Was slavery a basis for our Electoral College?
Our collective sin of slavery has recently emerged as a reason to rid ourselves of the Electoral College. Some say that slave owners foisted the Electoral College upon us. Since, they claim, it’s a suspect mechanism brought forth from such a shameful past, we must now divest ourselves from it.
Akhil Reed Amar puts forth the notion that, “Actually, the Electoral College Was a Pro-Slavery Ploy” in his April article in The New York Times. He says:
…we must accept the fact that it does have deep roots in efforts by the founders to accommodate slavery.
Arguments of this kind emerge when election results don’t conform to expectations or desires. The results are explained away by rationalizations that can cleanly be blamed for our past mistakes. The Electoral College becomes a convenient target.
The notion of slavery has a way of misleading perceptions
Sean Wilentz admits being misled in The New York Timesarticle, “The Electoral College Was Not a Pro-Slavery Ploy.” He tells us:
I used to favor amending the Electoral College, in part because I believed the framers put it into the Constitution to protect slavery. I said as much in a book I published in September. But I’ve decided I was wrong. That’s why a merciful God invented second editions.
Isn’t it refreshing to hear someone admit they made a mistake? And, it’s especially noteworthy when they take steps to make a correction!
Mr. Wilentz adds how his further inspection of history made him realize he had made an error:
…the framers, led by Madison, concocted the Electoral College to give extra power to the slaveholders. If you stop at this point in the record, as I once did, there would be no two ways about it. On further and closer inspection, however, the case against the framers begins to unravel.
Slavery had nothing to do with the Electoral College
There are many commentaries about this issue. Here’s another from Gary L. Gregg who also counters in lawliberty.org with this article, “No! The Electoral College Was Not About Slavery!” He points out:
To assume some kind of conspiracy or nefarious slave interest was behind denying the American people a direct national vote for President is just not supported by the evidence.
What does slavery have to do with this? Almost nothing at all. To taint the Electoral College with the poison brush of slavery one first needs to leap back to the Great Compromise that created the Congress itself. In this compromise, small states were protected by being given equal representation in the Senate. Large states were given offsetting power in the House of Representatives, which was based on population size. The Electoral College math simply replicates this compromise to be used to elect the President, with each state getting electors equal to their representation in the House and the Senate. To bring slavery into it, one must then take a second leap into the three-fifths compromise where the Convention agreed to count each slave as three-fifths of a person for the purposes of allocating representation in the House of Representatives. That terrible injustice was eventually rectified in the Fourteenth Amendment and today’s Electoral College math, like the math creating Congress, has nothing to do with counting slaves.
Representation and taxation helped form the Electoral College
Tara Ross explains in her book, “The Indispensable Electoral College:”
A more honest assessment of the three-fifths compromise shows what it really concerned—congressional representation and taxation, not the Electoral College.
Rationalization enslaves our critical thinking
Facts have a way of emerging over time. Still, we can be tempted to malign them if doing so suits our purpose. Abusing the Electoral College, as has been done numerous times over the years, is popular today because of recent elections. The reasoning follows the chant: “We want what we want when we want it!”
To insinuate that the Electoral College is flawed because our Founding Fathers were flawed (many being slaveholders) is disingenuous. It’s rather like saying Ford vehicles are substandard because Henry Ford (the company’s founder) was anti-Semitic. The connection makes no sense at all.
The Electoral College must have its shackles removed
The Electoral College can stand on its own merits. It is an ingenious voting mechanism, honoring the popular vote of the nation as well as the individual voting voice of every state. It fits nicely with the fact that we live in a constitutional republic, not a simple democracy. The expanse of our nation’s geography matters, just as the diversity of our people matters.
Sadly, the Electoral College is not free to accomplish what it sets out to do. The only allusion to slavery regarding our Electoral College is the shackles we put upon it. The winner-takes-all restrictions prevent the Electoral College from full voting representation for our voting citizens. Such restrictions silence the voting sentiments (gaining no representation) of large blocs of voters in every election. It’s time to remove the shackles and let this voting mechanism serve our nation.
Equal Voice Voting (EVV) rejects the notion of the Electoral College being a slavery-born curse upon this nation. Further, it honors our nation’s history, its form of governance, and its voting citizens. EVV is truly non-partisan and does not require a constitutional amendment to allow the Electoral College to function as it was intended.
Pass this blog along to others who may be interested. Encourage them to check out the EVV website, the voting formula, and other blogs.