Imagine that Maryland used the same method to elect its governor as the country uses to elect the president. Each of the 24 jurisdictions — 23 counties and Baltimore — would have as many "electoral" votes as its state senators and delegates, and the winning candidate in each of these jurisdictions would receive all its "electoral" votes. Our imaginary "Electoral Junior College" would then select the state's Governor. If that were the way we did things instead of a majority vote, Anthony Brown, not Gov. Larry Hogan, would be running for re-election in 2018. Brown carried the major population centers in the center of the state by small margins, not enough to overcome the large majorities Hogan enjoyed in the less populated counties on the Eastern Shore and in Western Maryland. This "Electoral Junior College" would have resulted in a candidate without a majority of the popular vote becoming governor, leaving disappointed Republicans angry and frustrated. In fact, a similar scheme to thwart the will of the majority, County Unit Voting, was declared unconstitutional in 1962, violating the one-man, one-vote principle.
If you agree, as the Supreme Court did, that this scenario deprives the majority of a victory it earned, then you see why the Electoral College has to go. It was the end product of some 18th century wheeling-dealing, political sausage-making the Founding Fathers concocted to get buy-in from smaller states to form a federal government where 13 sovereign states agreed to relinquish some of their powers to form a single country; this is why our country's motto is "E Pluribus Unum," Out of many, One. The Electoral College (and the Senate) was supposed to protect smaller states like Rhode Island from being dominated by larger ones like Virginia.
In fact, elections were probably the second-most messed up parts of the Constitution, right next to counting slaves as three-fifths of a person. The defects in the original presidential election rules were so great that it took just 16 years and the formation of political parties before the 12th amendment was passed to fix them. Many people from both sides of the aisle recognize the inherent unfairness and many flaws the Electoral College inflicts on elections: small states have disproportionate power; a candidate could conceivably win the presidency with only 35 percent or so of the popular vote; candidates need only concentrate on swing states (it's been years since Maryland was visited by a Republican presidential candidate); it distorts the one-person, one-vote principle; electors may ignore the will of the voters; it entrenches the two-party system; and it creates the possibility of an election going to the House of Representatives (where Wyoming has one vote for the next president, just like California). This system is so broken that it's just impossible to fix it.
In 2012, a person known for his Twitter attacks wrote, "the electoral college is a disaster for democracy." Agreeing with the Donald Trump of four years ago, Sen. Barbara Boxer plans to introduce a bill to amend the Constitution to eliminate the Electoral College. Coming from a Democrat, this bill is sure to be dead on arrival, but another plan has been gathering support.
The National Popular Vote bill is a compact which 10 states, including Maryland, and the District of Columbia have signed onto. The bill will take effect when enacted into law by states possessing 270 electoral votes (thus far, the 11 jurisdictions who have enacted the bill possess 165 electoral votes, so states possessing another 105 electoral votes are needed to make it law.) Once in effect, those states' electors will be pledged to cast their electoral votes for the Presidential candidate winning the popular vote, irrespective of which states those votes come from.
This is 100 percent constitutional, since Article 2 gives the states full authority to appoint electors in any manner they may direct. This end-run around the horse and very buggy Electoral College does not depend on an amendment, making it a very attractive plan.
One hundred sixty-five years ago, it took the Civil War and three amendments to fix the greatest mistake in the Constitution. Today, the country is almost as deeply divided as it was then, and its future is nearly as much at risk now as it was then. While armed insurrection is unthinkable, the actions we need to bridge the abyss between urban and rural, left and right, social conservatives and civil libertarians, must be as impactful as the post-Civil War amendments.
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Mitch Edelman writes from Finksburg. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.