Electoral Bait & Switch
And what can be done about it
by Bill Petrocelli
(Prometheus Books, August 2020)
to preorder a copy of the book, click here
Every four years a disaster-in-the-making hovers over the nation, waiting for a chance to undermine America democracy and deprive people of an equal vote. Electoral Bait & Switch shows the harm that the Electoral College does to our nation and what can be done to stop it.
“There’s work to be done to change the Electoral system. And the place to start is with this book.”
(former Senator Barbara Boxer from the Foreword)
The Current, Distorted Version of the Electoral College Has to Go!
The 2016 election result was not the way the Electoral College was supposed to work. Alexander Hamilton, James Madison, and the other drafters of the Constitution would be appalled at the way it has resulted in minority rule.This is not the way it was supposed to work.
The current system is a rogue ship that set out years ago from its original anchorage in the Constitution. It is now floundering—unable to go back to its 18th century moorings but equally unable to reach the safety of the equal-rights amendments enacted since then. It’s a ship that’s ready to sink.
This five-part series of articles summarizes the problems with the current Electoral College and suggests some of the ways that it can be changed or eliminated.
The Electoral College is Unfair & Dangerous
There’s some guy in Wyoming whose vote is worth three times more than mine. This has been going on in every presidential election for my entire life, and I’m sick and tired of it. How does this happen? It’s because of the way the Electoral College has been rigged to work. It takes about three times as many votes to elect an Elector in California as it does to elect one in Wyoming.
This is a blatant form of voting discrimination, and the sooner it ends the better.
The Electoral College’s Other Problem
Throughout the entire 20th Century, Americans became used to the idea that the winner of the popular vote would take office as President. But when the voters’ will was thwarted in 2000 and 2016, it became clear that the Electoral College could seemingly emerge out of nowhere and change the outcome of the election and alter the course of history. But there’s another, long-term harm built into that Electoral College that has been there all along, and that becomes more apparent the more you look at it.
What Did Hamilton & Madison Have in Mind?
The original Electoral College was nothing like we see today. The framers of the Constitution did not create a popular election for President, but they settled instead on a collegial-method of selecting a President through a group of independent Electors. Nowhere in their nightmares did they contemplate that the Electoral college would be used to distort or devalue a popular vote.
Electoral Bait & Switch
A modern Presidential election is an all-consuming process that lasts for almost two years, costs well over $5 billion, and dominates American life like nothing else. In 2016 there were more than 135,000,000 votes cast for President, making it one of the largest elections in history. Americans are constantly reminded that they’re voting for the most important office in the world. While this long process is going on, the country is inundated with speeches, interviews, promos, news clips, endorsements, social-media spots, and attack ads. Although the political pros knew to focus on swing-states in the latter days of the campaign, candidates spend most of those two years crisscrossing the country throughout the primaries and general election, searching for endorsements and money, and making campaign stops everywhere. Debates among the candidates are carried nationwide, and they become some of the most highly watched shows of the year.
Then, on a Tuesday in November, everything comes to an end when the nation votes. And then . . . and then Americans wait to see if the election will turn out the way they voted or whether something else will happen.
Let’s say you’re part of a committee to design a new Presidential-election system and you’ve been asking people to submit ideas. At that point someone walks in and proposes a system that resembles the current Electoral College system. The committee members look at each other, trying to control themselves.
“Excuse me, sir, but are you saying that the value of the popular vote in each state would be different and that the votes in some states might be worth almost three times as much as others?”
Yes, but . . .
“And a candidate could end up getting all of these – what do you call them, ‘Electors’ – whether he wins the state by just one vote or one million votes?
That’s true, however . . .
“And you’re saying that the number of Electors for each state is allocated by a census that may be 10 years old?”
Okay, but let me explain . . .
“I’m very sorry, sir, but this committee is only considering serious proposals.”
If it were presented today, the current Electoral College system wouldn’t pass the laugh test.