Los Angeles County is bigger in population than at least 40 entire states. Not only does it have a huge population — more than 10 million and counting — but it is physically bigger than the entire Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Probably physically larger than a few other states, too — like Rhode Island and Delaware and maybe others. In California, they can (and do) keep making counties and cities bigger and bigger as the population swells. Other places have a thing called “city and county limits,” but California doesn’t. In California, there are no limits.
Because L.A. County is enormous, many people figure that the Electoral College is a scam. This presumption is that to have a full democracy, the only thing that should matter in a national election is the national vote. If the only criteria for winning are the volume of votes, you would have something like a “pure democracy.” U.S. isn’t a pure democracy. We are a Constitutional Republic which has a lot of similarities to a democracy, but pure raw votes are not the only things that matter. In point of fact, very few countries are purely democratic. I can’t think of any such country right now, but surely there are a few. I would guess that such countries are small with a homogenous population without huge cities. In most parliamentary countries, you are not voting for individuals unless they are running on their own and not as a member of a major party. Most of the time, you’re voting for a party platform. Even though an unpopular government can be brought down and replaced by a different (but not necessarily better) one via a new election, you aren’t necessarily connected to a particular representative, though this varies country by country. It can be difficult to figure out who really represents you since you didn’t vote for a specific person but for a party who then divvies up the seats based on the total vote. We’ve got the electoral college; they have something else, but in neither case does total vote necessarily determine the winner. If we think party politics is nuts in this country, trust me, it’s wacko most other places too.
In the U.S., we believe in bigger is better. Take away the Electoral College and the largest, most densely populated areas would always rule the country. If, as we do, you live in a small town, your vote probably won’t count at all. I’m not sure it counts now, so there might not be that much of a difference in the end — but in theory, there’s a difference.
Would turning the running of the nation over to only the densely populated cities be a good or bad thing? Maybe there’s no perfect answer especially not in a country this large. I’m pretty sure that people in Wyoming have different interests and needs than Los Angeles or New York. Of course, what you think is right probably depends on whether you like who won and whether or not you think they will address your issues.
I understand people who live in big cities will definitely feel they get cheated by the electoral college because it’s intended as a field-leveling tool. It’s not democratic and it’s not supposed to be. But, in the U.S., our motto has always been “bigger is better.” Whether it’s businesses, cities, schools or whatever — we like’em big. More always wins while less doesn’t count.
The problem is, I think I should count too, no matter how big Los Angeles County is.
The electoral college is not a scam, but it has become an electoral weapon. It was intended to level the voting between rural (originally, that meant slave owning) states and the industrial cities in the north. After slavery was abolished, Jim Crow laws continued to suppress non-white voters and the electoral college became a way for the dominant party to mess around with the distribution of electors. They are (in theory, but never in reality) distributed based on population which is based on a neutral count of the population. It has been grossly mismanaged and misused and I don’t think it will ever be better. I also don’t think we’ll ever get rid of it. It’s part of the constitution. It’s not a law the Supreme Court can knock down. We would have to have a constitutional amendment to be passed by Congress with a two-thirds majority vote in both the House of Representatives and the Senate — or by a constitutional convention called for by two-thirds of the State legislatures. This seems highly unlikely. It was ALWAYS unlikely, but probably even more unlikely today than ever before. And assuming we actually got the electoral college eliminated, we would then need a massive overhaul of voting.
Given that we’re going to have an electoral college, like it or not, if we want to be a “Constitutional Republic,” we need a better way to count votes. We also need more votes from more people in more places. We need a fully voting population of at least 60% because otherwise, how can we claim that most people are represented when most people don’t vote? Can we do what they do in Australia and make it illegal to NOT vote?
The point of having an Electoral College was to prevent Los Angeles, New York, and Texas from overwhelming Worcester County and all of New England from Connecticut to Maine. In rural areas, we beg for scraps. If only big cities run everything, will anyone notice we’re here? Would anyone care we’re here? I’m not sure anyone cares now, so are rural areas officially obsolete? We don’t even make it into the weather reports.
I don’t blame everyone for wanting to get rid of the Electoral College, but you have to wonder if the place you live would fit into a world where only heavily populated states have a say in what gets done and where. It might make elections simpler, but it wouldn’t make governing better. Doesn’t all of this make you want to blow up the whole government and start over? No matter what you do, somehow, you know it won’t work.
Does the Electoral College need overhauling? Yup. It isn’t a scam. It is, however, a big mess that needs repairing. It was not supposed to be a political football for either party. Like so many other parts of our government, it is being used for purposes for which it was never intended. Kind of like the Senate and maybe, the Supreme Court. And the presidency. Mind you, I don’t have answers. Mostly, I’ve got questions. The only thing I can say for sure is that we have an electoral college and the odds of seeing it removed from the constitution approaches zero on a close order.
Maybe we should use the old “beauty contest” recipe for the next election? Every politician has to have a talent, like they had in Miss America. You know. Make them do a tap dance. Have them sing an aria or play the trombone. Absolutely write an essay about how you intend to fix the world. Definitely include the evening gown contest. Make those old white dudes stagger around on 3-inch heels. We deserve to see that.
I’m okay if they skip the bathing suit contest. I don’t think my heart would survive the experience.