The Electoral College is under scrutiny. Such examination is with cause, as should be all laws, regulations and constitutional framings. The inherent beauty of the Constitution, where the Electoral College was created, was, and is, the fluidity of a national-federal republic; part national, part federal. The Founding Fathers discussed the presidency – the Executive Magistrate – with great concern regarding power and election. The debates within the convention foretold the unease upon their conscience. The new constitution created two camps; the Federalist who supported the new federal form and the Anti-Federalist who feared the new sovereign federal republic was reaching too far into the state sphere. The mechanics for the selection of the executive was part of that expand-contrast federal republic dialog that was sought and feared.
The presidential discussion has led to ten state empowering alterations of the Constitution, starting in 1804 and concluding in 1971. These alterations sought to enhance the selection of the highest office by strengthening the Electoral College and positively altering its function. In 1824, before political parties, the Electoral College functioned as prescribed; none of the four candidates received a majority, so Congress settled the presidency. In 1876 and 1888, the majorities were unaligned; the popular vote getter lost to the majority Electoral College winner, even Tilden with a 51 percent popular vote. Congress in 1876, passed the Electoral Count Act, stating Congress was to resolve disputes only after states attempted to resolve disputes; states govern the Electoral College.
None of the alterations sought to empower the popular vote. Doing so would have removed the states, becoming federal-like and less republic. It’s very simple; the United States of America denotes States being essential. If not, then the title would be United Americans of America and would be the catalyst for the popular vote. The founders feared direct democracy and tyrannical behaviors. The Electoral College protects the “minority” from the “tyrannical majority.” Under the federal Electoral College system, “parts” must come together to make the “whole” and by separating the parts, the whole is less likely to be despotic.
The majority is the most populous states. In the past eight presidential elections, only the ’88 election surpassed 53 percent in the popular vote, but the Electoral College was 79 percent. Since 1940, seven presidential elections failed to reach 50 percent. This past election witnessed neither major party securing a majority, both falling millions of votes short. The 10 largest states provided Democrats 55.32 percent of the popular vote and 49.68 percent for Republicans. Ironically, of the 10 states, the Republicans won seven. In the top five states, the Democrats won three, representing 37.6 percent of their national tally. The two remaining states represented 29.76 percent for the Republicans. For both parties, those five states (9.8 percent of 51) represented 33.75 percent of their combined national tally.
California alone houses nearly one-third of the largest counties; Los Angeles County is nearly 10 million people. Montana, Idaho, the Dakotas, Nebraska, Kansas, Vermont and Delaware are near the same population combined. Under a popular vote, these minority states would host micro-minority communities and both would become disenfranchised. Political communities that search to be heard would find greater isolation. Self-governing American Indian communities scattered throughout the United States, known as Indian country, would simply drown in the Sea of Majority. The Electoral College is an important pillar to our sovereignty. The largest county from each of the 10 most populated states almost equals the population of 12 states where the American Indian population is noticeable and impactful. In South Dakota and Oklahoma, 8 percent of the population is American Indian. In North Dakota, the population is 5 percent, in Montana it is 6 percent, in Arizona it is 4 percent and in Wyoming it is 2 percent. New Mexico enjoys a 9 percent American Indian population and the state has had pivotal moments in the presidential selection.
The Constitution established a political relationship between tribal governments and the federated republic and is recognized by both central and state governments. Given the executive branch is instrumental on Indian affairs, these sovereign interactions are paramount to Indian country. Currently, American Indian communities have an impact in their respective regions, voicing concerns regarding the various bureaucratic layers controlled by the executive branch by voting, which leads to awarding the states Electoral College votes. A popular vote system would silence the American Indian.
Many factions make-up the whole and within the whole, diverse variables fuse factions, producing large coalitions that form larger factions within the state, seeking a moment of empowerment. Common variables typically include employment, religion, income, trade, race, political philosophy, governments, environment, common causes and the like. These common variables are specific to that state. Under the Electoral College system, presidential candidates must interact with minority states and those intra-political communities, including Indian country, to fully appreciate the uniqueness of each states common variables. A popular vote structure would favor majority populated states and remove the electoral soul of the minority states. The procedures of states electing the president was for this protection. It is of the same fabric as bicameralism in Congress, where the houses serve as a check onto each other. The state’s participation in the Electoral College serves as the same check. The notion of remodeling the Houses of Congress to fold them into one makes no more sense than removing states from selecting the president.
Deron Marquez served as chairman of the San Manuel Band of Mission Indians from 1999 through April 2006. In addition to leading the seven-member Business Committee, he was instrumental in designing and directing a progressive agenda of social, economic and governance development for the tribal government and community. He earned his undergraduate degree from the University of Arizona, a Masters degree in Politics and a Ph.D. in community health, politics and public policy from Claremont Graduate University.