By Karen Berner
ACE Communications Team Leader
Joyce Williams from the League of Women Voters (LWV)-LaGrange area discussed the league’s opinion the Electoral College is an imperfect system that is damaging our democracy and laid out the reasons why the nonpartisan organization has recommended abolishing it since 1970 in her presentation to ACE members at our meeting on February 16, 2020.
Williams began with talking about why the Electoral College was established in the first place, including the fact that the founding fathers didn’t want legislators to select the president to limit corruption and concentration of power, along with concerns that poor communication might lead to an ill-informed population considering 95% of the populous lived on farms at the time and communication took so long.
One Person, One Vote
The LWV believes “one person, one vote” is fundamental to democracy and that an unintended consequence of the Electoral College is that it suppresses voter turnout, leaving people to wonder if their votes really count anyway. It also polarizes the electorate into red or blue states and puts the choice of the president in the hands of the swing states. In our country’s history, this has resulted in a presidential winner who did not receive a majority of the votes five times.
“If you’re a Republican in Illinois, you might think why bother to vote, since it’s a blue state?” Williams said. “If you’re a Democrat, you might think they don’t need your vote.” If it we used the popular vote, everyone’s votes would mean something, including Democrats in Alabama and Republicans in California.
Electoral College Myths
Williams explained several myths that are associated with abolishing the Electoral College, the first being that the president would be chosen by three of the largest states—California, New York, and Texas. She revoked that claim since New
York is not one of the largest states and brought up the point that the Electoral College actually allows fewer states to determine the presidency.
Other myths include that smaller states need the Electoral College to ensure their interests are represented and it protects the rights of the minority from the tyranny of the majority. Quite the opposite is true. The LWV states the Courts and the Senate protect the rights of the minority groups. Besides, small states do not vote as a bloc in Congress or for president. The Electoral College really diminishes the representation of the larger states.
“There is no consistent that larger states vote one way while smaller states vote another way,” Williams said.
How Would It Be Done?
Since the Electoral College is in the Constitution, it must be overturned by a constitutional amendment, which starts in the House and Senate. Representatives would have to sponsor the bill and get co-sponsors. Then it would go to committee to be discussed by the legislators. It would need to be approved by 2/3 of the House and Senate members and then would go to the states for ratification. Three-quarters of the states would need to pass it for it to become a constitutional amendment. The president would have no vote on the issue.
“The reality is that the swing states are the ones who decide the presidency, which is not right,” said Williams. “We have to get the word out and educate the public. We need to convince the people and then the legislators.”
For more information on abolishing the Electoral College, click here.
ACE Communications Team Leader Karen Berner has been a professional writer/editor for more than 30 years. An award-winning journalist, her work has appeared in several magazines, newspapers, and blogs, including the Chicago Tribune, Writer Unboxed, Women’s Fiction Writers, Naperville magazine, and Fresh Fiction. She also is the author of three contemporary women’s fiction novels and is a member of the Chicago Writers’ Association.