Politics

The New York Times: Junk The Electoral College

| by Robert Fowler

The editorial board of The New York Times has called for the dismantling of the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote system to determine presidential elections. The newspaper team asserts that such a transformation would add value to all voters, no matter the state in which they cast their votes.

On Dec. 19, the day that the Electoral College solidified President-elect Donald Trump's victory with 304 of the 306 electoral votes that he had won in November, The News York Times' editorial board published an op-ed asserting that America currently chooses presidents based on an "antiquated system."

The editorial board noted that Trump is the second president-elect in the past 16 years to win the White House despite losing the popular vote. In this election cycle, Trump received over 2.8 million fewer raw votes than his competitor, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton.

In The Times' view, presidential candidates should win based on the sheer number of people who had voted for them, not based on the Electoral College.

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"Yes, Mr. Trump won under the rules, but the rules should change so that a presidential election reflects the will of Americans and promotes a more participatory democracy," the op-ed stated.

The editorial board added that the Electoral College began as a compromise between slaveholding states and states without slavery in the 18th century, staining the mechanism as "a living symbol of America's original sin.

"When slavery was the law of the land, a direct popular vote would have disadvantaged the Southern states, with their large disenfranchised populations," the op-ed asserted. "Counting those men and women as three-fifths of a white person, as the Constitution originally did, gave the slave states more electoral votes."

The editorial board proceeded to criticize how the Electoral College currently favors the votes from smaller and less densely populated states, noting that a "Wyoming resident’s vote counts 3.6 times as much as a Californian's."

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In the editorial board's view, the Electoral College reduces presidential races to a handful of battleground states while rendering densely populated and partisan states such as California and Texas irrelevant.

The Times' op-ed concluded that these perceived problems would be fixed if the U.S. adopted the National Popular Vote interstate compact, which would mandate that electors cast their vote for the winner of the national popular vote.

In the editorial board's view, a "direct popular vote would treat all Americans equally, no matter where they live… The system as it is now does a terrible job of representing the nation's demographic and geographic diversity."

The New York Times first called for the dissolution of the Electoral College in 1936 but defended its existence in 2000, after former President George W. Bush captured the White House despite losing the popular vote. It would appear that the newspaper's team has now swung back to the opinion their predecessors held 80 years ago.

Offering a countering perspective, The Wall Street Journal asserted that the Electoral College served as an essential failsafe, giving electors the ability to reject a president-elect if disqualifying evidence emerges against them after election day, according to Politico.

The Journal's editorial board also accused critics of the Electoral College of exhibiting sour grapes over the 2016 presidential election result, adding: "No one ordered Mrs. Clinton not to campaign in Wisconsin, which she lost by something like 22,000 votes."

While The Wall Street Journal's editorial board clearly supports the Electoral College, The New York Times' opinion has previously had an unlikely ally: President-elect Donald Trump.

On Nov. 6, the day of President Barack Obama's re-election, Trump took to his Twitter to blast the Electoral College, which would four years later be the key to his own ascendancy to the White House.

"The electoral college is a disaster for a democracy," Trump tweeted out.

Sources: Donald J. Trump/TwitterThe New York TimesPolitico / Photo credit: James Cridland/Flickr

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