A Note on the Electoral College

So, about the Electoral College.

Our country has been warring for its entire history about the proprtional representation and influence of cities vs rural areas (formerly called farms, nor a mix of former manufacturing, farming, and larger scale production). Much of our system was set up to prevent the overreach of cities, as the "electors based on population" method quickly works in favor of city-having states. The Senate exists to equalize states for this reason, as does mandating a minimum of one representative. The Electoral College came from a similar place.[1]

What isn't commonly stated is that, in addition to this, southern and rural states carried even more weight, because of what I'll call "delegate inflation" in the form of slavery. Slaves counted as 3/5 of a person, the number of persons in your state determined your electoral weight, and slaves couldn't vote. This ensured that a man's influence in a slaveowning state was worth far more than in a non slaveowning state, and further inflated by a larger gap between population and registered voters. Hence, the first 36 years of American presidents were slave owning men from Virginia.

Now, we've since recalculated the weight of states since slavery and enfranchisement, the history of slavery isn't as pressing, but that brings me to another interesting racial component that serves a similar purpose: Voter ID. Since population is the metric for delegate calculation, NOT number of registered voters, a similar method for preventing black voters would serve the same purpose of extending the weight of a minority-rich state that wanted to preserve a conservative presence. Check out the spread of Voter ID over the south and midwest, visible here:

Voter ID implementation, 2016. Click for the full legend.

Voter ID implementation, 2016. Click for the full legend.

Then check out how these states voted in 2008 and 2012, then in 2016, the first general election after the Voting Rights Act was gutted. There will be, in no uncertain terms, a trend.

So, what does this mean? It will always benefit rural areas over cities, because it was designed to. There have been three electoral college mismatches in American history since 1888 (where it has elected a person who lost the popular vote) and all of them went against Democrats. The argument from people on the right that suggests that, when Democrats bring this up, that they're being sore losers and that if the scales were the other way they would be signing a different tune, ignores the statistical fact that the scales will literally never go the other way, until the parties realign at least, in which case it will still be cities vs rural areas, just under different names. That's why Trump neutralizing Democratic support in the rust belt was so crucial: it solidified the southern and midwestern vote as a Republican bloc, all states disproportionately weighted in their favor. When Giuliani said minorities just weren't a part of the coalition, this is what he meant.

Is that a valid reason for doing it this way? I think I'd be super pleased with it if I lived somewhere outside a city, and I feared people different than me making rules about my way of life. This is an important thing to recognize, especially considering the destructive influence laws on trade can have for vast regions of the country dependent on external purchasers of goods. But it does reduce the value of the votes in areas where the most people live, which is fundamentally un-democratic - one person, one vote, an election by the people and all. It effectively disincentivises people from moving to cities. It serves as an important protection for a group of voters with different values, yes, but if we're going to do it this way, then the efforts of the states that benefit from it the most to reduce enfranchisement is even more appalling.

It's also just statistically strange. For one, the winner-take-all system doesn't grant anything to a runner-up, even if they lose by a single vote. If you had two electors, and a population of 100 people, and 51 people voted for the winner and 49 the loser, the idea that both electors go to the winner isnt an accurate representation of the way the voters voted. This is especially true once you get third parties involved, and the spoiler vote gets introduced, ensuring minority rule. In that case, the majority of people actually voted for the opposite of the person that got all the electoral representation. For example, in this election, more people voted against Trump than for him, nationally and in many states, but he gets to be President. It's a lot of things, but an accurate representation of the way people voted it is not. It is a weighted representation, with rural voters having a much heavier weight than city voters. (What was that you were saying about disenfranchised rural whites?)

It probably won't go away anytime soon, for obvious reasons, but we should at least know our history.

Oh, and literally no one else does it this way, by the way. America first!

[1] With an important caveat. It also existed to prevent the people from electing a crazy person, putting a layer between the people and the office. Saying Hamilton in the Federalist Papers, "It was equally desirable, that the immediate election should be made by men most capable of analyzing the qualities adapted to the station, and acting under circumstances favorable to deliberation, and to a judicious combination of all the reasons and inducements which were proper to govern their choice. A small number of persons, selected by their fellow-citizens from the general mass, will be most likely to possess the information and discernment requisite to such complicated investigations. It was also peculiarly desirable to afford as little opportunity as possible to tumult and disorder. This evil was not least to be dreaded in the election of a magistrate, who was to have so important an agency in the administration of the government as the President of the United States. But the precautions which have been so happily concerted in the system under consideration, promise an effectual security against this mischief.": (http://www.historycentral.com/elections/Federalist.html)