During this time of tense political division in our country, many people on the far left are calling for radical change in the nation’s historical election process for selecting our president. From the Green New Deal to Medicare for All, there’s no shortage of proposals that could change our nation forever. While I oppose many of these policy proposals, some progressives’ calls to abolish the Electoral College in favor of the raw popular vote is perhaps the most frightening, especially for North Carolinians.
Perhaps it is best to first review how the Electoral College works. The Electoral College, made up of 538 votes, represents the sum of the number of members in the U.S. House of Representatives, apportioned by state based on population, the number of members in the Senate, apportioned equally by state, and three electors given to Washington, D.C.
It originated as a compromise between large and small states. Large states, with large metropolitan areas, wanted population to be the only factor involved in electing the president. Small states, which North Carolina by population would still be counted among, were rightfully worried the large states would dominate the federal government and trample on their rights if population was the only contributing factor in electing the president.
America is a representative republic comprised of 50 sovereign states. That is why we are called “The United States” in the first place. The federal system is built on the fact that under our Constitution there is dual sovereignty. The national government has the ultimate sovereign power in matters that deal with common defense, interstate commerce or individual rights, but states also possess a considerable amount of sovereign power.
That being the case, California is equal to Rhode Island in that they have the same authority to govern how they please within their own jurisdiction. Therefore, smaller states worried about tyranny of the majority if the presidential election was only based on population. If the presidential election was just a contest to see which states could have the biggest cities, smaller states could be susceptible to federal overreach. That is why the Electoral College is based half on population and half on equal state sovereignty.
This reasoning still applies. To this day, the Electoral College continues to have many advantages and positive byproducts. If we resorted to a popular vote, presidential candidates from both parties would spend all their time campaigning in just a few cities. Presidential candidates would completely cater their policy preferences toward cities, and states like North Carolina, which is still mostly a rural state, would have little or no influence.
Sometimes it seems like people in New York City and Los Angeles think food just appears at the supermarket. But as we all know, that’s not how it works. Cities can thank states like North Carolina for supplying their food. If large cities were to dominate the federal government through a president elected only by the popular vote, their lack of understanding about how life works in rural America could be disastrous for North Carolina’s economy and well-being.
States are very different places and they rightfully get to make their own laws. California’s laws are different than North Carolina’s laws, which is totally appropriate. California may have more people than North Carolina, but both states have the same right to govern as they feel best addresses their local concerns.
To be sure, California still has more electoral votes than North Carolina because it has a larger population. But the equal two votes they receive in the electoral college from their Senate representation slightly offset California’s large population advantage.
Fortunately, even if some misguidedly decide they want to abolish the Electoral College, it would require a Constitutional amendment. Such a change would require a two-thirds vote in Congress and three-fourths of the states to ratify it. Our founding fathers were true geniuses while laying out plans for our government. Just because some on the far left don’t like the outcome of the elections doesn’t mean that we should rewrite the rules.
Congressman Greg Murphy represents the 3rd Congressional District of North Carolina.