't have a fair election (not electoral) system. There are laws used to prevent everyone from getting their fair voice and I think that should be the focus of our attention and efforts.
I welcome discussion about this. I don't know everything and ideas are always built up stronger with debate and discussion, not screaming. So please, speak up and talk, maybe there are some merits in here.